Cyberlore's Majesty was last year's surprise strategy release. Dubbed "the fantasy kingdom sim," Majesty combines elements of city-building games such as SimCity and Pharaoh with unit-focused real-time strategy games like Warlords Battlecry. As the ruler of a kingdom in a medieval fantasy setting, you construct buildings and recruit heroes to do your bidding. You don't control the heroes directly, but rather assign bounties for completing particular objectives, which they attempt on their own. You can also cast spells to aid them. It's a novel concept that many players have found creative and refreshing. Cyberlore Studios has followed up this success with an add-on pack called Majesty: The Northern Expansion.
The Northern Expansion is a true add-on pack, so you must own the original game to play the add-on. Furthermore, it's a good idea to have finished the original game or at least played it extensively, because the quests in The Northern Expansion are quite difficult. There is one quest (Scions of Chaos) marked as "beginner" level, but this is much more difficult than the beginner quests in the original game. The rest of the quests are clearly aimed at experienced Majesty players. Several of the secret quests in The Northern Expansion are incredibly tough, and without having played a fair amount of the original Majesty, you'll undoubtedly find the expansion pack to be tough sledding. The Northern Expansion is obviously designed with hard-core Majesty fans in mind.
True to its name, The Northern Expansion extends the map of Ardania northward and adds a baker's dozen of new quests, as well as some enhancements to multiplayer play. When you install the expansion, you'll be presented with an enlarged map from the original game, which shows the new northern lands but also preserves the quests from Majesty so that you can access the combined games just by running The Northern Expansion. The Northern Reaches of Ardania, complete with snowy graphics, are filled with a range of new monsters, new lairs, and new buildings. The game also tweaks many of the individual hero classes. One of the new buildings, the sorcerers' abode, adds six new spells to the game, including the very useful change-of-heart spell, which lets you induce a hero to flee (or a fleeing hero to go berserk). Proper spellcasting is as important to Majesty as well-planned building construction, and the spells added in The Northern Expansion are a significant addition to the game.
Another new feature is special events, which trigger things like waves of monster attacks or the appearance of random heroes. While the manual touts the special events as a reason to replay old Majesty quests from the original game, they don't really add that much. You'll find that the old scenarios will play pretty much the same as you remembered them, albeit with some new monster attacks perhaps thrown in.
Multiplayer enhancements include a build-tree editor, which can be used to limit the number and types of buildings you can construct in a multiplayer game. There's also a map view mode that lets you combine your field of view with that of your allies. The freestyle (skirmish) mode is also customizable, so when added together, The Northern Expansion provides quite a bit of additional gameplay. But of course, as with most any expansion pack, the fundamental play style in The Northern Expansion remains the same as that of the original game.
The decision to recommend an add-on pack hinges on two things: price and longevity. The Northern Expansion costs about half the price of a new game and significantly extends the longevity of the original. Therefore, if you're a fan of Majesty, you'll want to own it. If you've never played the game but the concept piques your interest, expect the game and expansion to be bundled together and made available for purchase at a later date.