by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
"But, but, but... the game isn't finished yet!?" the somewhat nervous programmer told his boss. "Quit whining, you have had all the time you need to finish the project. The game needs to be shipped because the PR machine is running and we need the sales," his boss replied. "And what about those showstopper bugs?" the programmer inquired. "We'll fix them afterwards. With the previous game we got away with it too, so I see no reason why we wouldn't this time around." Dismayed the programmer swiveled his chair around and started preparing the 'Gold' disk of the game that was in no shape to be released, but was going to be anyway.
And thus starts our story of anger and agony with The Guild II. Or... no, it really started back in 2002 when the original game came out. Bugridden but still released and never properly patched. The Guild II fares little better and has more bugs than the average stray dog. This is unfortunate because underneath lies a very charming 'medieval life simulator'.
Before you continue to read my review, it is important to know that the game has several showstopper bugs left, even after 3 patches. The game is not fit for purchasing at this time. I strongly advise you to wait until a proper, working patch has been released - if ever.
The original The Guild was reasonably popular in Europe where it was released as Europa 1400: The Guild. Outside of the old world, the game never really took off. I imagine many of you never even heard of it, so I will start off with a small recap. In The Guild, players were able to simulate medieval life by choosing one of many professions and building an empire. The professions ranged from thieves to businessmen and from smiths to priests - each offering a different challenge and style of gameplay. You weren't stuck to your originally chosen profession either so if you were getting bored, you simply switched to a different one. Add to that deep and challenging systems for diplomacy and NPC interaction and you end up with hours upon hours of gameplay. When it worked...
The Guild II has the same basic gameplay mechanics but with a few additions and subtractions. Basically, you create a character, buy a business, produce goods or send out your thieves to pickpocket or commit a burglary. The stolen or produced goods can be sold through your businesses or the central market and of course you will have to ensure that you have the source goods and employees to get everything done. But a sequel would not be a sequel without some changes.
The first thing you will notice is that your character is now fully represented inside the game. The first person view has been replaced by a top-down view and your character can be seen walking through the streets and interacting with NPCs. The most useful application of this new way of doing things is that you can use your character as a worker in your businesses (free labor!). An RPG-like system allows you to enhance your skills in areas like martial arts, salesmanship, dexterity and others. You personally improve this way but many skills also reflect on your the workers in your businesses. Some of your family members can be controlled in the same way and through this it is possible to branch out into different professions. So while your character is stuck with whatever you chose when you created your game, his partner can open up other professions for you.
That brings me to partnering. The developers have taken a good look at The Sims and added a whole new layer of interaction with other characters. It is a sensible idea to find a husband or wife early in the game as you will need some time to go through the courting rituals. Only through marriage and offspring can you secure succession after your character dies of old age. This was already part of the original but you can no longer select just anyone; The game will select a number of -potentials- for you and it is impossible to marry anyone else. Not that it matters much because, once married, your chosen partner will lose all his or her possessions so why bother finding a rich old hag for her cash anyway? It is a real shame that they have taken out this aspect of the game.
Running your businesses is pretty much the same as before with two notable exceptions. The first exception is that the objects inside your buildings do not serve any purpose anymore, meaning that nothing happens when you click on them. Even clicking on doors no longer leads you to another room.
Of course you will still need to be able to control the production and such and this is where the games' only real improvement steps in: no matter where you are in the game (with the exception of being in city hall meetings), you can access the production and transportation screens of all of your businesses with 2 simple clicks. With this new and intuitive system, you simply click the icon of one of your businesses on the right side of the screen and a submenu opens at the bottom, from where you can do everything you would ever need to do. It even includes upgrading the building and buying new objects within it. Very convenient and very well done.
But... that brings us to the next disappointment. Veterans to the series will remember the fun of upgrading your home with a new room and opening up all kinds of new options. In The Guild II, this is still possible but it is also a major letdown because there is nothing to click on. You can enter the room (the number of rooms has also been decreased, there's no vault anymore, for instance) but there is almost never any real point in being there.
No Pros and Cons at this time