Majesty 2: Monster Kingdom (or, as the game's window says, Majesty 2 Expansion 3) continues the profitable practice of basing serious design on snark. We were invited by the original to imagine the other side of heroic adventuring: the selling of ales and swords to dumb warriors and the management of petty feuds among elves and dwarves. Here we are invited to imagine the other side of that other side: the management of the hordes of enemies that heroic adventurers usually are questing against. Monster Kingdom puts you in the shoes of the same perpetually screwed king who has, this time, been forced out of his kingship and out of the human realm altogether, to the point where in order to regain his throne he must appeal to the very beasts he just spent two expansion packs and a base game fighting! This doesn’t prompt much soul-searching; it just points to a new single-player campaign where you slowly rebuild the coalition of monsters that were previously arrayed against you, until you can stomp the rebellious human priests who tossed you out in the first place.
The inverted plot is definitely cool and welcome. Unfortunately the inversion doesn’t go past that. You build buildings, hire troops, set flags, research, and wait for things to happen. There are some tweaks to some sub-systems like the way temples are handled and which bonuses they provide, but too much of the experience remains the same. Your monster kingdom builds the same buildings as the human one and recruits basically the same heroes. It could be, considering this is Majesty, one of several things: a commentary on the essential nature of all living things, a joke poking fun at the good-evil moral dimension of most fantasy works, or laziness. The fact that this sameness is explicitly acknowledged in some flavor text (the monster version of the pub says ‘in Ardania all bars are identical on the inside’) just makes it less excusable.
"…it would have been cool if the developers had really inverted things instead of just swapped color palettes…"
Let’s be positive for a minute, though. What would have been fun? I don’t want something like an Age of Empires III expansion, with a new monster kingdom that gets its power by killing all the bunnies on the map or ordering its goblins to the fire pit to chant war-songs, but it would have been cool if the developers had really inverted things instead of just swapped color palettes – put the player in control of a bunch of pre-existing monster lairs and forced him to surround and destroy the human cities, or something. Not just the same game re-labeled.
That’s not what we get. Playing with the hand we’ve been dealt isn’t all bad. Enemies (the human ones) now travel in parties more often than they did before, which is a massive and massively overdue bump upward in AI quality. Now you can plan on large-scale invasions by loosely organized groups of fighters, instead of a mindless dribble, which is more coherent and satisfying. In addition, some of the things about the new monster kingdom you’re set in charge of are interesting; the variety of units hasn’t really changed, but units now occupy different niches – like the thief-type who can spawn rats to fight at his side, or the wizard/necromancer mix. Also temples are handled differently; you can build only one type, and the more you build, the more powerful spells you have access to.
Still, the time you spend enjoying this mod doesn’t go on for much longer than when you realize you’re playing a terribly similar thing again. The satisfaction of rolling up big groups of arrogant mages and grandstanding paladins with a motley crew of typical dungeon fodder prolongs the enjoyment, but it doesn’t extend it past even the short length of the new campaign. If you’re looking for the one expansion pack to play for Majesty 2, then this is it. But if you’re tired of Majesty 2 already, picking this up isn’t going to make you love it again.