The Guild 2 PC Review
Living in the fifteenth century isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, apparently. True, there may have been the adrenaline-packed events of the Hundred Years’ War to offer some distraction, but to the people depicted in this game there’s no such excitement to deter them away from their simple systematic lives.
The Guild 2 is all about micromanagement, slanted towards the particular character class chosen at the time, be it Patron, Craftsperson, Scholar or Rogue. Each class contains several professions, such as baker and farmer for Patrons, and thief and robber for Rogues, but there turns out to be little actual gameplay difference between any of them, save for the more aggressive nature of thieves and robbers. It’s probably easiest to describe how the game plays in terms of a step-by-step eventometer ™, so I’ll use an innkeeper as a fascinating example.
Firstly, you buy and build your starting property, which in this case is a public house, with the initial paltry scrapings from the bottom of your thoroughly empty savings jar. Now, after placing it as close as possible to the town’s market, you go about hiring random people to come and work in your humble establishment by simply clicking the ‘hire random worker’ button. Next, you may want to add some improvements to your pub, such as extra workspaces to accommodate more workers to make more produce, or you may want to fit some security measures such as metal bars across the windows to stop any dirty thieves from breaking in and taking your hard-earned wares.
With regards to making money, you’ll have to start making products to sell, like beer and food. Luckily, every pub, or whatever starting building you make, comes with a 100% free cart which can be sent to market to collect the raw materials and resources needed to make your business work. Now, it’s here where the first real weighty choices have to be made, with regards to buying things in just the right quantity so that you won’t be overstocked, as well as knowing what products are going to make you the most profit. There’s also the niggling question of which market to buy from, as there may be several items sold cheaper in adjacent villages, or even items that you can’t find in your home town, but greater distance means longer waiting times as the damned slow cart travels from one place to the next with all the pace of a sick snail slithering against a gale-force wind. Luckily, time can be sped up with comical results, but then you’re missing out on other things you could be doing in the meantime which might improve your current situation.
It’s at this point that things start to really branch out and the choices begin to multiply. If you feel the urge, you can apply for a title in the Town Hall, firstly attaining the rank of ‘citizen’ and then working your way up to positions of greater power. If someone already holds the position you want, there’s the option to try and get someone stripped of their title so that you can take over from them, in which case a court hearing will follow, before which you can go around bribing those people who actually make the decision. These positions of power bring with them certain privileges, such as the ability to taunt prisoners if you’re an executioner, as well as cash payments and stat bonuses. Then again, if you’re not in the mood for a place of office just yet you can always try and use some diplomatic skills to put yourself in favour with any other dynasties around, or work towards improving your character’s stats and skills to give yourself a better chance of business success.
Most importantly, you’ll want to look for a suitable person to marry (opposite sex marriages only, as the instructions rather sensibly state that ‘you want offspring to carry on your dynasty…’). Apparently, courting and finding people to love you is a lot simpler and less daunting in the fifteenth century, as all it requires is a few ‘You look beautiful’ comments every few hours coupled with the odd gift of perfume (we’re talking about a man trying to woo a woman here of course), and in most cases you’ll be popping the big question by the end of the day. Of course, the game makes out that different types of people require different tactics to woo them, but there’s actually surprisingly little variation needed whether the ‘love of your life’ is a timid young scholar or an older buxom countess. Unfortunately, but rather true to life I guess, actually getting married is more of a challenge. However, it’s not quite the same as the flowers being the wrong colour, or the weather being terrible. Everyone dreads something like this going wrong on their big day, but rather less expected is the bride running all the way to the church, waiting for you to get there, then randomly walking off and carrying on with her normal life. What’s even stranger is that you can then happily propose to the same person straight away, in which case they’ll subsequently either do exactly the same thing again, or actually decide to marry you this time. As it happens, this random and idiotic behaviour is more than a rare occurrence in The Guild 2; not only with regards to getting married, mind you, but also when just trying to get from A to B. Yes, the AI can sometimes be so bad that sending someone to a nearby building can be a difficult and confusing task, with people stopping in the street and forgetting who they are and where they live. This sort of thing really messes up the game and breaks the flow of events, as you’re left constantly wondering whether people are actually doing what you’ve told them to do, rather than focussing on furthering your plans to create your dynasty.
Anyway, back to the wedding day. Not wasting any time, you’ll immediately head back to your house (or hut, you lousy stinking pauper) and spend some quality time together, resulting in a pregnant, sleeping wife and a (hopefully) satisfied husband. I should probably point out here that after each day and night, time skips ahead by 4 years, so there’s no waiting around for nine months’ worth of hours until the baby’s born. And that’s pretty much it. From now on, you carry on doing pretty much the same things; improving and upgrading your pub (or whatever it is), fending off any thieves or robbers (unless you’re doing the thieving yourself), getting more children, sending your children to university, getting them to start their own businesses, getting them married thus resulting in even more children, getting even more money, and so on. Obviously, once you’ve been playing the game for a fair while then things get busier, but once you get to a certain point you can’t help but think you’ve seen it all before. There’s a hell of a lot of repetition here, and all the nitty-gritty details you need to remember in order to keep things going can get a bit tiresome. Things can be made a bit easier by automating the running of businesses, and there’s always the option of running around kissing and hugging random townsfolk to cheer yourself up, but at the end of the day this is only really going to be enjoyed by people who love either micromanagement, the fifteenth century or preferably both.
So, there we have it. The Guild 2 is a good effort at making a life sim in the middle ages, but it unfortunately has too many glitches and focuses too heavily on little niggly details to make it particularly memorable or enjoyable. That said, the graphics are good, especially the building interiors and perhaps not so much the character models, and, probably most surprisingly of all, it’s bloody addictive. Not necessarily fun I have to stress, but addictive. Indeed, time can pass almost as fast in the real world as it does after the end of each day in the game during play, and even though a lot of the time is spent getting annoyed about certain faults and repeating things that you’ve already done countless times before, the fact that it’s easy to stick to it is quite an achievement in itself. A good try from 4Head studios, then, but still a long way off what they set out to achieve.
Fun for a while, but ultimately falls short of its ambitions.