Review: Majesty 2: Monster Kingdom

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The final expansion to Majesty 2, Monster Kingdom, was originally supposed to be released in early December, but was delayed into January. I was very concerned – this was going to land it square in the midst of other releases I was looking forward to such as Venetica and Two Worlds II. Fortunately, those games were delayed on PC so I had the chance to spend some quality time with the final expansion to a game I have really enjoyed for the last year and a half. How did they do closing the book on Majesty 2? Read on and find out!

As a reminder, in the fall of 2009 I reviewed the original Majesty 2 and loved it more than I expected. That led to my enjoyment of the Majesty 2: Kingmaker expansion last spring and more recently the Majesty 2: Battles of Ardania expansion. With each expansion the developers have added a new campaign, new multiplayer features, polished some existing issues, but always kept the light hero-based focus the same.

Until now!

You play as the recently dethroned King of Ardania, and your advisor is by your side as you need to rebuild your forces to retake your kingdom. You have a problem, as the only path to reclaiming your throne will force you to recruit monsters. This turns the feel of the game completely on its head – but rest assured, everything else will seem familiar.

From the start you will find yourself doing largely the same things as before – building barracks and blacksmiths and guard towers to recruit new troops, then send them on quests by assigning a value to a certain outcome. It is a very different mechanism that is unique and therefore feels exciting each time I step into these games. Every other strategy game has you directly pushing around your units rather than doing something to make it worth their while.

Also similar are the graphics and sounds. The game engine continues to be tuned and optimized with each new add-on, and with all new units under your command there are new graphics and animations for those units and their special abilities. It all worked well before, and thankfully it has only gotten better with each iteration. The voice acting in previous games was witty and over-the-top, and that also has remained, but due to taking on the evil role you now get some great new units. The most obviously hilarious are the vampire tax collectors (yeah, I know ‘blood suckers’) – their occasional remarks add quite a bit of fun. The same is true of most of your units – let’s just say that the monsters have a different outlook on combat than the human/elven/dwarven troops!

But while the core of the game is essentially similar, there have been a load of subtle changes that result in Monster Kingdom being the best of all the expansions. On both offense and defense units are now more responsive. In previous expansions your units would sometimes be slow to take on challenges even when the reward should have hordes of heroes rushing to your aid. Similarly, at times when being attacked in previous campaigns you could feel that your troops were off picking daisies while your towers were being decimated. Now you will generally find monsters at hand helping to defend your territory (unless you underbuild or spread yourself too thin), and key objectives get the attention of heroes more quickly.

The most common complaint I heard about Majesty 2 and the expansions was that they were pleasant and engaging … and then they hammered you with their difficulty! It was a real turn-off for some, and many folks I know never finished the original game and skipped the expansions as a result. But no need here – Monster Kingdom has dropped the difficulty to much more reasonable levels. As a result veterans might find it a bit easy and feel the experience is somewhat short, but I found the balance worked quite well. Don’t get the impression that the game is suddenly easy – you just have the chance of actually completing some missions on the first attempt.

I have mixed feelings about Majesty 2: Monster Kingdom – but not about whether or not to recommend it! My feelings are mixed because I couldn’t wait for it to arrive, but am now sad that the game is completely finished. Monster Kingdom is the best overall expansion, but in my mind it also completes the Majesty 2 universe perfectly: we have the core game, expansions that add single-player breadth, high level content, much expanded multiplayer, and now the chance to turn the tables. I say goodbye to this fond friend … but hope to see Majesty 3 soon enough!

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Pros:
+ Innovative genre-bending game style works well at high level
+ Love the good-evil twist and how it plays out
+ Maintains nice light-hearted feel
+ Decreased difficulty makes it more accessible without making it too easy

Cons:
– Some additional multiplayer content would have been appreciated

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: 1C Company
Release Date: 01/11/11
Genre(s): Simulation/RTS/RPG
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Players: 1-4
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!