Paradox Interactive – Majesty 2 review

an RTS where you must persuade your heroes to attack
Photo of Paradox Interactive – Majesty 2
£29.99

In a real-time strategy game, your heroes are generally the more powerful units who level up and carry out your most important orders in battle. That isn’t quite the case in Majesty 2. For starters, in this RTS every unit is a hero; there are no basic troops here. Every mage, archer, warrior or rogue is capable of levelling up to awe-inspiring heights of power (although at low levels they’re still a bit wimpy).

However, the real twist on the RTS rule-set is that you can’t order this lot about. These heroes do their own thing and will only follow orders if you pay them. They simply won’t get out of bed in the morning for less than 200 gold pieces, and if you want them to tackle a bit of dragon slaying, it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg (them too, in all likelihood).

Majesty 2′s order system works using flags. If there’s a pesky graveyard near your town, spawning skeletons who are terrorising your peasants, set an ‘attack’ flag on it and a reward value. If you offer a measly reward no heroes will be interested, but offer enough cash and a few will meander on over and raze the bone-yard to the ground. Eventually, anyway, when they’ve finished reading the paper or polishing their scabbard.

The player can also plant ‘explore’ flags to persuade troops to unveil the fog of war in an unexplored section of the map, a ‘defend’ flag to protect a building or person, or a ‘fear’ flag which wards units away from a dangerous spot. And this method of coaxing your troops around rather than directly dragging and clicking is certainly a refreshingly novel take on real-time strategy.

To ensure a balanced response you can form parties which will heed your call as one unit, so a cleric will always be on hand for those warriors. However, there’s no getting around the fact that the lack of any direct control can be immensely annoying at times. If a hero has a path-finding ‘moment’ and wanders the stupidly long way around, there’s no way to correct his movement.

Moreover, in combat heroes will do some really daft things, such as attacking a target building while completely ignoring a group of monsters slashing at their backs, slowly killing them. In one battle, our freshly resurrected high level cleric – who still wasn’t fully healthy – ran straight back into close combat to be splatted instantly by an ogre boss. She didn’t heal herself first, or indeed just stand back and heal the warrior who was tanking the boss as she should have done. Don’t expect too much in the way of common sense from your heroes.

Gold is the sole resource in Majesty 2 and you use the coin to pay for buildings, troops, upgrades and resurrections, as well as order flags. It’s a simple and accessible scheme of play, although base building tends to be a pretty formulaic exercise: whack every single building down, produce as many heroes as you can to the unit limit, then trundle through all the upgrades.

There are choices to be made, sure, but none of them are felt with any urgency. Tactics-wise, the balance is tilted too much towards sitting in your base and upgrading, letting your heroes level up on the dribs and drabs of enemy units that constantly assail the town.

If you do try to act quickly and decisively relatively early in a mission, you’re likely to come unstuck. And quite spectacularly at times, as some scenarios throw some pretty tough opposition at you. Also, it’s often best not to venture out too far into the map early on because that way you can avoid trigger events.

For example, the third mission presents the objective of defending a couple of towers while they’re being constructed. If you explore the map and locate the towers straight away, as the briefing suggests, your fledgling army will trigger the assault and have a practically impossible fight on its hands. Sit in your base and build up, however, and the attacks on the towers won’t begin until you’ve amassed a quality army able to deal with them as a trivial matter.

After around ten prolonged hours of battling dragons, ogres and vampires, through similar mission objectives (kill this, destroy that) and a nondescript story, boredom set in. The whole rinse-and-repeat process of base building, and the obligatory hundred and one upgrades before brute forcing our way through another boss beastie, began to feel tedious. The occasionally fiddly interface, featuring some rather clunky menus and an awkward building placement system, didn’t do anything to help our patience either.

It’s a shame, really, as we wanted to – and indeed initially did – like Majesty 2 for its different spin on the real-time strategy genre. It’s possible that some of the later missions feel less formulaic, but approaching the mid-point of the campaign we felt absolutely no compulsion to play on and find out. Not even if someone had stuck a great big flag for 100,000 gold pieces on the ‘continue campaign’ button.

Company: Paradox Interactive


Verdict
While it's quite a novel concept, and there's some initial enjoyment to be garnered here, developing your heroes and coaxing them around soon starts to feel like a chore. The missions become repetitive, despite the constant drip-feed of new buildings and heroes, and we found the whole experience less than Majestic in the end.