5Majesty’s original gameplay springs from an original blend of real-time strategy (RTS) and role-playing (RPG), but tragic flaws send your fantasy kingdom experience into the virtual sewers. The basic premise puts you in charge of a castle, from which you must build a small fiefdom in somewhat typical RTS style. You construct buildings to produce specific types of heroes, generate revenue, and provide items for the support and advancement of the heroes. Some completed buildings make other buildings available for construction, or may allow you to conduct technology research.

Most buildings can also be upgraded to higher levels, unlocking yet more opportunities for unit production and research. Your income is derived from the taxation of these buildings, which generate revenue as your heroes use their services. In standard RTS format, you must explore a blacked-out map while building up a viable economic and military settlement.

Standards end there, however, as you have no direct control over your units. Instead, you have two types of inhabitants in your kingdom: henchmen and heroes. Henchmen automatically do menial tasks such as building and repairing your structures, patrolling the streets, or collecting taxes. Heroes operate autonomously, seeking adventure or treasure as dictated by the typical motivations of members of their chosen guild. Magicians spend altogether too much time hanging around at home studying, while rogues will do anything for money—including robbing or attacking your own buildings! Your only influence over these mercenaries are “Reward Flags,” through which you can offer monetary rewards for destroying a target or reaching a destination. Thus, you end up feeling decidedly like a Lord of Mercenaries, with only your royal coffers to sway the actions of the men-at-arms in your service.

1Since you have no direct control over your heroes, your success hinges upon their AI behavior. Unfortunately, the AI routines fall far short, leaving you frustrated. You’ll watch as a level 10 Ranger flees from a lowly skeleton, only to stand and die against five berserk trolls. You’ll shake your head as a Paladin dies without using one healing potion. Then, just when things are looking up in a battle against enemy heroes, one of your own healers will come along and restore the hitpoints of the opposition. In short, the AI in the original Majesty was simply atrocious.

The “Campaign” is really only a set of totally unrelated preset missions that can be played in any order. A few “secret” missions require you to complete sets of specified missions before they are available, but even these missions have no continuity with their prerequisites. Completing the required missions simply “unlocks” one of these stand-alone “secret” missions. There is no carryover from mission to mission in the campaign, so it’s no use getting attached to your heroes, their accomplishments, or their hard-won magical items. Replay value gets a tiny boost from randomly generated maps each time you play, but in the end it’s all the same stuff in slightly different places. Since you can happily bulldoze any terrain when you build, the varied maps don’t end up meaning much.

10The 2D graphics and menus look very nice. The interface is fair, with hotkeys available for most desired activities. One severe shortcoming rears its ugly head behind structures, however—some of the buildings in the game are quite tall, and if a combat happens on the far side, you are powerless to affect the battle even in the meager ways available to you (healing, augmentation spells, attack spells, etc.). Monsters and enemies are drawn to your buildings, so you’ll actually run into this situation with alarming regularity. A simple transparency option would have been useful, but there is none.

The idea of having independently-minded minions running about your kingdom is actually quite novel, and it’s exciting to struggle with heroes who have a mind of their own. But in the end, the lack of hands on control over your units coupled with an unpredictable AI is what killed the original Majesty. Many patches and bug fixes later, however, and the release of Majesty Gold (includes the expansion pack) remedied many of these issues.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 600 MB HDD, Win95/98

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