Monday, June 7, 2010

Majesty 2

As with many games I berate, I cannot deny being hooked on Majesty 2. Upgrading and progressing through the stages of your town, as your heroes do quests for you and level up, is a lot of fun. The heroes are quite detailed, too. They each have their own skills which you research, and equipment (gear and potions) which you research to provide but the AI gathers on their own.

The intricacy can be seen at the end of a few of the levels where you fight one big badass level 30 boss. It functions just like a full raid. The tank runs in to hold aggro and absorb damage, the healers heal, and the DPS goes to town. The healers have a limited mana supply, so the DPS needs to take down the boss before the heals run out. Everyone has heal potions, but you can guess how long those last against a boss. The healers have mana potions, but they're too dumb to bring very many of those. Just like real players.

Majesty 2 has a lot of little problems, everything that Rock Paper Shotgun said is true and more, although they may have slightly improved the AI in terms of defending your town. One thing they don't talk about is the severe lack of balance among hero types. The rangers are the best ranged attackers and are super cheap to buy, they are your first choice on every level. The clerics are the second best ranged attackers, plus they can heal, so while more expensive they are your obvious second choice. Your third choice is more rangers, even though the price for the building goes up a good amount. Your fourth guild would be fighters,which are more like a necessary evil. You're going to need them at higher levels to stick one in every party, but at lower levels when your heroes are weak, it is somewhat problematic to run into melee range.

Rogues are super fragile, so while they are the cheapest initially, their deaths will rack up the costs and they very quickly become extremely expensive to keep around. They die so often they actually level half as fast as the other heroes. Wizards are also super weak, they are basically clerics without the heals. At higher levels, I'm sure they have some neato spells, but as they are the most expensive you will not have them until much later, at which point you don't need them. Your other heroes will be around level 10 and your Wizards will spawn level 1, already weak in comparison to other level 1's.

The key problem with Majesty 2 is the reverse difficulty curve. Missions start out at by far their most difficult in the very beginning, and get progressively easier as it goes along. And when I say "very beginning," that is no fucking joke, most missions will have several monsters attacking your town before it is possible for you to have any heroes yet. Missions tend to be a mad scramble to get your town in order as quickly as possible, after which you laugh in the face of all opposition. This relates to why the wizards are ultimately pointless, because by the time wizards are badass, there is no such opposition requiring anything more badass than what you already have.

To emphasize this problem, there was one mission which I accidentally underestimated the end boss. I was done with my town and everything else on the map, so I dumped a bunch of gold into an attack quest on him. All my predictable heroes wandered on up to face him, but the problem was that the boss had friends. Friends that my greedy, one-track-minded heroes could care less about in the face of the awesome bounty I had placed on the big cheese's head. No one "picked up the adds" and every last one of my heroes was wiped out. It was quite the amusing noob raid.

But it didn't matter. The boss wasn't designed to attack my town, and I already had towers set up to fend off anything that my town would see at that point. I slowly resurrected my heroes (price for this is based on hero type and level, so this was rather expensive), formed some parties, and sent them up to take out the adds first, all proper-like.

Part of the reverse difficulty curve is due to little "spawn points" dotted around the map. For instance, you might have a bear's den. It has a couple of bears hanging around, and every once in a while it spawns a bear to send down to your town. So, you set up a quest to destroy the bear's den, and you stop getting bear attacks. Eventually you clean out the whole map and you aren't getting attacked very much.

The other part of this is because several of the missions are designed by an absolute fucktard. Take, for example, the mission to destroy the dragon Rafnir. Rafnir is one of those level 30 bosses I mentioned above, which basically requires a full raid of well-geared, high level heroes to take down. So what makes this particular mission so hard?

About 10 seconds in, Rafnir attacks your town. I thought this was a bug at first. It isn't. He destroys one building, aoe one-shots every human in range with his breath attack, and then flies off. He will return to do this about every 30 seconds.

But we're not done yet! About 20 seconds in, around a dozen smaller level 5 dragons attack your town. These guys don't go away, and you'll get around 6 more of them every 60 seconds or so.

30 seconds in is about when you can have your first hero ready, assuming you are very lucky and none of the dragons decided to attack your guild. Heroes start at level 1, and having level 1 heroes pop out one at a time against a dozen level 5 dragons is every bit the disaster you're imagining. Just one of these dragons will kill a level 1 hero in 4 shots.

If you're imagining repeated epic failures that were clearly beyond hope within the first 60 seconds, we're on the same page here.

So how do you pass this? It starts with the placement of your market. The market is very important to your economy, and Rafnir has a hard-on for it. You place your market way down south, way south of your town as far as the game will let you place it. You see, Rafnir will try to go after your market, but he's a "timed" event of sorts. He doesn't make it to your market before he "resets" and turns back. He will do this every time he comes back, and every 30 seconds Rafnir will return to harmlessly fly directly through your town and back.

How do you deal with the smaller dragons? Ignore them. Abandon your town, build everything down south by your market. Your houses are auto-built by your citizens, you can't control where or when they are built, so those will all be built up by your palace. When a dragon destroys a house, another one will simply pop up somewhere else nearby. The dragons will kill your citizens too, but those automatically respawn too. None of that costs you anything.

You do get one singular royal guard to start every level, and he respawns automatically for free too. He's very weak, though. He has to respawn 3 times to take down one of those level 5 dragons. But the houses, citizens and royal guard will all continue repawning infinitely, no matter how many of them are destroyed by the dragons.

The palace is the only thing which doesn't respawn, and as you can imagine if it is destroyed you lose. But it has a ton of health and can take quite a beating. This is the basis of how you pass the mission, though. You try to build up your buildings and heroes down south in time for them to take your town back over before your palace is destroyed. Not easy, as the dragons come from all directions, including south, so you'll have to deal with some of them from the very beginning.

This isn't the only mission which will seem absolutely impossible at first, requiring some ridiculous meta-gaming strategy to defeat. The game is entertaining though, and definitely addictive, so it's worth the $7.50 I paid for it.

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