Majesty 2 Preview
Preview - posted by YourConscience on Mon 9 February 2009, 02:39:32
Ever since the announcement that the Russians are going to make Majesty 2, I admit that I impatiently waited for it to materialize. Especially since it was announced to be a true successor, unlike certain other sequels recently. On the other hand, only a few Russian games ever make it past the alpha stage, even after their re-release three years later in the western market. So I was also a bit cautious to not have my expectations too high. At least in this regard I was mistaken though, as this preview of an early alpha build (according to the developer) will show.
For starters let's pin down the basics of the original Majesty. In this game you are the king of a little kingdom in an RTS style game where you don't control any units. If that sounds like a paradox to you then you've missed one of those real gems of the gaming world. At least according to the opinion of most of the players of the original Majesty. Instead of controlling particular units you control what's built and where, as well as what will be the reward for killing that monster that just appeared at the border of your kingdom. The gameplay then revolves around building guilds where heroes of various sorts can be hired and hoping that these heroes will keep your kingdom safe from all the monsters that freely roam the lands. I am describing this in so much detail because Majesty 2 works in exactly the same way as the original.
In our preview build this gameplay was mostly fleshed out already. I was able to build a number of guilds for various types of heroes to be hired such as warriors, elves, mages and more. I was also able to buy a number of other buildings that provide items and upgrades to the warring kingdom saviors once they've earned enough money. Some things were still missing, but I did have a number of intense situations where several strong monsters were simultaneously attacking important buildings of my cozy kingdom and my hirelings were dying left and right, leaving sad little graves. So all in all, I am very confident that they will succeed in recreating the essence of the original Majesty.
Nevertheless, I also have several negative points to state. One is the AI. I am not sure how this will look in the non-early-alpha version, but presently the rule for when heroes will retreat is too simple. This means that even a high-level mage will only retreat after he has no health potions left and his hitpoints drop below a certain level. And this means that I never end up having any high-level mages. They just stupidly die. Same goes for rangers and any other hit-points-weak class. Apparently there will be a building (inn) that will make heroes stick together in parties, but this feature wasn't yet implemented in my version. Additionally, the various types of heroes behaved similarly and aimless in combat, irrespective of their class. They would never try to draw out single enemies out of groups or concentrate their fire on one enemy and they would not otherwise help each other in any way. So I hope the developer will do a lot more in this department before release.
Another negative point is lack of any innovation, as far as I can see. Sure, the balance between staying true to a prequel and trying to introduce interesting features is hard to find. But it is possible, as evidenced in the Civilization series, for example. One of the few innovative elements I noticed is the introduction of a fear flag with which it's possible for the player to mark especially dangerous areas on the map. Unfortunately, I somehow never felt like needing it, because before I realized that my level 10 mage is in trouble and placed such a flag there, he was pretty much dead already. Another element is the introduction of spells that the player can unleash directly. By paying a lot of gold this allows the player to eliminate specific threats and help that one hero that you really don't want to die. On the other hand, this only means that you are encouraged to watch that hero closely at all times lest you want to risk him. And believe me, watching a braindead level 5 warrior wander right into the middle of five elementals is no fun.
The biggest positive surprise for me was that I didn't have a single crash or even just a bug! In an early alpha build made by Russians!! Sure, there were a few resources missing and the fighting animations looked a bit out of synch, but I am very confident that Majesty 2 will be relatively bug-free on release.
Another very positive comment I'd like to drop here is about the visual presentation. The models just look lovely (not manga-style cute, but just lovely), the colors are very bright (but not Japanese-style bright) and I often caught myself at the thought that as a family friendly game this is the perfect mix. And this is certainly a family friendly type of game.
Hence, I can only conclude that Majesty 2 indeed is a game to look forward to. It looks good, it plays well and the only thing I'd wish for is a little more innovation, such as a more dynamic game world (monster waves, reappearing monster lairs, reappearing outside kingdoms, slightly more complex economics, etc.).