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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Review: Majesty 2 (PC)

Majesty 2 is a real time strategy of the the Age of Empires/ old school Command and Conquer mould. Thankfully the game is very much an entity its own right, taking a Monty Python-esque humour to the genre, narrated by a voice suspiciously like that of Sean Connery.

The premise of the game is one of map domination – take out the opposing armies before they eradiate yours. Obtaining resources (gold) through trade (and a sizable starting kitty), one initially builds infrastructure, which opens up the ability to build/ upgrade an army of 'heroes', individual units specialising in options of melee (human and dwarves), ranged (human and elf), rogues, and magic wielders so as to complete the various tasks that crop present.

Welcome to the bright, cheerful world of Majesty 2

This ranges from battling an opposing army to offing an ogre annoying your half elven sister in law or taking down a pesky dragon. Something vastly underrated in many games in the genre is the ability of your units to progress in skill through experience, which this game remedies. However, this is limited as you have no choice in the way your units grow. In addition, should you get attacked, the game provides the ability to bring back your most distinguished units when you need them most. This means that the resources and battles are taken seriously – every point earned through kills may be required later on.

The choice in units, whilst not extensive, is enough to keep the fan interested (at least until they can gain access to the expansions). One can pick from any of the subtypes and indeed must find a good combination of these units as the maximum of three is quickly reached, and individuals are not enough to finish quests. This proves to be a wise decision by the developers, as the missions discovered by your advisers are diverse, even if the storyline is somewhat linear, and each troop type is advantageous at various times. Intelligently scripted, the many ridiculous reasons for your missions are justified and you can genuinely feel compelled to follow the zany path put in front of you.

The music of the game is highly enjoyable and stays well in the theme of light-hearted, if of slightly Celtic design. Anticipating a combination of pipes and string instruments for the 'mythical' stereotype, it is unsurprising that this is the path the developers took. However, they have done it well, obtaining quality technical tracks that create a mood nicely. In addition, the sound effects are effectively done - present without being overwhelming.

Those Skeletons are in for a world of pain

The graphics are smooth and stylish, (although nothing compared to the heavyweights of the genre). The animation of various large creatures – including dragons, ogres, rats and elemental are excellent - the game is aesthetically pleasing.

One of the greatest touches added to the game is the humour – from the starting cut scene resulting in an unfortunate circumstances for a rat (you'll just have to get the game to find this), to your advisor telling you that the reason your currently fighting a battle is the suspicious circumstances surrounding his loss of cards the night before, one gets the feeling that they are in a game that does not take itself too seriously.

This adds greatly to the frivolity and indeed the fun that mythical games should be. Staying true to this, a design of the game is that your hero's action are not based on your requests/orders, but are dependent on how much money offered. As your characters develop, the price to get them to move out of tavern increases, further complicated by an ability to move your heroes into adventuring parties, who respond as one very expensive hire to your offers. This makes managing your funds a juggling act, and can be frustrating but it gives a nice, logical feel to the game.

The city building experience is addictive and easy on the eyes

There are a number of frustrations that have to be aired, though. In a clear attempt to add a challenge, indestructible sewers provide a continuous, unavoidable Trojan horse style entry for random monsters (e.g rats) who spawn fairly often. This is done to illustrate the importance of well placed defensive fortifications and towers, seemingly informing you a way of spending the initial kitty.

In addition, the appropriate price to encourage your heroes to contribute to a mission is frustratingly high. The AI is of a commendable level – your enemies seem intelligent in responding to your attacks, they will attack the weakest in a group won't blindly follow into your base of operations. However, this is somewhat counteracted as the ability to revive your fallen heroes (even if expensive and can lead skeletons to attack your base), relegates raiding to little risk and you feel in most missions that your victory is a inevitable conclusion.

Majesty 2 appeals to those who like real time strategies, and to those who like sarcastic and witty humour; those who enjoy fantasy and want to participate in a land with ogres, dragons, demons and dwarves. Beware, it certainly has an addictive quality that can make hours pass in the blink of an eye. Further, with expansions available, should you find yourself in getting bored of the original download, you can add more to the experience.

- Owen S

Review: Majesty 2 (PC)
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