8/27/2008

Preview : Majesty 2 - The fantasy Kingdom Sim

It's been eight years since the original Majesty appeared on the PC gaming scene with its own unique take on fantasy gaming. . The premise of the gameplay was simple, simultaneously original... and frustrating. You were the ruling monarch of a fantasy kingdom, and while you could set the tax rates, recruit heroes, and build whatever buildings you liked, you had no direct control over the actual citizens of your kingdom. Meeting their needs while persuading them to accomplish your goals was at various times challenging, hysterical, frustrating and fun.

The good news for fans who can still remember the original is that the license has changed hands and a sequel is on its way. Paradox Interactive and 1C are teaming up to update the franchise, starting from the ground up with all-new graphics but keeping the same feel as the original. Once more the trick will be to run your kingdom without direct control, although this time around representatives from Paradox say they're trying to give players a few more options for directly managing the action.

How's it work? Your Kingdom begins with an ornate fantasy castle representing your opulent seat of command. From there you can construct buildings, similar to any real-time strategy game. Building farmhouses for the peasants is a good way to generate incremental tax revenue, and guard towers will help defend your city by themselves and with the help of wandering guards. But to really get stuff done your kingdom is going to need heroes. Building guild halls will allow you to recruit adventurers to your kingdom, of which there are 10 different classes representing classic fantasy archetypes like Warrior, Mage, Paladin, Rogue, Ranger, Barbarian, and so on. Every hero starts out at level one with crappy equipment, something we can all relate to.



But once a hero enters your kingdom they're on their own -- you can't tell them what to do. And you quickly discover heroes are whiny little brats, a whole army of munchkin roleplayers. All they want is loot! Experience! Treasure! Equipment! They'll start roaming around your kingdom looking for monsters to fight.

You can support the efforts of your heroes by making sure they have amenities back home. That includes taverns to recover in, blacksmiths to buy weapons from, marketplaces to buy potions at, magic stores to enchant their equipment, and so in. Every time a hero drops some big money to buy a shiny new piece of equipment, you get a cut of the revenue -- that's how you benefit from your heroes and their adventures.

Once you've got enough money rolling in you can begin to try to manipulate the world a little more firsthand. In Majesty 2 you can spend money to directly cast spells in the game world, healing your allies or smiting monsters you don't like. But also, as in the original, you can set bounties on objectives. If you plant a flag on a troublesome troll that awards 500 gold to the adventurer who slays it, you can bet your royal butt that your greedy self-serving adventurers will flock to the scene.

Here at GameSpy we always thought the original Majesty was a real treat -- a little frustrating at times but uniquely different. Our brief demo of the game at Leipzig didn't reveal to us anything dramatically different about the new game, but that might not be a bad thing, as there's a whole new generation of gamers who never got a chance to play the original. One thing that we hope translates across to the new developers is the ridiculous sense of humor of the original game, whose lampooning of fantasy archetypes made the gameplay enjoyable even at its most frustrating. (You'll note that the trailer above is done totally "straight," which makes us worry the game will take itself too seriously.) Paradox is looking to publish the sequel in early 2009.

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