We all have those beloved video games that, no matter how old they get, we still take out for a spin every year or two because it’s simply our favorite. Chrono Trigger is one of those games for me, but another one is a 2000 real-time strategy game that, to this day, entertains me.
On the surface, Majesty (the fantasy kingdom sim) sounds like a very generic RTS: You build up a fantasy kingdom, earn money, pump out troops, conquer foes, win levels. Yet the game contained a big twist that hadn’t really been done before. You see, you can’t control your units, you can only influence them.
While players get control over their buildings and the options they contain, once a particular hero is created, it operates independently of the player’s direction. Rangers tend to go out and explore the map, Rogues will look for easy gold to plunder, Gnomes will help build structures, and so on. They’ll fight if they think they can win or have other helpful troops around, they’ll buy their own armor (which you supply via shops) and gear, and they’ll bring back money for you to tax for further expansion. It’s like creating your own little MMORPG world and seeing how it unfolds.
It’s strange, but this twist took the tired genre and made it special. It becomes easy to see units as having their own personalities (which is further helped by memorable and sometimes-hilarious voice acting and a huge roster of names). I never failed to cheer on units that leveled up high, got decked out in gear, and finally worked up the courage to take out an enemy castle.
Majesty really paid special attention to every element of the game. Between stages, a Sean Connery-sounding adviser briefs you on the next level. Each building has its own animations, and there’s a certain pride in seeing a kingdom come into its own with tax collectors, guard towers, and even cemeteries (which keep track of all of your deceased heroes).
So if you can’t control units, does the game get boring? Not at all! You kind of serve as a “quest giver” for your heroes, plopping down flags at certain locations to encourage them to explore or plunder (of course, you have to add gold as a reward, and the more gold you put, the more heroes are going to be attracted by it). Judicious use of flags is essential in overcoming levels.
Plus, there is a strategy to building placement and upgrades. Some buildings, when constructed, mean that you can’t create another type (for instance, Dwarves and Elves hate each other, so you can only go with one or the other). Sometimes buildings offer you a choice of two different heroes, and you can only have four or five heroes per building.
The end result of all of this is a relaxing, charming, and engaging game with a lot of personality. Sure, the maps weren’t much to speak of (just flat fields in various colors), but it did the job. Oh! And the music was fan-freaking-tastic. Loved it.
There was one expansion that added a number of quests in the far north, and unfortunately, that’s all we got. There are 33 quests/maps in total, and a few years ago the game was repackaged with higher resolutions as Majesty Gold (which is also available on GOG.com). I was really excited when Majesty 2 was announced, but it turned out to be a dud with zero personality and fun — the opposite of what made the first game so great. I highly recommend the first to anyone who would like a RTS with a little free will mixed in.