My dad always tells me how they don’t make things like they used to, everything from cars to houses to televisions. I’m not old enough to log an opinion one way or the other on a lot of his observations, but I’ve definitely noticed that the old adage can be applied to video games just the same as anything else. With more and more PC games catering to the growing console crowd, old veterans like myself are left yearning for a good old-fashioned computer game to sink our teeth into. Majesty 2 hits the spot in multiple ways.
First and foremost, Majesty 2 is born of respectable stock. Though it flies the flag of a completely different developer and publisher, this is a sequel to a 2001 PC game that I remember playing and having a lot of fun with back in the day. That hint of nostalgia combined with what turns out to be a fairly solid game makes for one of the most entertaining titles I’ve played on my computer in ages.
It might look like a generic real-time strategy game at first glance, but there are a lot of cool and original ideas beneath the hood of Majesty 2. Like the name implies, players take on the role of sovereign of their kingdom and are tasked with solving an assortment of problems. Each of these is a self-contained mission with objectives that range from slaying ogres to collecting a set amount of gold within a certain time limit. The basics of accomplishing these goals can be a bit repetitive at times, but overall the variety of your tasks is enough to keep things interesting. A major complaint is the lack of any customizable difficulty settings. Some missions feel too easy, while others were infuriatingly difficult. One particular mission asks you to slay a marauding dragon, but after failing horribly several times I had to resort to cheating just to keep myself from being stuck there forever. Generally you’ll have several different missions to choose from, leaving you with the ability to come back later to finish off a stubborn level.
Your kingdom’s heroes are the meat and potatoes of the game. Unlike traditional RTS titles that put you in direct control of your army, the heroes inhabiting the world of Majesty 2 are much more free willed. Once you’ve spent the gold to recruit them, they’ll wander about the map doing as they please, with no way for you to directly control their actions. In place of direct control are various flags that can be used to motivate your heroes to action. For example, suppose that your town has a bear problem. Taking out their hidden den would halt their attacks and take some pressure off of your guards. Placing an exploration flag near its suspected location and then offering some gold to any hero brave enough to scout the area out will soon reveal its location. Later, another reward can be placed on the destruction of the den, luring more money hungry heroes in to do your dirty work. Once the den is destroyed, your heroes are not only tougher and more experienced from their work, but they’ll soon return to your town to spend all that gold they just fought so hard to earn.
This economic model drives much of the game, but playing the part of overseer for your heroes is where the fun is really at. It’s almost like playing a dozen role-playing games at once. Watching your puny level 1 warrior as he levels up, upgrades his equipment and eventually becomes a damage-dealing machine is a really satisfying experience. Being able to upgrade your town’s buildings to grant your heroes new equipment to purchase and skills to train only sweetens the deal. There’s just something in that formula that kept bringing me back to the game again and again, even after my frustrations with the difficulty level and a crash to my desktop that caused me to lose an hour or two worth of progress.
The depth continues to grow as the game progresses and you unlock new equipment and upgrades. Each class of hero has two separate specialty classes that they can be upgraded to (provided that you construct the appropriate temple first), further diversifying their abilities and giving you fun new hero types to play around with.
There’s also a thick layer of humor that permeates throughout the game, and it’s subtle enough that it’ll catch you off guard and crack you up repeatedly. Characters crack jokes and slip in puns, heroes comment on their adventures and tax collectors announce their arrival, all in a way that breathes tremendous life into the little fantasy world that the game makes you a part of.
It’s not without some flaws, but Majesty 2 is one of my favorite PC titles of this year. I would’ve really loved to see more multiplayer options or a random map generator for skirmish games, but even without them there’s still a lot of fun to be had here. And while it might be true that they don’t make PC games like they used to, it’s clear to me that they sometimes still do.
Title: Majesty 2
ESRB Rating: T for teen