by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Finally a Guild to Manage!
One of the things I love about Skyrim is all of the guilds and factions. The Dawnguard, the Blades, the Dark Brotherhood, you name it. While it’s cool that my Dovahkiin can become the leader of many of them, I always wanted to dig deeper. Guild Commander, a small title by developer GTGD, attempts to scratch that very itch. It’s a short game that’s largely a one trick pony, but it’s got enough going for it (at an alluring bargain price) to be worth a look from management sim enthusiasts.
Protecting the Provinces
Despite it’s medieval-fantasy setting, Guild Commander isn’t about adventuring, uncovering ancient secrets, or engaging in combat. Instead, the game concerns itself with a fairly singular task: manage where your guild members go to keep provinces safe. The mechanics of the game are simple in scope, but complicated enough in practice. You are the leader of the newly formed “Whatever You Want to Name Your Guild” Guild, a group of mages, knights, rogues and more bound and determined to prep the surrounding provinces for an attack from an angry necromancer that’s out to dominate the land because, well, who knows why. He’s evil. Or at least that’s what you plan on doing once you actually sign on some guild members and fill the empty rooms in your guild hall.
When your game starts you’ll have a number of tasks to take care of and choices to make. A number of provinces will be in varying states of unrest (ranging from peaceful to destroyed), and you need to send some heroes around to either help or maintain them. Doing so will keep the provinces functioning and the gold rolling in. You’ll soon realize that you need to sign on more characters to your guild and, handily enough, potential candidates will keep slowly wandering into your reception office. Each character belongs to a class, and each class specializes in different environments. Scholars do well in peace, knights better in violence, others do best in construction etc. The kicker is that these missions drain the characters’ stats, and the only way those get replenished is through various rooms you can build in your guild hall.
That’s about the whole system, around which every other detail and option revolves. Simple, right? Send the heroes where they’re best fitted and let them do what they do. Well, kind of. Maintaining all the different things providing and draining your money is the real name of the game, and there’s a fair amount to keep track of. After a few in-game weeks you’ll have quite a few rooms, each replenishing certain stat points so your heroes can get back to it quicker. The faster you want to replenish, the more the room will cost to run. Sending heroes to provinces also costs money, as does building equipment. While micro-managing each room independently is possible, I found myself more often using the master slider that changes everything at once just to keep things from getting so darned tedious.
Presentation and Difficulty
Presentation and UI are always important in games, but they’re particularly important in games like Guild Commander where nothing exciting is ever happening on screen. While your guild mates may be out battling the forces of evil (or the occasional stray group of goats), you won’t be watching it. The game actually has some really pretty painterly visuals and nice music, but it’d probably be better served if it was just a big spreadsheet since most of your time is going to be spent in drop down menus and sliders anyways. In fact, having a nice big guild hall to look at actually becomes a hindrance, as scrolling around finding rooms that can hold the things you need them to (which, annoyingly, don’t appear to be organized or labeled in any way) takes more time than it should. The UI for guild members needs to be improved too. They’re relegated to a row on the bottom with their strengths and weaknesses visible when hovered over. Scrolling through a horizontal list looking for people I want is a chore. Give me the option to expand the guild member window, as well as the ability to organize them how I see fit.
I found the difficulty of Guild Commander to be interesting. When I first started playing I was pretty lost (despite a decent tutorial video) in all of the somewhat unintuitive menus. I was in deep, deep debt after about 15 minutes and everything was destroyed shortly after. Same thing with my second game. I had no idea what I was doing wrong. It’s not that I need to succeed right away, but I should at least know what I need to get better at. The game has a lot of pieces that just aren’t explained very well anywhere, forcing you to just keep trying random things until something clicks. Eventually after a few games (which are never more than about two hours long) things “clicked,” and I won, which should be great, but now it seems like I don’t really need to discover any other strategies. Once you develop a strategy or work flow that works for you, the game is kind of “solved.” Despite the random flow of every game, I never felt like there were other play styles to try. There was a “best” one, at least as far as I can tell, and that’s not good.
Guild Commander is neat little title that fills a niche, but doesn’t really have much for anyone outside of its narrow demographic. It has lots of detailed little things to tweak and manage while ultimately being held down by some clumsy UI organization and a lack of viable playstyle variety options. The bargain bin asking price does help alleviate some of the title’s woes, but doesn’t elevate my recommendation beyond lukewarm.
Lots of things to manage; Pretty graphics and music; Fills a niche
Ugly, sometimes unintuitive UI; Some poor mechanic explanations; Little challenge once you “figure it out”