Majesty 2: Demon Down

I think my mistake in previous attempts at the final level was underestimating the efficacy of grouping your heroes into parties. Oh, I had tinkered with parties before, but the rules don’t let you do so until you’ve upgraded your palace to level 2. I suppose this should have been a signal to me that the designers considered it to be too powerful a technique for the early stages of a scenario, but in practice, it just meant that I seldom tried it until my heroes were pretty well advanced individually. At any rate, hiring a couple of cheap elite Lords and tethering them to healers seems to be a winning strategy. As in previous levels, there came that turning point when I realized that I had managed to clear most of the map of monster lairs, and that my base was therefore no longer under serious attack. Even then, my trepidation about actually sending my heroes into the final assault against the final enemy caused me to delay more than was really necessary, building up cash for on-the-fly resurrections and spellcasting, creating more parties, etc. But the deed is done, and the Barlog is dead.

That’s not a typo. As in Ultima (Balrons) and D&D (Balors), what we have here is a game that isn’t under license to the Tolkien estate and therefore has to make do with a Brand-X Balrog knock-off. Unlike the others, though, they make a joke of it: “Barlog”, we’re told, is short for “Baron of Logic”, Hell’s embodiment of merciless rationality, who taunts you with the logical inevitability of his ultimate victory. I suppose this means that the means of defeating him — building Temples to enlist the aid of the Gods — is a matter of superstition triumphing over reason. It doesn’t really feel that way, though, because the Barlog’s real weakness is that he’s easily distracted: on this level only, you can periodically summon a colossal “Spirit of Kings”, causing the Barlog to drop whatever he’s doing and rush off to fight it, even if it’s in the far corner of the map. It’s hardly rational behavior, so in addition to being a demon from the pit, he’s also a hypocrite.

This entire business is jokey in a way that, to me, doesn’t fit entirely comfortably with the game. It’s strange that this is so, because there are bits of humor throughout the game — the royal advisor’s introduction to each map typically includes comical digressions, and a lot of the things the heroes say during gameplay are hammed up enormously. (I particularly like the elves, who look post-Tolkien but talk like excessively enthusiastic children.) But the advisor typically only says anything at the beginning and end of the scenario (and, due to a bug, sometimes the end speech doesn’t play), and the hero quips, which fundamentally serve to signal status changes like “I just gained a level” or “I’ve decided to flee this encounter”, are repeated often enough that after a while you basically stop noticing the words and just process their relevant content. Fundamentally, the player’s attention is going to be on the gameplay most of the time, and the gameplay itself isn’t funny. So when the Barlog talks, interrupting me in the middle of gameplay mode, my reaction is “Huh? What? Oh, right. Comedy.”

Still, for all my complaints, I think overall I’m glad I got this game, especially given the pittance I paid for it. In addition to the campaign mode, there are several standalone missions. I’ve already dipped a toe into them, and will probably wind up playing through them all eventually.

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