by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
The previous two The Guild games may well be the reason for the lack of hair on my head. I loved both medieval life simulators to bits and spent weeks tweaking my business, buying up or forcefully taking over rival businesses and carefully navigating my family towards political power. My hair, however, suffered. Numerous bugs, poor AI, illogical behaviour of your business managers and a slew of other problems had me pulling my hair out of sheer frustration. Yet, I could not stop playing.
So The Guild 3 has something to prove. Now under a different publisher, Nordic Games, there is more time and funding to do things right. Most importantly, the AI isn’t just one of the game’s features but a core component and is being designed by AI experts. All the ingredients to make a fantastic game are there.
One of the more eye catching changes to The Guild 3 is how cities have been laid out. In the previous games, the walls would define the city’s borders and your reputation was a reflection of your actions within those walls. In The Guild 3, cities are comprised of a set of neighbourhoods and players develop a relationship with each one individually. Imagine that you are the main employer in one area of the city and you treat your people well. People depend on you for their bread and butter so you will almost certainly be liked. In another, where you commit crime after crime and are at war with a much loved character, you might end up being despised.
Relationships are not just for show. You might be on trial for one of those crimes and the judge is ready to pass sentence on you. All the evidence points towards you murdering a rival family member and you should go to jail for a very long time, but such a sentence might not be popular with the judge’s own people - you are, after all, well liked. If it is the first time you are on trial, the judge may well decide to be surprisingly lenient to ensure that he himself doesn’t get the cold shoulder for being overly strict. Yet he can’t show favouritism every time - the city’s inhabitants will grow wary at the first signs of an “old boys network” that favours the same people every time.
Neighbourhoods also play a role in the efficiency of the businesses located there. One area may be great for producing bakery goods, another for potions. If you’ve played The Guild before, you may wonder now if that is not too limiting - cities weren’t particularly big and had more akin to walled towns than actual cities. Rest assured that there will be plenty of room for your businesses as cities are much bigger than before. Moreover, buildings are built much closer to one another as a true medieval city would. And space inside the walls is scarce so buildings are taller too to make optimum use of what space there is.
Cities won’t only grow upwards, but also sideways. New neighbourhoods become available as time passes or after a certain event is triggered. A long drought may dry up a nearby marsh making it suitable for building for instance.
While the devs did not explicitly say this, it could be that such events will be quest-driven. The Guild 3 will be a sandbox game but prior to starting you get to... choose your own adventure. As you create your character, you choose a story for him and with that story come a set of quests for you to fulfil.
A lot of these aspects of the game can be modded. The modding tools that will ship with the game allow players to create maps, quests, events, professions and add new graphics sets. The game will ship with 12 pre-made maps with Northern-European themes but with the right tools that could well explode and expand. The devs themselves are already playing with the idea of creating Southern-European themes and even North-American themes.
And the ideas do not stop there. The game will feature a multiplayer mode for - if the engine can handle it - up to 32 players. The supply system will be designed from the ground up to give players more control over what goes out of their business and what is being brought in. It will even be possible to set up a warehouse that can act as a central point where all your business turn to first for resources. And when supply stalls you’ll get more useful notifications about what went wrong.
To my delight, producer Heinrich Meyer pointed me towards the latest The Guild 2 last year. The game is available on Steam and has been patched to the point that my six remaining hairs are totally safe. If you would like to get a taste of what the game is like, be sure to give it a try.
If you’d rather wait until The Guild 3 is available, then you will have to have some patience. The game is scheduled for a 2016 release.