What if you had a legion of armies and conquering heroes at your behest, but could only control them indirectly? That's the question posed by the upcoming Majesty 2 -- The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, a fantasy-themed real-time strategy game of sorts that lets you raise armies and summon powerful heroes, all of whom have a mind of their own. We had a chance to see the game for ourselves here at the 2008 Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany, to see how the game is coming along.
A sequel to the nearly decade-old original, Majesty 2 has you play as the ruler of a kingdom, and while the game does have elements of city building to it, as soon as you start creating a population for your kingdom, you'll get a good feel for why Majesty 2 is different. Unlike in most RTS games, you have no direct control over any of the individuals that you reign over. Instead, you can only rule indirectly. More so, all of your citizens will have individual desires, which may prevent them from listening to you at all in some cases.
It's this indirect control that will be the key gameplay device in Majesty 2, and it's most evident in the hero classes that you can create. While you'll spend time building up armies in the game, your most effective weapons against your enemies will be heroes. Created in hero guilds that you can build, heroes can be created across a number of different classes: warriors, mages, priests, rogues, and so on. Naturally, each class has its strengths and weaknesses, so as you might expect, your heroes will level up as they build up experience in the game.
What's interesting, though, is that as soon as a hero emerges from his hero guild, he begins doing his own thing. That might mean repelling a group of monster invaders that begin to attack the town. Or it might mean searching the immediate area for treasure chests. It might even mean trying to woo one of the local maidens.
As the ruler of the kingdom, you'll need to try to convince the hero that he needs to follow your bidding, not his own instincts (or raging hormones). You'll have some tools on your side to help make that happen--one of the most obvious will be cold hard cash. The economy in Majesty 2 seems to be the cornerstone of the gameplay. For instance, if you want your warrior hero to go attack a neighboring town, you can put a bounty on it. If you offer enough cash, he'll probably take you up on your offer. Keep in mind that, as you might in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game with your own character, a high-level hero has no interest in fighting puny little rats--after all, there's no sweet loot and experience in it for him. As a result, you'll want to make sure you always have personnel on hand to handle any sort of crisis.
Heroes will be able to party up with other heroes--though the maximum number of heroes in a party has yet to be determined--to complete more advanced raids. In addition, rival kingdoms will also attempt to lure your favored champions away with the promise of more glory and gold. And while heroes will keep any gold they find for themselves, your coffers will be consistently growing thanks to the tax man, who will be taxing the villagers, soldiers, and, yes, the heroes as well.
Majesty 2 has been designed to be fairly open-ended, with plenty of missions to keep you busy. Based on what we've seen of the game, it seems that trying to find creative ways to keep your unmotivated troops focused with their eyes on the prize will be the big draw in the game, and we look forward to seeing how well Paradox can deliver on its vision for the final game. The game is due for release in 2009.