Majesty

What happens when you take the sword-and-sorcery aspects of such role-playing standards as Dungeons & Dragons and combine them with the resource allocation and management of simulation games like Sim City? Add on an Internet-based multiplayer mode, and you've got Majesty, a strong addition to the simulation-game genre.

The object of the game is nothing less than the construction of a successful kingdom and its defense against a variety of enemies. You start off with an ordinary castle in the land of Ardania. Your challenge is to build up your kingdom around the castle, including heroes to defend it, blacksmith shops to outfit it, and markets to supply it. If you get the combination of heroes and infrastructure right, your kingdom will grow, enticing peasants to move to your neck of the woods from neighboring kingdoms.

Of course, it's not quite that easy. Not only do you face the usual problems of tight budgets and surly subjects, but you'll also discover enemies against whom you must defend your kingdom. Plus, if you don't have enough gold on hand to keep your heroes well-paid, they could very well decide to join the other side. Keeping everything in balance can get tricky, but mastering it will make your kingdom prosper.

Majesty offers a novel gaming universe with various levels of difficulty. The Beginner level is easy to master, and in it, you'll quickly vanquish your foes. But if you try the Advanced level, you'll find yourself fighting for your life against an enemy who is much better-armed than you are and has no qualms about turning your kingdom and everything in it to a pile of rubble. The Advanced level also offers the successful ruler a greater variety of buildings and heroes, such as temples and wizards.

One difference between Majesty and traditional simulation games is that you have very little control over what your individual subjects do. For example, you can create all the heroes you like, but they usually spend their time wandering the kingdom and maybe, if they feel like it, fighting a monster or two. Admittedly, this can get annoying. So how do you get your heroes to actually do something for a change? You do it the old-fashioned way: bribery. You can offer rewards for such tasks as exploring the spooky wilderness or attacking an enemy castle. While this might seem like a limitation, the reality is that Majesty is far from mindless, providing instead an interesting alternative to the usual method of game play.

Despite not having an explicitly Mac-like interface, the game is easy to navigate since all the features are graphically driven. For example, there is no menu bar, so instead you select buildings and other items directly on the screen. Majesty also makes good use of sound and animation, with blacksmith forges belching smoke and the sounds of haggling coming from the marketplace. A narrator provides background to the story and offers advice at key points.

The only significant drawback to the game is a recurring problem with network play. Every time the program is launched, it attempts to make an Internet connection, assuming that you want to engage in network play. However, the connection attempt always fails over PPP, and whenever you start Majesty while already dialed into your ISP, the network flow drops to zero and stays there, forcing you to disconnect and dial in again to continue. As a result, those who use PPP connections can't use the network play feature. Currently, there is no option to disable or simply not install this function. The only workaround is to uncheck the Remote Access option that lets TCP-based applications automatically open PPP connections. Hopefully, this problem will be fixed in a later version of Majesty.

Majesty is an entertaining game that's rated E for Everyone, but it does contain some animated violence. Younger kids may also find some of the monsters a bit scary.

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