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Majesty Gold Edition

Cyberlore's "Fantasy Kingdom Sim", Majesty, has been rereleased with the online downloading service "GamersGate". With this new breath of life for this old game, it seems appropriate to review the game for a new crowd of players.

The basic concept behind Majesty is that the player is a king or queen in a medieval fantasy country called Ardania. This kingdom is inhabited by all the adventurers and monsters one would expect from such a setting. As monarch, the player cannot directly intervene in most cases; compare this to, say, Warcraft, where everyone is under the player's direct control. The monarch in Majesty can place building plans (which peasants will automatically redirect towards constructing), cast spells (if the appropriate facilities are constructed), hire heroes, purchase upgrades to buildings and place reward flags. This is the extent of your power; you cannot directly tell a warrior to go destroy a troll attacking your town, but you can place a bounty on its head so that heroes will want to go get it. This is the key difference from Warcraft; the game is half about strategy and half about convincing your kingdom's heroes that they should help you.

The main focus of the game is the heroes, of course; by building various types of guilds, you can recruit a certain number of heroes (usually four per guild). These guilds include warrior's guilds, ranger's guilds, wizard's guilds, and temples of various gods and goddesses. Different heroes have different temperaments and abilities. Rogues are greedy and will pilfer from enemy buildings and lairs more than they'll destroy them, but are easily influenced by reward flags. Rangers spend most of their time exploring, and act as the eyes and ears of the sovereign. Wizards can cast powerful spells, but are fragile. Gnomes aren't good fighters, but are cheap and will help the peasants build things around the settlement. Certain groups (priests and non-human races, primarily) do not like certain other groups. Elves, gnomes, and dwarves all dislike each other, so you can only have one group in your kingdom at a time. Temples have rivalries and friends - the temples of Law and Good like each other, but dislike Chaos and Evil (and vice versa). The same goes for the temples of the Sun and Moon Gods - you can only have one of either at a time.

Other buildings are usually meant to either defend your settlement (namely, the guardhouses that are staffed by city watchmen and can shoot arrows at enemies) or support your hero population. Of the second group, there are blacksmiths (that upgrade weapons), marketplaces (that sell various magic items), tournament grounds (for training), and various types of inns and relaxation areas. Heroes earn money through adventuring or by collecting the bounties you set for them; they spend this money on upgrades for themselves. The hero AI is pretty smart, and heroes most of the time will know when to purchase new things, when to use their special abilities, when to use healing potions, and when to flee from battle. Heroes also level up through combat, so it's to your benefit to try to keep your heroes alive (so that they can deal with the stronger threats plaguing your kingdom). Enemies also come in various sizes, as well, from the low-level giant rats to various types of goblins and ratmen to stronger foes like medusas and hydras. Their level belies their rarity; rats will come through sewer vents to attack your town and cannot be stopped (the sewer is a necessary part for a growing city) but medusas will only come into your kingdom once in a rare while.

The graphics in this game - done in a 2D cartoonish style without being weirdly proportioned - still look pretty good today. Unlike a lot of old games, it looks like "well-drawn 2d" instead of "blocky 3d", which works to its advantage. Heroes and monsters all have portraits (one per class or monster type, not individual portraits) that are well illustrated. The music is good, though the same music gets used a lot. The voice acting is extensive, with a different voice for every type of hero, and a quip for every situation (the things they say are helpful with running the kingdom, to serve as a quick indication of what they're doing). There is also a royal advisor who assists you during play who has a fairly humorous Sean Connery accent.

Even though this game is old, it runs fine on Vista when acquired through GamersGate. The gold edition also includes the expansion, which adds some new buildings and many new missions. This is one game that is still just as good now as it was when it came out.

Rating: 9/10.

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