Game Diary: Majesty 2

Oh lord, is this game annoying, and it’s not even halfway done with me yet.

(Here’s the part where I tell you about this whole Game Diary idea: Instead of it being reviews – which, admittedly, it sometimes will be – it’s more a forum for recording my experiences as I play games, thoughts, annoyances, patterns, money-making schemes, etc.  I’ve been writing them as I finish games because the games have been relatively short.  I’d thought this format would be useful for games like Morrowind that are designed to stretch out over weeks and, possibly, months.  Majesty 2 might take me decades.)

Here’s a screenshot from Majesty.

Majesty Screenshot

Now here’s one from Majesty 2.

Majesty 2 Screenshot

They look pretty similar, don’t they?

Well, maybe not, but take into account that this “sequel” was created nine years after the original, so it only makes sense that graphics would improve, interfaces would be redesigned, and the whole shebang overhauled to fit a new generation (of computers, if not people).

And, yes, when starting Majesty 2, the first thing that comes to mind to those who played the original is: What’s the difference?

Because the thing is this.  Majesty 2 is a sequel in the same sense that Madden NFL 11 is a sequel to Madden NFL 10.  We’re not talking a sequel, we’re talking a remake.  A remake whose reason for being escapes me.

Of course, here I am, proud owner of Majesty 2, bought because I loved the first game and I expected more of the same.  Or an evolution of the same.  But here there isn’t even that.

I’ll write more about the game when I finish playing it, but here are some numbered thoughts.

1. The game reuses animations and mission plots.  The map of the world is identical.  You might say that this latter makes sense as this game takes place in the same country as the last game… but I don’t mean that the geography is the same, but that the map is the same.  In order to save on development costs or the difficulty of having to create a new sound design, many of the voices are identical, the sound files simply reused.  In the case of your advisor, a Sean Connery impersonator, they hired an impersonator for the impersonator.

Or perhaps they hired the same guy.  Who knows and who cares.  The point is that the developers who bought the rights to the Majesty franchise (the named culprits: Paradox Interactive) purposely tried to clone the previous game.  I suppose this was with the idea that the first game was so long ago that many of the target market wouldn’t have played it.  The fact that a few who had, and who had enjoyed the previous game, might get suckered into buying the update was just a bonus.

2. The premise of the game is this.  You are a king of a fantasy kingdom and said kingdom is beset with problems.  In order to deal with said problems, you build guilds and hire heroes from those guilds (i.e., your basic wizards, warriors, clerics, rogues, and rangers).  The problem – and this is what makes the game so delicious – is that said heroes don’t do what you tell them.  In fact, you have no real control over them at all.  You can only influence them by setting up quests (termed flags) for them on the map: go here, kill that, protect this.  Luckily, each hero is hardwired to do a certain thing.  Rangers explore.  Clerics heal.  Warriors fight.

At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  In Majesty 2, your heroes do nothing unless you set a quest flag for them.  Oh, they’ll move a little, explore a very little, but they won’t go far from your castle and they might even ignore that Ogre that’s destroying the other side of town because, you know, they want to take a nap.  Or pick a flower.  Or hit on one of the other heroes.

Basically, in their eagerness to copy Majesty’s formula, Paradox Interactive broke something.

3. Namely, the game.

See, the various missions in Majesty were difficult.  They were difficult because you needed to convince your heroes to do specific things, and this convincing cost money.  You needed to carefully decide what guilds to build and what heroes to hire depending on what your particular needs at the time are.  And money is limited.

In Majesty 2, missions are next to impossible.  They are a micro-manager’s dream – or, perhaps, nightmare.  Not only do your heroes refuse to do anything useful on their own, and not only do you have to pay for quests to spur them to action, and not only, even then, is it likely your heroes will just sit back and twiddle their thumbs, there is also the fact that missions are fiendishly designed.

They are difficult, yes, which is not a problem in itself.  In fact, that might be why I play a game.  But with Majesty 2 the missions are orchestrated so that you can’t make any mistake in what to build when, who to hire, how to solve a sub-mission inside the missions.  And since you don’t know what you might need to do until the mission starts, your first four or five attempts at beating a mission will involve frustration as you slowly learn what it is you need to do.

Of course, the question you might be thinking now is: Andrew, if you feel this way, why are you still playing the game?

The answer: I don’t know.  Hopefully, by the time I finish the game I’ll be able to tell you.

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