We have one of last year’s dark horse successes up on the chopping block this week, Majesty 2. A surprisingly unique game that takes place in an all too over done setting, a high fantasy kingdom. What makes this game interesting is that rather than being the dashing hero rushing off to battle you are the king and your job is simple, build your kingdom. To be honest this strategy game takes more closely to a SimCity than a Warcraft 3 and that’s what makes it so unique. That said the untrodden path isn’t always the best one and something like this definitely could go wrong. Thankfully for the most part it manages to stay an enjoyable experience though it does have its problems.
Let’s start off with the writing which while not the game’s greatest strength is perfectly adequate. A big focus with the writing in this game seems to be humor, which is rather hit and miss. Oftentimes lampooning its generic setting, Majesty 2 will regularly make jokes about the ins and outs of the fantasy genre and for the most part these jokes are at least chuckle worthy. That said every once in a while the game will throw a real stinker at you and while it’s not exactly game stopping your resulting sigh and face palm may take you out of the game just a bit. Beyond the humor the writing is really nothing too special overall unfortunately. Despite it’s sardonic take on the world of generic fantasy the plot is still the fairly wrote “unknown heir to deposed king regains the throne” story we’ve all heard before. The best parts of the writing come in the form of your narrator who also serves as your advisor and is in a lot of ways the best part of this game.
On the subject of the advisor I’d like to talk a little bit about the voice acting in this game. I said earlier that the game works very hard to be humorous and the way it succeeds with that is with some of the best poorly accented V.O. I’ve ever heard. Your advisor in particular is hilarious as his voice actor spends literally the entire game doing the thickest Sean Connery impression I’ve ever heard, it honestly sounds like he swirls every word around in a mouthful of scotch while saying it. While not nearly as entertaining as the advisor the various units you end up spawning have the occasional good quip as well. While on the whole the stuff they say is corny as all hell the good stuff comes up just enough to make it not overly annoying.
Moving onto the rest of the sound design things fair about as well as the voice acting, cheesy but endearingly so. The music in particular has a great “Lord of the Rings” stupidly epic scale to it which when played against some of the more mundane parts of the game (watching a trading post being built for example) is rather ridiculous. That said the general quality of the music and sound effects is just fine and they both serve the title very well. That said there’s nothing really unique about the sound design so we’ll move on.
The visual style of this game is basically the same old high fantasy aesthetic. Everything looks exactly as you would expect it too with little to no visual flourishes or unique touches. That said a bit of familiarity never hurt and I don’t think the game is any lesser for not having a more unique visual style. The few times the game does end up with some more unique designs are with a few of the bosses. A favorite of mine is the Rat King which if you have knowledge of medieval history and lore you know is a big ball of rats that have been stuck together with dried …uh…”sewer filth”, Majesty 2′s Rat King however is just a massive rat with a crown and cape which I found to be a nice little visual pun.
The best part of this game though is undoubtedly the gameplay which is a wholly unique take on gameplay in the fantasy setting. The game works similar to SimCity in that you have no direct control over any of the NPCs but instead are focused on building your city. They way you accomplish things in the game is by essentially paying off heroes; you can build guilds which recruit heroes at which point you can assign a goal and any hero who feels like it can go and complete it. This creates an interesting tug and pull of your resources in the game as heroes just won’t go complete any goal you create, you have to make the goal pay enough to interest them. The gold you use to recruit and pay heroes is also used for everything else and as such you’re always having to think a couple of steps ahead about what you need to spend your cash on. As fun a system as this is there is a major problem with it, inconsistent difficulty.
Similar to something like Starcraft if you;re not set up in the right way in the right amount of time you might as well just stop playing because there’s no way for you to win. This game has a real bad habit of eliminating you right out of the gate by not scaling enemies the enemies properly. This means early battles when your heroes are weak and under leveled and you don’t have a good economic system in place yet to replace them can be outright massacres if you didn’t spend your initial cash properly. On the flip side though if you can survive and get your economy going and heroes strong enough the game becomes much easier and much more fun. So if you can take some initial punishment you get the reward of some super satisfying conquering gameplay.
All in all Majesty 2 is an oxymoron of game design somehow staggeringly generic and yet different all at the same time. Gameplay is decent and the price isn’t too bad at only $30; there is also a wealth of expansions for this game with two (Kingmaker and Battles of Ardania) already out and a third (Monster Kingdom) on its way next week, so if you like this game there’s plenty more of it to enjoy beyond the main title. For sheer uniqueness and surprisingly fun gameplay Majesty 2 gets 3.75 out of 5 stars. While I think the intricacies and difficulty of this title make it somewhat impenetrable for the overall gaming public I think this is a must buy for big fans of strategy and city builder games.