One day, in the middle of 2000, I bought several magazines with demo cds on a computer fair. On one of those cds, I found the demo for "Majesty: the fantasy kingdom sim" and, mildly interested, decided to give it a try. The second I started playing the demo I was hooked, and the game hasn't left my harddrive since.
In Majesty, you are the Sovereign of Ardania, a fantasy kingdom struggling with monster plagues, tax deficits and Elvish kidnappers (to name a few). You give orders to build the guilds, market places and other buildings your heroes need, several peasants come out of your palace to do the work for you. Your loyal henchmen (tax collectors, guards of all types, caravaners, peasants, you name it) decide for themselves when to do what. Luckily, they're programmed quite cleverly on that part, so they'll generally do things when you want them done, with small exceptions.
Quite another story are your heroes. The main part of the game revolves around them. They each have a hero type(paladin, solarus, rogue and lots of others) which dictates their general behavior (yep, rogues are greedy), and above that, they all seem to have a personality of their very own. Some wizards will explore, while others hide when they see even the slightest hint of a goblin. Heroes buy their own weapons, spells and potions, and choose where to spend their gains. They may buy better weapons and armor, but they may also buy it at another kingdom, or gamble their money away in that gambling hall the rogues built without your permission. Your rogues may waylay your own tax collectors, or rob some graves. Of course, heroes level up when fighting, or doing stuff they're made for (whether it is healing, stealing or exploring or something else entirely)
Some parts of the game may not be apparent at all. I played it for nine months before I first noticed that one of my adepts had picked up an actual artifact and was fighting with it. Before that, I had no idea that there WERE artifacts.
Some hero types hate each other. Gnomes are smelly, dwarves are dour and elves spend all their time drinking. This means that some hero types cannot be combined. Like in real life, religion is the biggest cause of strife. There are seven gods, and all of them hate other gods and their servants. One of them even hates everybody else. This means that you can never have all possible guilds at once.
Now, what influence do YOU have on your heroes? Well, you can decide that your market place sells healing potions, or research better weapons for your heroes to buy. But the biggest influence you have are explore and reward flags. Reward flags are put on monsters. They basically say "I, Sovereign of Ardania, will give x gold to whoever slays that hideous beast" Your heroes are then free to do it or ignore it.
Some types of heroes are easier to persuade with reward flags then others. The same goes for explore flags. explore flags try to persuade heroes to visit unexplored parts of the map.
As your town grows, some effects of overcrowding may have to be dealt with. This is done for you. Sewers are placed automatically. Unfortunately, this also means sewer entrances pop up, allowing rats, ratmen, and, in the expansion, even worse creatures to enter your base. Likewise if enough heroes are killed, undead-spawning graveyards are created.
I could go on for hours and hours about the gameplay, but I won't. If what you've read so far appeals to you, then buy the game because this review doesn't do it justice. Or play the demo, obtainable from http://www.majestyquest.com
In the meantime, I'll give some ratings.
Gameplay: 5.5 out of 6
Intuitive interface. The only gripe I have is that a few extra types of reward flags would be nice. Plus, it's a great big lot of fun.
Originality: 5.5 out of 6
Highly original, several twists on existing games implemented, but not to a point where it becomes copying. I haven't come across a game like it yet. If anyone else has, please tell me.
Music: 6 out of 6
Best game music ever. I've ripped it and put it on whenever I encounter a fantasy game without music. Doesn't become repetitive, doesn't block out sound.
Sound effects: 6 out of 6
There are sounds for everything, and they are easily recognised. They are funny, and do not become boring.
Replayability: 5 out of 6
The original has 20 missions, the expansion has 12 more. There are two downloadable quests, which, sadly, don't work with the gold edition. Every time a mission starts, a random terrain is generated. There is also a random mission generator. In the normal game, it is good. In the expansion, it is awesome. However, a complete mission editor would have been the best.