For starters, picture this: You’re a king. Or queen. Either way, you’ve got a kingdom in the land of Ardania where everything is going smoothly. Then a monster attacks. You should have seen this coming. Actually, you did, and you have a number of eager young heroes. Surely they’ll handle this threat to the kingdom, right? Then you see the archers go off to explore that last black patch on the map. The gnomes are more interested in repairing the damage than actually facing the monster. The elves are off gambling. All as your guardhouses start catching fire and your tax collectors are being cut down in the streets. Would you believe this was one of my favorite games ever?

Majesty 2

Majesty is different from a lot of real-time strategy games in that you cannot directly command anyone. You can order buildings to be placed. If you have access to the spells of a particular guild, you can cast them for a fee. Everything else is up to the inhabitants of your kingdom. Said inhabitants will act in a manner befitting their position. Warriors, for example, will eagerly rush into battle to defend the town, and go out of their way to destroy the monster lairs that dot the landscape. Rangers will mostly be out exploring, even going so far as to disappear off the map completely for a while once the entire level has been revealed. You, as the ruler, get to choose what types of heroes will be roaming around your kingdom, but you can’t make them do anything.

You can encourage them, however. Pressing space will set down a flag on either the patch of ground where your mouse is, or on the unit you have targeted. It’s a message to heroes everywhere: “Hey, you want money? Come here.” Thus you can essentially pay to have your heroes explore a section of wilderness, or kill a particular foe. The more money you offer, the more heroes will be drawn, with characters such as rogues being much easier to sway.

Even with that feature, you would think this game is really frustrating. And yet, if you do your job properly, everything falls into place. Your Rangers find the lairs plaguing your kingdom. The stalwart defender types will rid you of them out of a sense of duty, while other heroes will mostly engage monsters out of their own self-interest. Then they’ll come back to your blacksmiths, your inns, your trading posts. They’ll equip themselves for tougher battles while giving you the money to keep expanding.

The first time I played, I was actually utterly confounded. I didn’t understand that the heroes inhabiting my kingdom were not mindless drones to be ordered about. So when a troll appeared and started smashing my marketplace, I was panicked when I tried to command a Ranger to attack it, to no avail. That almost turned me off the game completely, but I’m still happy it happened.

The difficulty is kinda… meh. Basically, if you can survive long enough to get some decent heroes/defenses, you can handle any monsters. I started a custom map where I was continuously assaulted by dragons, but after about 15 minutes getting settled, I’d essentially won. Anything attacking the town was bogged down by a mob of skeletons and guards, leaving the heroes to purge the monster lairs at their leisure. I think part of that is because, the bigger the monsters, the more gold your heroes will get when they eventually kill them, which goes right back to the kingdom in the form of taxes. Even the waves of minotaurs I had to deal with in one instance eventually became a nuisance more than anything. I spent the first 10 minutes throwing fresh heroes into a meat grinder of  battleaxes and over-sized hooves, but the survivors walked that map like they owned it.

Thankfully, most of the story missions have more to them than “Survive.” One memorable mission actually pits you against another kingdom, leading you to sabotage its sources of income, as often happens to you. At the same time, they often depend on the hero AI… not being dumb at the worst possible moment, which you know is going to happen anyway. There’s other Quests such as “Make x money in y days” and “This hero faction is blackmailing you. Pay them off or wipe them off the map.” I’m sure you can guess what option I took.

You angered the wrong Monarch! BURN!

You angered the wrong Monarch! BURN!

Did I mention you get briefed by a servant that sounds like Sean Connery? Yeah, that’s a thing. It’s also a good way to introduce this new land. This game is pretty good on building an interesting world, in fact. Every clickable thing (And I mean EVERY) has a little question icon, that gives basic stats and lore on the current building or NPC, be it tax collector or flying eyeball monster. It’s the little touches like that which really add to my enjoyment of a title.

If any of this has caught your interest, the game is $10 on Steam. Feel free to give it a whirl.

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