by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
All but forgotten
Nine years is a long time for a game franchise to lie dormant. More often than not, the game is presumed forgotten by its owners with fans holding little hope for a revival. Yet after nine long years Majesty returns, very much alive and ready to re-introduce its unique RTS gameplay to the gaming masses. We received an early build of Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim and were pleasantly surprised to find a game that lost none of the old tricks that set its predecessor apart from its peers.
Not in control
If you are new to Majesty, you will no doubt be asking what was so unique about the game. Seeing that Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim works in pretty much the same fashion as the original game, this is a relevant question and needs explaining. The RTS genre has been serving the same gameplay mix to us pretty much since its inception and developers generally only change the flavor, not the ingredients. The Majesty gameplay retains some of the basic RTS elements such as base building and resource gathering, but turns into a completely different beast once you are ready to attack, or pushed to defend. It is then that you discover that your ‘units’ lead their own lives. You can -try- and select them to order them around, but it won’t work.
Let us backtrack a little and focus on Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim from here on. A game starts you off with a castle and a handful of buildings. Your castle acts as your governmental hub from which builders, guards and tax collectors start their day. There are only three guards and they are not the sharpest tools in the box. In many missions your settlement is under almost immediate attack so you will have to work fast to set up shop. You build guilds from which different types of heroes can be recruited. The currently known hero classes are Swordsmen, Thieves, Archers, Clerics, Mages, Elves and Dwarves. Each guild can only support four members at any given time but you can increase your ranks by building numerous guilds.
Once recruited, heroes are no longer under your direct control. They may stroll off to seek adventure or be enticed by local building owners to stay and defend their turf. Fortunately you have tools to do some of your own enticing. As ruler, you set reward flags to convey your wishes to the heroes in your empire. Flags can be set to attack, defend or stay clear of a particular area. By adding a reward to a flag, your heroes will start to respond, but only if they feel that the amount is worth their while. If you have no money, you can forget about attacking your enemies, but fortunately heroes will auto defend your settlement if it is under attack and they are near enough to respond. At first you may not feel all that in control, but once you are used to the idea of ‘free will’ for your heroes, it is a very refreshing way to play a strategy game.
Heroes go up in level, gaining new tricks that are useful in combat. But even the strongest, most experienced adventurers are no match for some of the more fearsome foes that you will encounter. The local pub is a good place for them to meet up, gather some Dutch courage and go out raiding in big parties.
A great target for such coordinated attacks is the ‘places of power’. These rare places are defended by fierce elementals that are difficult to kill. Once cleared of enemies, temples can be built in these locations, which in turn can be used to promote your heroes.
The money earned by your heroes, finds its way back to you through businesses that can be added to your settlement. The marketplace sells potions and collects taxes from trade posts elsewhere on the map and the smithy provides your heroes with better weapons and armor. Businesses pay taxes on the items that they sell to your heroes and this, when your tax collectors can do their work undisturbed, makes it back to your coffers.
Remake or sequel?
The preview build of Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim still needs a lot of polish. Many of the buildings and upgrades are still depicted by placeholder images and the interface is functional but not much more than that. Despite this, Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim’s potential clearly shines through, making it easy to see where the game is going. The old gameplay is being tweaked but not radically altered, ensuring its uniqueness is left intact. In that light, Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim is more of a remake than a sequel, but with a game like this, there is nothing wrong with that at all.