by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
The Guild 3 will be the game that every The Guild fan has been waiting for. There, I said it. When I first talked to the developers, most of the game existed only on paper. There was a budget, there were goals and ideas, there were lead designers, yet nothing to actually show on a computer screen. A year later, The Guild 3 was an engine with a campaign map. It looked beautiful but most - if not all - of the gameplay had yet to be implemented. There was a base, but little more. This Gamescom developer GolemLabs and publisher THQ Nordic had a full-fledged The Guild game on display in their booth, and my heart skipped a beat seeing it.
Starting the game is a little bit different than we are used to. You still choose a profession first but you will be starting your adventure from the comforts of your home. There is no starting workshop, you will have craft and trade until you can afford one. Obviously your home isn’t suitable for industry scale manufacturing so there are some restrictions to what you can craft before you acquire a workshop. You’re also dependent on the market for selling your work, you cannot sell from your home.
The interface has changed too and it took a little bit of getting used to. This wasn’t so much because menus were illogically set up - quite the contrary even - but because they just weren’t where I was used to finding them. Once I figured out where everything was - and found the new shortcut buttons that will send your character to important destinations like your home, the market and city hall - things started to make sense.
I went to the market to pick up some materials to craft torches. These were in high demand so I figured I’d make a buck or two by crafting some. As I puttered around the city, GolemLabs founder Jean-René Couture told me about another important change. In the previous two games you play a rogue or a guard straight away. In The Guild 3 only the crafting professions are available right from the start and any of the others need to be unlocked. This is in part to help players adapt to the game in a more natural way, initially leaving out more complex mechanics such as of guarding your businesses and carts. The same is true for the character skills. Early on, the focus lies on honing your skills as a craftsman. Once you have those under control, more advanced skills open up. Think negotiation skills in trade and politics and street smarts for some of the more nefarious tasks, among other things.
One area where there is still some work to be done is the AI. Not because it isn’t smart enough but because it is - too - smart. “Right now, the AI does not make any mistakes and does not waste any time in their decisions so we are trying to create some sort of fog of war for AI players so that they don’t always make the optimal decision”. What an interesting problem to have! Another aspect that needs some more TLC is how time progresses. Jean-René turned my attention towards a slow, lumbering ship that was coming into the harbour. As we watched, we saw the day and night changes several times “It takes the ship about a year in game time to arrive. When it does, it may be carrying winter goods but by the time you get the goods to the market it could well be spring. That’s something we still need to solve.”
The previous games in the series had a somewhat dreamy aesthetic that really suited their medieval theme. I was missing that in last year’s build but was happy to note that some of the coldness had disappeared in favour of richer, warmer colours. The level of detail and variation in buildings also impressed me. Every building is unique and I could not spot a single workshop, home or other building that looked like a reskinned version of something else. Better still, workers ply their craft on workbenches, anvils and whatever more outside on their front porch. It sounds like a minor change but it really brings the city to life.
One particularly noteworthy feature is the ability to call up semi-transparent overlays that can be filtered to reveal certain types of buildings or businesses. Gone are the days of opening the city map and trying to figure out where everything is located. The studio will release an editor that enables players to build their own cities and a new option that lets you restrict the production of your AI managed buildings, and, and, and…
Too much goodies
There is just so much to this game that it simply doesn’t fit in a preview, but if you are interested in some of the other mechanics that make the game tick, do check out last year’s write up of our meeting with GolemLabs. I will leave you with that, as we wait for the game’s launch hopefully early 2017.