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REVIEW / Majestic Nights (PC)

 

Ah, conspiracy theories.  They come up whenever a big event shakes up the world.  Even if they’re wrong, they can be very entertaining.  But what if they were true?  What if all of the fringe theories that we laugh off were really correct all along?  That’s the question posed by Majestic Nights, an episodic stealth/adventure game currently available on Steam from developer Epiphany Games.  Only two of the projected 7 episodes are currently available, so this review only covers them for now.

 

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The setting for Majestic Nights is 1980s America, in a world where every major conspiracy theory is true.  Each chapter has you play as a different person investigating the mysteries of this world.  The first chapter features semi-retired government agent John Q. Cardholder, while the second features private detective Cal.  Each one is looking for a different person: Cardholder seeks a missing film director called Rubric, whereas Cal seeks Cardholder himself.

Some parts of the chapter are typical fare for an adventure game; you need to search the area, find clues, and say the right things to get information out of people.  Most of the game, though, is stealth-based.  There are clues hidden throughout the game’s various settings, and as you search for them, your enemies are searching for you.

 

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Unfortunately, Majestic Nights doesn’t really deliver on its strong concept.  The game tells us very little about the characters and the settings.  What it does reveal is told through confusing dialogue using vague terms that make perfect sense to the characters, but not to the player.  It seems like the plots of the episodes are really just outlines designed to shepherd you to the next area. Additionally, while the game partially plays up the characters discovering the “truth” of these conspiracy theories, the player already knows what they are about.

That doesn’t mean it’s all bad; there is just enough story to keep a player interested, even if it’s told slowly.  There are hints of an interesting overarching plot, but only at the very end of Chapter 1.  It suggests we might see more about the effect of these conspiracies on the game’s world in addition to the conspiracies themselves later in the game.  As long as future chapters focus enough on it, the story aspect of the game can get better.

 

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Majestic Nights will have a harder time redeeming itself in the gameplay category, though.  The stealth segments each take places on maps that seem to be designed more as mazes than as believable locations.  That means you will get lost when trying to find the exit.  There’s a basic cover mechanic, and it works, but it’s just a matter of finding a wall and pressing a button.  There’s no peeking around corners or above walls to shoot, no dashing between pieces of cover, etc.  As is the case in most stealth games, you won’t survive long out in the open, so stealth is a must.

When you do get into combat, things get clunky.  Sometimes the game asks for more precise aiming than it can really handle, while at other times all you have to do is press the button to kill the nearest enemy.  It seems somewhat arbitrary.  It’s also notable that the game is full of glitches. For example, at one point I was unable to access the list of clues, no matter which method I used, and I needed it to proceed.  Again, it isn’t all bad; the maps do allow you to stealthily reach your destination, and combat can be smooth in some situations.

 

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Majestic Nights is not a game that relies entirely on its concept and ignores fun gameplay.  Both the gameplay and the story have merit; they’re just mediocre.  The concept of conspiracy theories being true is a great one, but the game does very little with it.  It seems like the developers had a grand vision for what this game would be, but they couldn’t execute it.  They wanted a story laced with intrigue, but they didn’t know how to write it.  They wanted to mix adventure with stealth, but they didn’t know how to design it.  In the end, the game is like a waterlogged jigsaw puzzle: all of the pieces are there, they just don’t quite fit together.

 

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