The comedic genius Mel Brooks once said in his History of the World, Part I movie "It's good to be the king". Apparently Mel Brooks never had to run a kingdom, defending it against raiding skeletal soldiers, marauding giants, and fire-breathing dragons. In Paradox Interactive's newest strategy PC game Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, you do just that.
Like fantasy-genre real-time strategy games of the past, a kingdom is made up of (and is only as good as) the units and buildings in it. The main difference between Majesty 2 and other fantasy RTS games such as the 1990's hit Warcraft II is that you can't actually control the actions of your heroes. Heroes, by the way, are pretty much the only offensive force that the kingdom has. The heroes pretty much have their own free will and go shopping at the market, head home, fight monsters, and go exploring all at a whim. But just because they can't be controlled directly doesn't mean they can't be enticed to do your royal bidding.
The key to getting done what you want to be done is simply by offering cash rewards for specific tasks. If you want an area of the map to be explored, place an exploration marker at the end-point of the journey and offer a couple hundred gold for the first hero to fulfill the quest. You want something attacked or defended? Do the same with the attack or defense marker. The higher the reward, the more likely a hero is to do what you want and the more heroes might be interested.
Majesty 2 features a number of the classic fantasy-genre hero classes. To start out with, you get the three basics: Cleric (magic), ranger (ranged), and warrior (melee). As the game progresses, new classes are opened up such as rogue, wizard, and elf (which is actually a race, but who's counting). Each class has its own strengths and drawbacks as well as their own special abilities. Some of the abilities, such as the wizard's lightning bolt spell, you the king get to perform. The diversity of classes coupled with the free will engine and the fact that you get some toys (abilities) to play with on your own all mesh together to give the game a very pleasurable gameplay experience.
Visually Majesty 2 is one of the more appealing games that Paradox has put out in 2009, if not the most appealing. The graphics on a whole are great and appear to be glitch-free. The fine level of detail not only on the characters and buildings, but also on the terrain make for a very nice presentation. The game's HUD (heads-up-display) can get a little crowded once a dozen or so heroes have been recruited, but on a widescreen monitor it's quite manageable. The game's audio also gains high marks. The fantasy and seemingly Celtic-inspired soundtrack coupled with a good assortment of sound effects and vocal tracks make sure that this isn't a game to be put on mute after a while.
Majesty 2 isn't without its faults, however. Everything was going just peachy until it comes time to manually save the game. Not that there was anything wrong with the save file, mind you, but it took nearly six minutes (I timed it the second time I tried to save) to save the game. That was enough time for me to go to the restroom, walk to the kitchen to pour a mug full of coffee, and pet my cat. There is no reason whatsoever for a simple saving of the game's progress to take that long. Also, the game's overhead camera doesn't zoom out nearly as far as I would have liked it to. Paradox's other games, Elven Legacy most notably, have this same problem. It's something more-or-less uniform to their games so it's something I've come to expect from them. That doesn't mean, though, that I like it.
Overall, Majesty 2 is a game that anybody liking either the fantasy genre or RTS games should check out. At the very least the demo, which became available on Tuesday the 15th of September, should be downloaded and explored by would-be rulers of the fantasy kingdom sim.
Final Game Guys Grade: B+.
Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim is rated "T for Teen" by the ESRB.