PC Game Preview: Majesty 2 Preview
Although still early in the development cycle, Kyle Stegerwald found the sequel to Majesty just as addictive as the original.
Author: Kyle Stegerwald
The original Majesty presented the cynical side of fantasy role-playing: instead of picking up a sword and slaying the dragon, players were asked to sell swords, recruit heroes, and set quests. But can playing the quest-giver and the merchant be any fun? Definitely. Majesty not only broke the mold in offering a unique gameplay conceit, it was supremely engrossing. Expectations on my part were very high for the sequel.
The important thing to remember about the sequel at this point is that it is in what I would describe as 'alpha.' Normally previews are only offered when the game being previewed is in more or less the state which it will arrive at retail in. Not so with Majesty 2. In my copy there was placeholder art, very little of the text was fleshed out, and there were only five playable missions (there was a sixth, but it crashed whenever I tried to start it). This shouldn't have any bearing on the quality of the final product, but just keep in mind that the Majesty 2 I played will wind up much more polished and fleshed-out when it comes to rest on your hard drive.
What's there is good, though. And what is there? Much of what I remember (dimly) from the original game has been faithfully reproduced in the alpha. Players can establish guilds for different classes of heroes (mages, clerics, warriors, rogues, and rangers), sell potions at the market and weapons at the armory, and drop flags which offer rewards for exploration, destruction, protection, etc. The elves and dwarves of Majesty are here too, but their buildings were buggy; whenever I tried to hire anyone the game would crash. Such is to be expected from a game still in development, I’m just sorry I couldn’t play test these features. It's also possible to worship the gods by constructing temples, which grant the player bonuses from one deity but enrage others. The enemies your heroes square off against run the gamut from harmless rats that spawn from sewer grates (another carry-over from the original game) to giant fire-breathing dragons who, when the die, convulse wildly and collapse in a gout of flame.
The graphics (which, for gamers used to splashy graphics might represent the biggest obstacle to enjoying the original Majesty) are very sharp and appropriately fantastical. Spell effects and animations are particularly dazzling. Everything is rendered in 3D but the engine didn't seem to be very taxing, even at this early, unoptimized stage. My modest rig handled even the largest skirmishes (with a dozen or so units on each side) with ease. Majesty 2 also continues the recent trend of strategy games implementing physics. In this game it makes a bit more sense than in others, since watching individual units square off is a large part of the fun, and seeing buildings fracture and beasts tumble to the ground up-close adds to the experience in meaningful ways. That said, physics engine doesn’t appear to be quite finished either. Trees, when toppled, have a tendency to bounce like basketballs. And archers' arrows bend their trajectories to follow enemies.
What's new about Majesty 2 isn't yet apparent at this stage. The developers have mentioned that 'every hero will be unique,' and there are glimmers of this idea in the slight diversity of dress your heroes can adopt, but there isn't much else I noticed to separate Majesty 2 from the original. It's not clear what the developers plan to add on to the franchise. I expect to see their ideas emerge over the coming months.
So, for those of you who have shamelessly skipped to the end and those of you who have been waiting for final judgment, is the game turning out well or not? Even for all the flaws of the alpha, I've played more Majesty 2 in the past week than I have Empire: Total War and I've beaten every mission in the alpha several times. Maybe that speaks to the sorry direction strategy gaming is heading- when updated versions of older games handily beat out brand-new blockbusters. Or maybe it means that Paradox just knows what they’re doing.