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Review: Majesty

Reviewed By: Bill Stiteler

Review Date: January 4, 2001


Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Format: CD
Developer: Cyberlore Studios
Mac Port: United Developers
Publisher: MacPlay
Minimum Requirements: 233 MHz PowerPC, Mac OS 8.6, 48 MB RAM (w/48 MB virtual memory), CD-ROM, Apple Game Sprockets v1.7.5 (included), 800x600 16 bit video display, 314 MB hard disk space
3D Support: Yes
Multiplayer Support: Yes
Price: $39.99
Availability: Now


Now that it's finally over, I'm going to go out on a ledge and declare 2000 the best year in Mac gaming, ever. Granted, with Deus Ex, Voyager: Elite Force, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and Rainbow Six backing me up, it's a wide ledge. One that's only about four inches off the ground. With a railing around it. But a ledge nonetheless! One you could get a nasty scrape from, were you to be careless and slip on Civilization: Call to Power.

But never fear, because out there putting down those little no-skid flowers your grandma has in her tub is Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, recently released by (drumroll, please) MacPlay! Let me just say that starting a game and seeing the MacPlay logo after all this time is like watching a Hong Kong movie and seeing the villain taunt Jackie Chan into using his Forbidden Stance. It makes you feel good, because you know some butt-kickin' is about to occur.

And kick butt this game does. In Majesty, you take the role of a sovereign who must build and maintain his castle and troops (sing along; you know the words!) while completing a series of missions in hopes of uniting the Kingdom of Ardania under your rule. The Kingdom is broken up into different territories, each with separate areas (i.e., missions) which need to be controlled. The goals are limited (combat is always an aspect) but somewhat varied, from straight "tame the land" to "find an artifact," but also "withstand an assault" or even "raise an absurd amount of money in a limited time." Other missions are locked until you solve several others. Running in "real time," you must manage your troops and resources, deciding what you'll need to accomplish your goals.

Choose carefully, because even if the mission itself doesn't limit you (by denying you certain types of troops or buildings), the personalities in your kingdom will, especially your choice of temples. Rather than simply have your generic "heal the sick and cudgel the zombies" type of priests, Majesty features a buffet of different faiths. But like real religions, they don't all get along. Nature-worshipping followers of Fervus can become invisible and charm monsters, and allow you to recruit the Warriors of Discord, but you won't have access to the martial Adepts. The Barbarians of Krolm can infect every hero in your kingdom with a berserker rage, and you'll need it: no other temple will come into a mission where they're built. Oddly, no one's bothered by the thieves, even when you send them to shake the villagers down for tax money (really!) The nonhuman races have similar prejudices. Choose the hearty dwarves, and lose access to the elves, deadly arches who move faster than Racer X (Racer X is actually Speed's brother, Rex!). Likewise, neither the elves nor the dwarves like the gnomes, but then in Majesty, gnomes are hillbillies, down to the banjo music coming from their hovels.

Surprisingly, I like this aspect (the limitations, not banjo music). It made Majesty about more than simply hoarding resources to build a colossal army. Instead, you had to find a style of tactics to suit you and the mission objectives. I like the wizards, but if the scenario calls for heavy exploration right off, they're going to get smeared (if they ever leave the tower, that is). Best invest in Rangers or Rouges.

Another aspect which will sound like a limitation but is actually a feature (copyright Microsoft Corp.) is that you have no direct control over your heroes. Left alone, your troops will wander about, acting as the mood strikes them--but oh, the moods! Rangers will explore. Rouges will look for corpses to loot or chests to sack. Paladins and knights will hunt down monsters, while your wizards kick back in their study. How do you mobilize them as an effective fighting force? As Riley would say, "It's all about the bling-bling." You have two monetary carrots to get your heroes to do what you want; the explore flag and the attack flag. You can drop the explore flag into territory (known or unknown), where you want people to go, and attack flags onto monsters or buildings that you want destroyed. The heroes aren't suicidal, however (well, except for the paladins, but they're just trying to look good), and will usually run away if they sense they're outmatched.

Unless you make it worth their while. Put a big enough contract on a skeleton, and even those armed only with arrows will go after him. If you're broke, you'll have to wait for the tax collectors to return, and rely on your troops good character (note: make sure to build a thieves' guild for emergency extortion). Allow me to stress again that this is a feature; it adds to the game. The biggest complaint I have about real-time sims is that you end up micro-managing pockets of troops (usually dwarves) at one end of the battlefield while you're getting smeared at the other end. In Majesty, when your guys are left to their own devices, they don't just stand around, they're pursuing their own interests (and usually yours, too)--visiting the blacksmith to get better weapons, researching new spells at the library, getting drunk off their butts at the Elven lounge. Okay, that last one doesn't help, but still!

The interface is a dream. It's neatly divided into the main playing screen, a command screen for the troop, monster, flag or building you have selected, an info line, a "radar" screen, and finally a picture-in-picture mini-screen where you can keep track of, well, just about anything (when set to a moving object, it pans along with it) And none of it feels cramped.

I'm also pleased to report that Majesty's voice-overs don't suck. Each mission begins with your retainer telling you the mission goals. A nice faux-medieval-Briton voice that never descends into RenFestery. The ambient sounds and voices in the game work well, too, striking either authenticity or comedy square on the head. I've already mentioned the gnome hovels, but pass over the blacksmith and hear the hammer and anvil sound. In a move sure to make Hiner happy, the vampires go "Bleh! Bleh!" when you cross paths [Ed. - He's right, it does make me happy]. The Paladins sound brave and true, the wizards sound like befuddled English profs, and don't ask me why, but having the tax collector speak like Paul Lynde just seems right.

Problems: Version 1.0 seemed to stutter more in play. Pumping more RAM into the game solved this. Also, I still experienced some crashes (though fewer than in the beta preview) towards the end of missions, but, since the solution was to go back and replay it, I didn't care! I love this game!

People don't use the word "elegant" as much as they used to when describing software, but Majesty has it in spades. If you've played Warcraft, you'll remember those times when you couldn't do anything because you had to wait for your peasants to acquire resources. But in Majesty, that's one of my favorite parts, because I can just float around, watching the heroes go about their business, killing, looting, that sort of thing. In that sense, it's kind of like the Sims, only these guys can defend themselves against you.

Majesty also includes a "freestyle" play option, allowing you to set up your own victory conditions and limitations. You can play solo or online. There's also an option to create and download fan-created missions. And while I don't like internet play (I am a big crybaby who gets his butt kicked), I do like mods and new maps. No professional programmer is as driven as a geek looking for recognition.

Being a Mac gamer can be a mixed bag. We lost 3dFx, but ATI gave us RADEON, and nVidia is lurking about to fill the InTeRcApPiNg video card niche. We didn't get two button mice as a standard, but the hockey puck is gone. We didn't get Half-Life, but we didn't have to have Daikatana, either. Will we ever get truly concurrent releases? I don't know. But if they keep making games like Majesty, I'm willing to wait.


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