MAJESTY 2 / Paradox Interactive / PC
Picture Warcraft 2, except instead of giving direct orders to your combat units, you have to tantalize them into doing things by setting bounties and rewards on certain actions. There's Majesty 2 in a nutshell.

It's kind of a head-scratching idea, in that it doesn't work in exactly the way you'd expect it to not work; so I'm left wondering not only why the game was even made, but how the first iteration was popular enough to merit a sequel! More bizarre things have happened in life, though, certainly.

So you're the Majesty in question of this kingdom that's beset by a whole lot of monsters. Each map starts you out with a castle and a bunch of peasants, and its up to you to build your way to victory from there, given whatever the current conditions are. The first twist that Majesty puts on the Warcraft experience, however, is that peasant activity is automated. They repair damaged structures and build new ones at a fast clip all on their own, without you having to make new ones or micromanage them; all you have to do is protect the dwellings that they start out with and the rest is on auto-pilot.

The other twist is that all of your combat units come from building various "guilds" for each class - rangers, knights, etc. You then pay to create the heroes, but once spawned they proceed to not listen to you at all and roam around doing whatever of their own accord. The game claims that they'll roam the map seeking adventure for themselves, but my experience was that they just fart around at home until you put a juicy bounty on some activity farther away - exploring unknown parts of the map, destroying monster spawn points, etc.

There's several areas where this becomes a problem. You'll first notice it likely in the second tutorial mission, where you very suddenly have to protect a caravan that spawns out of nowhere. If you don't happen to have 2000 bucks on you to bribe your heroes into protecting it, its not gonna make it, and even if you do, if they're engaged somewhere else on the map at the time, they might just not care. There's no way to prioritize actions other than throwing the most ridiculous amount of money at the one you want done the quickest, and then hoping it actually works out somehow. Which it often doesn't because heroes will get hung up picking fights with pointless monsters like bears and zombies that they could run right past as they make their way across the map (and as to why a bear even gives a shit that I'm building a trading post, I still have no idea.) The inability to give direct orders works out OK in the early going when the maps are easy, but becomes a complete catastrophe when the difficulty ramps up in later maps. It's impossible to coordinate your heroes to face threats on multiple fronts that develop suddenly.

Majesty 2 is basically a very dated RTS that inexplicably is trying to cover its datedness with a weird and confining mechanic. It's like a guy with a huge bald spot trying to cover it with smeared peanut butter or something. You wonder what even possessed him to do that. Then you wonder even more why he's got a fairly cute girl with nice curves on his arm. Oh well. Life.
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