Review

Majesty 2: Battles of Ardania Review (PC)

When is a strategy game not a strategy game? Such a debate has raged for years and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever be able to come to a definite conclusion. Take your favourite FPS title for example – it might provide a limited choice of how the player can progress, but the strategy still remains - shooting everything in the face with a gun. Is this strategy though?

Fear my blue circle of Doom...
Obviously Majesty 2 is a less extreme example of the above. It thankfully fits snugly into the genre that it’s modelled itself on. With plenty of units to control, (albeit indirectly), and buildings to construct, management of your kingdom is as typical as you’d expect. It’s all a bit boring at first – where are the wild parties that royalty has long been associated with? There’s no ‘off-with-his-head’ in the family-friendly universe. Yet, for all its traditional grounding, Majesty 2 and the latest expansion pack Battles of Ardania, are something completely novel.

To put it in layman terms, it’s a mix of RTS elements with pseudo god-game control. Think of it as The Settlers meets Black & White with a healthy mix of Men of War thrown in. However let’s not get carried away – this isn’t a game where you amass mountains of troops before committing genocide across the land. Rather, Battles of Ardania is a royal romp through quaint countryside that’s inhabited by the fantasy creatures you would expect: Werewolves, skeletal undead, rats, bears – they’re all busy trying to eat your loyal court.

Every scenario starts the same – you’ve got loyal subjects worshiping the ground you walk on and an empty canvas to build upon. Place some key buildings (ranging from research-focused marketplaces to unit spawning guilds) and subsequently call your heroes to arms – it’s all a bit easy. Now this is when the Majesty 2 stops following convention. Instead of directly controlling those within your borders, you try and coax them into doing your bidding. As everybody has free will, the way to gain influence over them is with gold.
 
Wolverine makes a cameo
So, if you want to explore the map, you plop down a flag and assign a reward to it. Those interested will eagerly take the job and go running off into the forest. The same applies for offensive activities – if there’s a pesky cave spawning bears, throwing some gold at it will hopefully prompt your subjects to attack it.

In theory it should provide a fresh, unconventional way to play a tired genre and it would be if only the game stopped bombarding you with enemies. Defensively, the protections on offer are bog standard guard towers and those standing around your kingdoms, minding their own business. When you remove direct control from a game, it’s difficult to react to threats with swift action. You instead have watch your aimless heroes confuse themselves over what they should attack as your peasants’ homes burn. It is immensely frustrating and because of the shaky AI, it’s rarely gets any better.

Still, being an expansion pack (and a non-standalone one at that) automatically labels Battles of Ardania as obvious fan service. You won’t be playing it if you’re not familiar with the game’s mechanics. It presumes you already know how to get your kingdom up and running quickly. Balancing your coffers between production and action is tricky and more often than not, you’ll sit watching your minions being hacked to pieces.

Crippling difficulty aside, the new content available is fairly slim and hardly redeems a shallow package. Those who can look past the learning curve will find eight new missions to play through. Rounding everything off are some new weapons, monsters and several multiplayer maps to share the pain with. There’s a bland narrative somewhere in the game, but it’s instantly forgettable. The actor doing the voiceovers, bless his heart, tries his very best to convey some sense of grandeur. In reality, it’s a slog to listen to.
 
Brave Sir Robin Ran Away

With an identical look and feel to its predecessor, it’s hard for anyone but the most hardcore of players to get excited. Battles of Ardania is a continuation, nothing more. There’s just enough new content to satisfy those who are fond of the series, but unless you’ve already invested your time, it’ll unlikely peak any interest. Majesty 2 alone is an interesting concept and definitely one worth trying if you’re looking for some variation on the genre, but with the frustrating method of controlling your troops, combined with the sheer complexity found in the expansion, it’s far too difficult to recommend, even for the casual fan. The hardcore need only apply.

Top Game Moment: Sean Connory’s voice double providing the woeful acting.

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Comments

By chiefone (SI Veteran Member) on Jan 06, 2011
chiefone
oh noes...spammers