Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Developer: 4Head Studios
Release Date: October 12, 2006
The Guild 2 is a strategy simulation title set in medieval times which focuses on managing your dynasty. Developed by 4Head Studios as a sequel to Europa 1400: The Guild, this follow-up takes place in 15th-century Europe, and you'll be able to play on maps simulating the French, English, and German countryside.
When you start up The Guild 2, you have control of one character, who is the starting point of your family dynasty; as you progress, your character can marry and bear offspring to further your lineage. The character control in the game is slightly reminiscent of The Sims. You can control up to three characters from your dynasty at a time, and your characters have 10 stats that range from strength and dexterity to empathy and rhetoric, with each stat affecting various activities and random events. Your characters also gain experience for performing deeds in the environment and can gain levels and abilities, with the max level being 10.
Each character falls into one of four classes: Scholar, Rogue, Patron, and Craftsman/Craftswoman. A character's class determines what jobs they may partake in, and it sets bonuses and penalties to various stats. You must control a character of a respective type to purchase businesses related to that area. Scholars govern churches and alchemy; Rogues govern robber dens and thieves guilds; Patrons govern farms and taverns; and Craftsmen/Craftswomen govern mining, blacksmithing, and carpentry.
There are several game modes which can change the objectives of the gameplay: Mission, Extinction, Time Limit, and Dynasty. The Mission mode allows you to alter the victory conditions to one of four types, with a few varied objectives such as becoming the political sovereign of the land or collecting X wealth before your opponents. Extinction forces you to eliminate all of the group members of the opposing dynasties, whereas Time Limit tallies victory points after the time limit expires. Dynasty mode plays out like Mission mode, except it only ends only when you quit or your dynasty dies off. There is no objective to work toward, so it can get boring rather quickly, but it does serve well as an experimentation mode.
The basic gameplay starts out with setting up a business and buying or collecting resources to produce goods. This is the case for all classes except for the Rogue, who steals from traders and merchants to gain income. As you progress, you can hire more workers, upgrade your buildings, and expand into new areas of business. The economic dealings are just a means of income for your dynasty, which, in turn, allows you to advance and take advantage of the many other activities such as political dealings, subterfuge, and crime. Your dynasty characters can climb the political ladder, bribe people, assassinate people, prosecute people in court, marry, produce children, steal, plunder, duel enemies, and participate in a number of other exercises to incur favor with people or gain an advantage. This varied set of game dynamics allows for numerous ways to achieve the victory conditions in The Guild 2.
The Guild 2 features online multiplayer capability for up to eight players, with cooperative and competitive game modes, which definitely adds to the replay value and provides a nice touch that a number of other strategy simulation titles overlook at times.
Unfortunately, The Guild 2 has several technical issues which hamper the enjoyment. Annoyances such as user interface bugs and AI problems get in the way occasionally, the game crashes from time to time, and it starts to slow down a bit as the towns reach high populations. Overall, these don't represent a huge problem, but it could have benefited from more polish. Future patches might remedy some of these faults.
One of the major issues holding back the game is the repetition and intense micromanagement required. Each worker in a production building must be told what to build, and you must gather the required resources to produce them. The resources must be loaded into a cart or carried by a character to the location, and then the finished product must be carried or carted back to the market and sold. This starts out very simple, but as the title progresses, you can easily spend all of your time micromanaging your production, which takes away from the other aspects, such as politics, subterfuge, and crime.
A plausible solution would have been to allow the player to set up automated trade and delivery routes so your resources would be delivered and items taken to market without the player overseeing every action. The player is given the option to let the AI control a production building, and several parameters can be set to determine what the AI should and shouldn't do, but unfortunately, the AI does a poor job of it, and this leads to fairly sub-par production. Another point to note is the AI path-finding, or lack thereof. Characters and carts will often take the most inconvenient route to a destination, or travel down a wrong path only to turn back halfway after being unable to reach the destination. This introduces even more micromanaging to an already bogged-down game by forcing the player to watch their characters and ensure they arrive at the appropriate destinations.
The Guild 2 looks fairly good by current gaming standards. The terrain is well varied with trees, rocks, hills, bushes, and other details that produce a convincing European countryside. The textures are detailed, character faces show expressions, and reflections can be seen in the streams and lakes, and NPCs have randomized clothes, faces, and builds. With the graphics settings on high, the title simulates a picturesque setting of life in the middle ages. This, combined with detailed building interiors and exteriors, attributes to an impressive world in which to play. Even on the lower settings, the title provides enough alluring visuals to make the gameplay enjoyable to the eye. These graphics do come at a price, though, as the game expects you to have a decent gaming machine on which to play it (256 MB Video, 1GB RAM recommended, 2.4+ GHz CPU). This may exclude some people, as not every strategy/simulation fan has his or her rig up to snuff.
The sound quality of The Guild 2 is decent, but nothing really special. The character voices have little variation and come across as fairly dull and lacking emotion, but the music is fitting to a 15th-century European setting, which is probably the most notable point about the sound aspect. The game does suffer from a few technical issues, where the music and sound will abruptly cut out at times.
The Guild 2 presents a fairly solid economic strategy simulation where the player can utilize a number of varying tactics and maneuvers to gain an advantage in a well-designed medieval environment. Unfortunately, the impressive level of detail and the interesting gameplay options at your disposal take a backseat to the technical issues and repetitive micromanagement. The final product ends up being decent, but not nearly as good as it could have been. If you're looking for an economic-based strategy title, The Guild 2 is worth a try at only $30.
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