I wish I could say I discovered Majesty nine years ago when it was released on the Mac and the PC. A mix of Dungeon Keeper and Age of Empires, it takes the standard fantasy RPG trappings and mixes them in with the interface and controls of an RTS. The end result is a blend of real-time base building on an overland map combined with heroes you recruit who level up, buy potions and learn new skills -- all without ever taking a direct order from you. A departure from the god-like power we expect from RTS games, these heroes are completely autonomous. The best you can do is place a bounty on a wandering Medusa and hope someone can be bothered to head over and deal with it.
Rather than micromanage your way to victory, you play the role of gardener trying to create the right conditions for your units to thrive. Drop a library so your mages can learn to spells, a market so your heroes can buy potions and even a blacksmith for them to buy better equipment if they have the coin. You have your own goals going into a given scenario, but often the biggest hurdle is just fighting off the hordes of enemies long enough to give your heroes the time and space they need to gain experience and buy new gear.
The primary joy in playing comes from watching as a given hero ventures out into the world and spends his first few battles running away before finally coming into his own. If you really want to foster some advancement, you can cast spells (with the right research and buildings) like lightening bolts and invisibility to increase their survivability. Of course, casting spells costs money, so building your kingdom and giving your tax collectors plenty to do is essential. Finding the right ecological blend of complimentary units also makes a difference as a cultist hero walks the lands planting poison plants that your rogues can use to make their weapons more deadly.
Majesty holds up surprisingly well considering its age. I’ve been playing on Windows XP and aside from a couple crashes and editing the registry to reduce the scroll speed, it’s been great. The interface is a bit large but it’s intuitive enough and even gives you a small window for tracking heroes while you build your kingdom. The original never got a ton of attention back in the day, but clearly there was enough interest in the brand as 1C Company is working on a sequel scheduled to come out later this year. You can grab the original Majesty along with the expansion from GamersGate for $9.99. Read on for more screenshots!