Hands-on Preview / Majesty 2

If you’re familiar with the first Majesty than you’ll know looks can be deceiving, and the same case applies to Majesty 2. From all angles it appears to be what looks like a RTS game, but we can assure you that it’s much different than a mere RTS. While at the core is a strategy game, the mantel and the crust of the game are very much simulator and RPG. Though don’t be fooled by that tasty caramel core, even the developer tells us that Majesty 2 is a “Fantasy Kingdom Simulator”. So what does a RTS game dressed in sim and RPG clothing look like?

Short answer, a game with really challenging game play, but allow me to elaborate. Each mission starts out as you would expect from a typical RTS as you get a town hall where you can then build various new buildings from taverns to markets and defense towers. Fortunately you only have one resource to worry about, and what ultimately drives the entire game — money. It’s all about stacking riches. Your money comes from various places, you have tax collectors collecting their dues and you can build markets that establish trade and earn your town more money. What will be your main units known as Heroes also explore and find treasure thus adding to your revenue stream.

Your primary structures are called Guild Halls, these are where you’ll get your main units known as I alluded to before, Heroes. You can initially create five types of heroes; Warriors, Rogues, Clerics, Mages and Rangers. There are more, but were not available to us in this preview and look to be a result of an upgrade path in your town’s development. They do what you would expect of those archetypes if you were playing a fantasy RPG, for example Rogues are sneaky thieves and Clerics heal and mend other heroes. While you’re creating your guilds and making heroes you have tax collector, peasant and guard NPCs wandering around earning money, building structures and defending your town from would-be attackers.

Just like in a lot of RTS games, your town routinely gets attacked by anything ranging from giant rats to dragons and everything in between, so remember to build those guard towers. Again, not so out of the ordinary here. So in the midst of being attacked constantly, you eventually manage to build up some Guild Halls, a Tavern and a nice Market Place. So I think now you’re wondering to yourself “well, were is this uniqueness RTS/Sim/RPG hybrid you’ve been talking about?”

Here is where things get interesting, your heroes are not directly controllable. In fact, none of the units are. Your heroes and other units wander around doing whatever they damn well please not to mention your heroes have an affinity of wandering out of town and getting themselves killed. The method of controlling your heroes comes from creating monetary incentives for them to do things. For instance, in order to get your heroes to explore the uncharted territory you have to place a explore flag out in the vast unknown and apply a reward to it. If and only if they feel the reward is worthy, will they go ahead and go explore where that flag is. Think of it as the “carrot on a stick” mechanic as I like to call it. Obviously the higher the reward is, the more likely they will do it. We also noticed that by creating more heroes it increases competition between them and thus they’re more likely to do things for lesser rewards. You can also create groups of heroes by building a tavern and purchasing the group ability upgrade allowing you to have a band of heroes to complete task in numbers. This mechanic is applied to every aspect of the game like attacking and defending — if there isn’t money involved the heroes won’t be interested.

The fact that you have to coerce your heroes into doing every task is what makes the gameplay of Majesty 2 challenging, frustrating and rewarding all at the same time. The results are always unpredictable and you can play the same mission multiple times with very different results. Although it is frustrating at times to get your heroes to do the simplest of things like protect a caravan from a handful of enemies, but when it does click and your heroes do what they need to, it is surprisingly rewarding.

The game currently has a lot of potential and is definitely keeping to the original Majesty’s format. We however have a few concerns even if they might be superficial. For instance, the graphics are extremely ordinary. We do concede that some aspects are very well done, while others just scream generic and that it may end up more polished on release. The level variety is almost non-existent as it stands now, and we hope that the release version has more type of landscapes aside from “wooded area with cleared openings and paths”. Also the mission objectives are all relatively the same, but then again in this game, even the simplest of tasks turns in to a steep and difficult challenge so this may be an intended design choice. The only other thing we take issue with is the seemingly pointlessness of it, as far as we can tell there is no overall story and you’re just playing the game for the sake of playing it. This a short coming that has been retained from the original Majesty and we hope the release version has some kind of story to at least give us a reason to fight with our heroes to do their jobs.

All in all Majesty 2 is holding up to the reputation that the first game set. Being a difficult RTS/sim/RPG that is unlike anything you’ve played before, its nature is simple, but it takes what you would think would be an easy objective and makes it incredibly challenging. We look forward to playing the finished version and hope that some of the current pitfalls are addressed and we’re handed a more well rounded game.