What would it mean to be seven years old again? Saturday morning cartoons, skinned-up knees from spills on gravel, and a few select PC games to hold my attention. One such game I always regarded highly was Majesty – The Fantasy Kingdom Sim. I can remember long nights playing way past my bedtime, with a tub of rainbow sherbet on standby. My juvenile mind didn’t quite understand the concept, but it kept me playing all the same. If you saw Majesty being played nowadays, you would probably scoff at this dinosaur. I’m here to tell you, with the help of an unbiased friend, if this seventeen year old game is worth the time.
If you owned a PC at the turn of the millennium, Majesty may have been on your radar. The game was released in 2000 by Cyberlore studios, and published by Microprose. If you’re raising an eyebrow, don’t worry. These companies have long since disappeared, but they spawned several popular franchises along the way. Cyberlore did some work on Warcraft II, creating the popular Tides of Darkness expansion. All the while Microprose was the driving force behind such games as Civilization and X-COM. These two studios have undergone major label and staff changes, to the dismay of many fans. That is, not before creating some of their most popular work. A unique project known as Majesty.
I had trouble classifying this game! I would not categorize it as a real-time strategy. Nor is it casual enough to be thrown in with games like The Sims. Instead, I would say it’s somewhat of a mix. In this game, you play as a ruler of a mythical land known as Ardania. As the royalty of this realm, you’re tasked with certain quests to ensure the safety of your denizens. Gameplay is cut up into missions, with each having a unique objective, or terms of victory. In this game, you create buildings and train units, but you don’t get to actively control them. Instead you influence heroes to do your bidding through your economy and bounties you can set around the realm. Some examples of this might include: Stocking health potions in your market, putting a rather large monetary prize on a monster’s head, or researching spells in your library. You can only prepare them so well, however, as they must act on their own to get the job done. Much of your time when you first play this game will be spent in building interfaces. It takes some time to learn what buildings do what, and which heroes to hire. After a time, you should be familiar enough to navigate them quickly.
There are multiple different classes of unit in Majesty. Some are greedy, such as the rogue, and often won’t fight out of sheer terror. Their job is to loot money for the realm. (And fight when the odds are in their favor.) Other heroes, like the wizard, are inspired by power. They can blast enemies with devastating effect, although they are inherently weak. My favorite is the priestesses of Krypta. These fragile sorcerers cast animate bones to bolster your ranks with skeletons. You will find your favorites as some choices cancel out other options. Every unit has personality, flaws, and strengths. I couldn’t help but smile as my warrior Promethion fought off three creatures at once, and his only aid would be in the form of Phin The Snitch, a terrified rogue, fleeing at the sight of a giant rat. Moments like these are where Majesty truly shines. This can be a double-edged sword, as the lack of control may seem frustrating. Sometimes you’ll be assaulting a keep, with your entire kingdom behind your back, and other times, a giant two-headed dragon sends your entire fiefdom running for the hills. I’ve literally yelled at this game in hilarious helplessness.
I was familiar with the little quirks of the game, having played it years before. But in this article, as well as every other installment in the RC series, I’ll enlist the help of a close friend of mine, who will weigh-in their impartial thoughts. This issue we have Damon. He’s been a close friend of mine for a very long time and has a diverse group of favorite media. Seeing as how he had never played the game before, I figured he was the perfect subject. I set him up with the game in a very informal setting and watched his experience. Instantly, we both began joking about the rather dated graphics and simple gameplay. Shortly after, he was relatively silent, asking a question here and there, but mostly focusing on the game. I thought I saw relative enjoyment. An interruption would have stopped play normally, but instead he insisted:
“I’m trying to run a medieval kingdom, here!”
Damon was getting into the swing of things, chuckling every now and then at the audio. I saw him creating his kingdom, and deciding what heroes to hire. Two easy missions in the books, and he proceeded onto the harder quests. This is where I noticed the frustration setting in, as hordes of minions attacked his base. This is where the gameplay will turn some people off, as the lack of micro management will drive you mad. You want to tell your wizard to go and destroy the magic keep, but he’s participating in a tournament. Your barbarian isn’t leaving home, because he fled from a vampire two minutes ago. These are all problems you will encounter and must solve with the power that’s given to you. He persevered through the mission, and that’s where we ended the session. The consensus was that although it was fun to watch his empire spread out before him, this unique gameplay style was not something he was used to.
“A game I would play in chunks, not for hours on end.”
While I have spent countless hours playing it myself, I do agree with his aggravations. The unique playstyle is not for everyone, and the frustration that may ensue from the lack of direction will immediately rebuke others. If you enjoy simulations such as: Rimworld, Sim City, and Civilization, you need to give this game a try. However, if first person shooters are more your cup of tea, you might want to pass this up. When you look past it’s strange exterior, that’s when you start to see redeeming qualities. Funny characters, unique gameplay, and personality galore, to name just a few. If I wouldn’t have played this game back in my youth, there’s a chance it would have passed me by. I’m glad I didn’t miss out, because after all its shortcomings, it’s still one of my favorite games on PC.
Ethan: “I’ll give you a solid recommendation on this one. Check it out if you like similar games.”
Damon: “Interesting take on a classic style of game, but the lack of control can be frustrating.”