If Majesty helps set a trend, then 2000 might go down in history as the year in which gaming changed forever. First there was Maxis' successful suburban-life simulator The Sims, in which you set simulated people in motion and watched them live their lives under your influence. And now there's Majesty, which won't seem so revolutionary when you first look at it, but gets much more interesting as you start to play it. As in The Sims, the point in Majesty is influencing your subjects rather than directly commanding them, even though Majesty seems like a fairly traditional fantasy-themed real-time strategy game on the surface.
The big deal about both The Sims and Majesty is that they simulate autonomous behavior by recognizing that just because you want a person to do something, doesn't mean he'll actually do it. Although Majesty certainly doesn't simulate the full complexity of intelligent autonomous free will, it's still a great deal of fun and will likely help set a precedent for future games that take game characters' artificial intelligence even further.
Majesty is a real-time strategy game set in a medieval fantasy world. Your goal is to establish your kingdom and try to expand it. The problem is that there are lots of people and creatures out there who would rather not have you infringing on their rights, either as devoted citizens of other kingdoms or simply as individuals, and who defend against your advances or try to pummel your homeland. You have to build military defenses, cultural institutions, and everything else that will keep your people satisfied and prosperous, all while repairing what gets damaged and pumping tax dollars into an increasing number of things. At first, Majesty doesn't seem different from any other top-down real-time strategy games or empire-building games released in the past few years.
As the ruler of the land, you start each scenario with a palace. The palace gives you access to various actions such as constructing buildings, setting henchmen limits, and establishing rewards. All other aspects of the game revolve around balancing these various actions. You need buildings to protect the kingdom, produce materials, generate revenue, and act as home bases for your heroes. You use henchmen to perform the kingdom's necessary functions such as guarding, trading, and collecting taxes. But the core of the game, and its true innovation, lies with the heroes you'll have to recruit.
Recruiting heroes in Majesty is crucial. The henchmen that your palace and its guard towers automatically produce, which include city guards, palace guards, peasants, tax collectors, and caravans, perform the kingdom's day-to-day work. However, heroes let you expand your kingdom by exploring the territory surrounding your palace and by engaging in combat with monsters and other enemies throughout the land. To recruit heroes, you have to construct buildings in which they'll base themselves. Build a gnome hovel, and you can recruit gnomes, which are cheap but not very useful. Build a warrior's guild, and you can recruit warriors, who are more expensive but much more powerful - and later in the game you can recruit paladins, who are even stronger than the warriors. A dwarven settlement will yield engineerlike dwarves, while a ranger's guild will let you recruit your most capable explorers. Wizards can be recruited once you construct a wizard's guild, and they can cast powerful spells but are easily killed. You can also construct temples to various deities, and each will also let you recruit a specific kind of hero. One temple gives you healers, another provides priestesses, and still others offer monks, cultists, adepts, and fire-wielding women called solari. Each type of hero has its own capabilities, and each type costs a different amount of gold to recruit. You'll often find yourself unable to recruit the hero you need because your treasury is too low, and at these times you can miss several golden opportunities to expand. Expanding your territory is when Majesty is most fun and most unusual. It's one thing to construct a guild or a temple and recruit heroes. It's another thing entirely to actually get your heroes to do anything. Heroes will spend their time wandering about, shopping for new weapons or other items, defending the kingdom if it's under attack (or if they feel like it), or just lollygagging about, waiting for action. As ruler, you have to provide them with the incentive to do things.