by Marcus Mulkins
reviewed on PC
Mousing around (cont.)
The second annoying AND expensive instance is when your character is in a Council session. At a given moment, you will be given the opportunity to Bribe ONE other Council member in order to sway their vote on your election to office. However, the way the screen is oriented, several Council members overlap each other. If you need to click on a given member who sits behind another such that you can only see a fraction of their head, it becomes a real challenge to click on him and not the person seated on the foreground. Frequently, a click meant for a specific member results in the Bribe being steered towards someone whose vote you didn’t need to buy. Given that a Bribe can amount to 10% of your current cash, that’s a severe waste that not only costs you the money, but also can cost you the election – and frequently does. Things in the game are difficult enough without adding that mechanical inconvenience.
Unrealistic economic model
Despite offering such a detailed picture of Medieval Europe, the economic model is so far off scale as to be meaningless. For instance, a “Destitute” character can easily have 2,500 gold (or whatever the denomination is supposed to be). This, when you can pay to build an entire business structure (complete with your first employee) for 1,500. The game allows you to build a business that requires certain raw materials, and at the beginning of the game, those raw materials are available in the Market. However, you may discover that after just one month, those raw materials are sold out and simply not available. Yet, the other NPC-controlled similar businesses have no difficulty finding those raw materials. Why them, but not you? But, really, the prices for items in the game are utterly ludicrous: 101 gold for Wheat Bread? 340 for Wheat Roll? 748 for a Cream Pie? As with so many games, currency has been so oversimplified as to be meaningless. That is, instead of concerning themselves with the different currencies in the different geographical locations in the game, items are priced in terms of “points”, and then those “points” are labeled “gold” or “gold pieces”. That way the designers do no have to mess with ha’ pennies, pennies, tuppance, thruppence, farthings, shillings, pounds, etc. But still, even if we were talking ha’ pennies, that would mean a loaf of bread was going for 50.5 pennies? Even allowing for the fact that one “day” actually represents the activities for 365 real days, those prices are off-base. When you actually look at all of the varying prices for all of the items, you quickly conclude that the economic model has nothing to do with Reality or history. Which is a pity.
Brilliant Concept; Poor Execution
Usually, when a company creates a game that does well, it can capitalize on the situation by debugging the game, add a few new features, changing the title by slapping on a Roman numeral, and then persuade the original consumers to buy the “new and improved” model by creating a media PR blitz. That was the case between Europa 1400: The Guild and Europa 1400 Gold. Now, normally, any subsequent games in a series will be a continuation of the pattern. If anything, if a “new and improved” has bugs, they’re new bugs. Not so at 4HEAD where many of the problems of the first game resurfaced in Guild 2. But like the second game fixed the bugs in the first game, here the fourth game fixes the bugs of the third...
...And then introduces so many new flaws, it seems like 4HEAD was saving up to set a record for the greatest number of... idiosyncrasies. There are so many quirks that remain in the final product that I can only surmise that the designers and playtesters were so familiar with which approaches to gameplay actually work well, they managed to miss the bugs that John Doe is likely to get hung up on as he fumbles around looking for a winning strategy.
This game has soooooo much potential to be a GREAT game! It has a novel method of character development. It has an enormous range of direction for the player to explore. It has a wide array of ways to play the game (mission, campaigns and freeplay). The player can decide for himself if he wants to just play a complete game for a few hours or a few weeks. It has a very large range of character classes, allowing practically everyone a chance to a play the type of character he can "really get into."
So close, but yet so far! No wonder I occasionally found myself doing all-nighters, trying to make it work. Why else would I invest so much time in such a poorly turned out final product?
I can only hope that 4HEAD tries at least one more time – and that next time they get it right!
No Pros and Cons at this time