When playing remakes of old classics - both famous and unknown - you don't always know what you're in for. The core idea of the original and the whole appeal of the game can be completely bastardized into something modern and uninspiring, or the remake is simply just a cheaply done pile of haphazard code, meant to cash in the old fame with the least effort.
Many of those who remember the original Majesty from almost ten years ago recall the game being one that reversed the roles of your typical fantasy kingdom. The mantle of the hero was switched to the king's scepter, and the newly crowned ruler got to handle the multitude of problems plaguing the land, be it giant rats pestering the tax collectors or minotaurs going amok amongst the peons. Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim keeps the basic concept almost to the tee, hosted by the best Sean Connery voice impersonator in a long, long time.
The fairy tale kingdom of Ardania is, once again, in danger, as the previous king's illusions of grandeur have driven the country to chaos. As the last remaining vestige of the royal family, it befalls upon the player to restore the kingdom to its former glory, one mission at a time. The mechanics differ quite a lot from a normal RTS, for nobody in Ardania obeys the authority of the mighty mouse click. Nay. Not one hero in any of the guilds moves an inch unless there's fame and fortune on the table.
This indirect way of commanding the troops is the game's greatest invention. Instead of selecting a group of heroes and clicking them to assault some hapless monster, the player must set a price on the critter's head. The greater the reward, the bigger the amount of able bodied men trying to collect it, but you'd better pony up some serious dough to get anyone interested in slaying that horrible undead dragon in the bottom of an already dangerous dungeon. In addition to clear cut bounty hunting, the kingly figure can assign rewards for defending the lands, buildings and caravans, and for exploring faraway lands.
The second innovation of the game involves finances. Every quest you want to get done costs money. Every building you erect costs money, as does every personal spell, like lightning bolt or healing. Every action takes a bite out of your hoard of gold. Income rolls in with taxes, trade caravans, and, surprisingly, heroes themselves. The taxman goes automatically from door to door, sparing no peasant nor nobleman. Caravans with their regular routes bring in some sweet dough only when they get from city to city in one piece, which, of course, is not always the case. Heroes, on the other hand, love to spend their hard earned gold on taverns, weapon shops and so on. In short, the king builds on his empire by providing job opportunities, then collects taxes whenever anyone visits the shops. Money is indeed what makes the world of Ardania go around.
These seemingly simple differences have a significant impact on the flow of the game, since events roll on their own weight, instead of the player having tight control over everything. All this uncertainty on the outcomes of quests makes Majesty 2 a hard game to master. After the early missions the game basically requires quick response time to every alert, in addition to fully understanding the unconventional means of controlling the game.
Another angle to mastering the strategy involves in utilizing the strengths of each hero class. The guilds' rosters consists of familiar archetypes: warriors, rangers, thieves, priests, wizards and so on. After the construction of specific temples, these heroes can specialize further, however. The classes react differently to offered quests - thieves do absolutely nothing without getting properly paid, rangers love to explore the unexplored, warriors defend your cities even without a fee, and wizards level up from easily squished gnats to horrendous engines of mass destruction. The heroes can be promoted to lords, and seeing a familiar hero of the realm return to action is always a sight for sore eyes.
Audiovisually Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim is looking rather old, and that's putting it nicely. The graphics don't strike out as being clumsy or crappy, but they're nothing to write home about, either. The strengths of the game begin and end with the innovations of the gameplay, and not on the colour saturation of particle effects or crispyness of textures. The soundscape is your basic fantasy background noise, with occasional comments by the characters in play.
For veterans of the original game, Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim hold dismayingly few surprises. Even though the game interface is updated to modern standards, and being able to group up heroes into a full fledged adventuring party is indeed a welcome addition, the game's still pretty much the same as before. Then again, why fix something that ain't broken? If the original Majesty is an unknown title, anyone interested in groovy and genuinely different real time strategy will find Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim well worth the time and money spent.