My best effort to describe The Guild 2 will be this. The Guild 2 is a strategic simulation game based in medieval times. Before I picked up this game, I tried to find out what it was exactly, and really, there wasn't a good explanation. Even the official site is devoid of most information to know what you are actually trying to buy here. However, it is best described as a sims game really, and I'm leaning towards saying it is largely a business simulation, but there is so much more, it would be unfair to label as such, and the different angles, methods and ways to play make it very strategic. I'm almost reluctant to label this game as any genre, because it really does make it a place for itself here.
Normally I'd attempt to go into what the game is about here, how you play it, and what your goals are. But I am finding it pretty tough to do justice to what happens in the world of The Guild 2. The basic idea of the game is to develop your dynasty, and beat your opponents (other dynasties) in the method you choose at the game start, in either singular or multi player mode. So, ya.. that didn't help much, did it? I'll explain how the game works, the features, and all that other jazz below, so grab some cheese toast and get ready to read up, but don't eat too much, it's fattening!
IIn The Guild 2, you can be (almost) anything you want, do what you want to an extent I have never seen before, so if I bore you here, let me know. The game starts off as a single person with some cash in their hand, and your object is .. well, to win. That is as precise as I can be, since there are many victory modes, from eliminate of your competitors, to financial success, to gaining favour and seats in politics and more and more and more. Your character can be one of four loosely defined “classes” that give you a range of what you can do. A Patron will let you farm, process foods, open a brothel, run an inn or entertainment center and even let you and your workers become simple bakers. A Craftsman will allow you to open up many mines, and processing businesses for those types of materials. Want to be a smith? Make weapons? Armour? You can work with woods, or cloths as well, and upgrade yourself to specialize in the higher quality gears. With your business ties you can control entire markets, and outfit your own little militia. A Scholar can open up churches and later huge cathedrals, convert the masses, hold sermons, and protect buildings. However, a church isn't just a church right? Of course not, you can manufacture and sell items in your church for the services, like holy water, host, (the little breads) and other sacred documents. A scholar can also collect and process the materials needed for potions, and other rare and exotic items to manufacture, from beneficial potions to destructive curses and poisons. The last school is a rogue, who can extort, steal, kill, kidnap, pickpocket and basically exploit everything and everyone in the game in as many ways as you can imagine to achieve their goals. The rogue is a simple class type, but then again, the dark side of the The Guild 2 is a dangerous place, they may not be as simple as you think. So now you can see what basically you can do, but there is so much more, these are just some of your businesses that your single character can open and posses, most of your work, you let your employees do. You have the option set up your businesses to mostly run themselves, or you can have complete control and work hands on, it is up to you! My first attempts were to start a craftsman, but I was a failure. The mechanics, complex economy, and interactions of characters was a little too much, too fast for me. So I ended up being a church going man, holding sermons and taking donations. Now all that is left to do is sit back, put your feet up and eat some cheese toast while the dough rakes in, right? Wrong!
Now, where do I go to from here? Let's try relationships. Any dynasty needs to expand to succeed, and your's is no exception. A rival dynasty will have no hurt feelings when they meet you in an alley, and kill you, so being by yourself in this game can be very risky. The enemy AI is nasty, they will torture you, kill you, frame you, bribe politicians, accuse you of crimes, attack your buildings, attempt to force you to pay for protection and more and more. Find a cute girlie or guyie, woo them, love them, bathe with them, give them gifts, kisses and spend time and fall in love with each other. Your wife or husband can also be a separate class than you are, and then open up more options to your game play, from support services businesses to their own fully functioning and profitable centers of commerce. No partner would be complete without the ability to just go at like wild animals! Well, not really, but I imagine when the curtain gets closed that the little bunks get pushed together and you do a little more than just eat some cheese bread, right? I'm sure some weird things happen, at least, I imagine. And if he or she doesn't do that? Well divorce 'em! Or just have an affair! Why not?
I decided to settle down with a sweet young farmer girl, it was spring, she had blue eyes, and the wind... anyways, she said yes, and that is important enough. I then raised enough funds from my churches to open up a farm, and used the farm to supply my churches with some food and leather to help reduce production costs and supply shortfalls. Soon after, it was time to make babies! Raising your children can be an expensive and dangerous thing as well. School them, send them to university and on apprenticeships cost big money; so just like in your real life, too many kids will drain your bank account. Family members are liabilities, and they tend to get kidnapped and held ransom, or just pick pocketed if you are lucky, so managing your primitive, dirty, raw, naked urges is important.
As I mentioned before, there are a ton of business opportunities for you, and you can play this like a huge business sim. Open many businesses (you can take out loans if you wish to), let the computer control your stock levels, and your delivery carts, or just do it yourself. Keep in mind the AI's pathing ability and risk management is ... what is the word for below worthless? You will get robbed when they lose their way, and get stuck in all sorts of places, so you need to hire guards for your carts with them. However, you can also give the AI only partial control over your business, by dictating stock levels, and what they can and can not control. A few businesses run themselves well enough, a church, or thief's den are pretty easy to manage, while a craftsman may need to keep a closer eye on what the computer decides to do. With someone else handling the details, we should move into the dirty underworld of The Guild 2.
Politics! Just because you keep your nose stuck to the anvil doesn't mean the rest of the world does, far from it. The world of The Guild 2 is constantly alive, if you are stuck in a business pushing out one more tool, then your competitors are getting elected into office, wooing their own mates, chatting with others in the world and more. There are daily meetings and court hearings in the town hall, and you can watch them as they happen. Watch others kill each other, rob each other, frame each other, and do their own business, the world goes on, and if you don't want to participate in it? Fine, do what you want, the real beauty of The Guild 2 lies here. Political ties give you privileges, abilities as well, you can control taxes, embezzle money, control town guards and business inspectors, or the town's own version of the FBI. Weazle your way to the top of the ladder, start off on the bottom, charm, bribe, kill those above you. You can do it honestly, or you can do it nastily, it is up to you. Spy on the position above you, obtain evidence of their deeds and get them thrown out of the position and take it for yourself. Use your resources and make the life of your opponents hell!
Besides the politics in The Guild 2, and besides the business, well, there is crime. Some people will attempt to out business their opponents, you know, set up a monopoly on cheese bread and take over the town, or some such. Well, those people are stup... er, limiting. You can instead play dirty, if you do it well, otherwise you will be in trouble if you don't. Your home(s), just like a business, can be upgraded, improved with features and allow you to hire henchmen. While this doesn't provide an income to you, your henchman can spy on your enemies, shadow their movements, collect evidence of their wrong doing, and so much more. You can wait for that henchman to follow his mark outside a town wall, and end it there, just jump them, and eliminate their dynasty, one by one. Arm a militia and storm your enemies businesses, bomb them, and then burn down the rest of the building, again, I've said it before and I will say it once more, you play exactly how you want. But you know, I don't do that, no, no I don't.. of course not, I'm a sensitive caring guy. I'll bring evidence to court, use artifacts I create in my church to oust enemies from their religion, and generally get them hated, but I do it clean. My son (in the game) however, well, he is a dirty bastard, and has a nice axe too. Keep in mind however, there are penalties for your crimes. You will be taken to court, you could be locked in a dungeon (where a good team can break you out), executed, or fined in various ways. Building a case, or a defense in court can be a complex system. Not showing up in court will make you an outlaw, but sometimes that is the price you have to pay. You see, my crazy axe welding son.. he is the sovereign of this large city, meaning he is immune to persecution, and if there is someone he doesn't like? Well, he tells the city guards the name you see, and banishes them from his town. Crime and politics is powerful if used properly. Of course, holding onto your title can be harder the more corrupt you become.
That is pretty much it for how you can play The Guild 2. And honestly, I have missed a lot. I didn't mention anything about parties you can throw in your house, and ignored the shear details of business. And the upgrading of buildings, levels and experience, statistics, gaining favour of others, and your equipment, items, and the entire economy of the game, which is beautifully made. Nor did I mention a thing about the title system, or dueling, or even the diplomacy system between dynasties (to be honest, I haven't even got to this yet) there is so much, there it would take another page or two to just explain what it is, and the complexity it all twines with each other.
So, you want the bad? My largest complaint about the game will be the time line. Each day is four years, there is only one court hearing a day, so if there are four or five hearings lined up, it can be 25 years before you are even tried for a crime. By that time, people will be dead and the whole court system really falls apart, adding in a second court appearance per day could really help stop that issue, but there are various fixes. Additionally the AI to help run your business is flat out stupid. It has no risk assestment, no real ability to manage time and gather the right amount of supplies you request, the more businesses you have, the less efficient they tend to run each. Otherwise, there are a lot of minor issues with The Guild 2, but with a game with such a huge scope, can you not expect it? There are some minor class balance issues, as to money making potential and including the statistics they excel in not being well balanced for actual usefulness. For example, it is very easy for rogues to set up robber baron bases all over and make large profits, but a craftsman will saturate the local market quickly, and end up losing money when those goods get hit by those robber barons if you attempt to trade them to more lucrative markets.
While the client isn't bad there are some issues with save games being corrupted, and the client crashing after playing for way too many hours, they don't happen a whole lot, but they do happen. Another little annoyance is that the client interface slows down along with the game play speeds.
Personally, I found the game a little on the slow side at times, even though I tend to play a safer style of game, but when I do try to pump it up, the combat can be slow and the characters unresponsive when changing actions. OK, I lied about my biggest complaint, the real one is that apparently cheese bread is fattening, which isn't fair in so many ways.
Now for the good...
I'm gonna tell you right now, I adore The Guild 2. The maps, towns, housing, including the interior of the buildings are all gorgeous. The artwork is detailed, in style with the medieval times, and gives the game such an elegance that I really enjoy playing. From the cathedral stained glass to the dungeon's cellars everything looks great, with the exceptions of some of the facial features on characters, I am not too fond of them. The music is orchestral and beautiful, but not overpowering, though could use some beefing up in the combat areas. The voice acting has a little to be desired, but do remember that all the text in the game, from sermons, to npc idle chatter is all audible, it isn't just text, you have a real world going on here. A bustling market really is loud and busy. The game does an incredible job at providing an atmosphere, better than cheese bread.. with cheese!
The client is pretty stable but has some minor glitches, and performs well even on my aging machine. This is especially true when you consider it isn't just you, it is hundreds and hundreds of npcs all living, talking and scheming in their world, you aren't the only one to get married, the whole world lives.
The game provides excellent access to management screens, and tools to help you play. A diary, a political map, and the option to stop micromanaging your business exist. But what I love more than cheese bread about The Guild 2, is the cheese bread... no.. wait, is the scope and design of the game. There is rarely a minute I think .. wait, I can't do that. And if I can't do that, it is probably because I haven't earned the ability, but will be able to if I try to. I love the fact that The Guild 2 is original! You can do what you want, play how you want, and be what you want. It will all work, and huge props for a new idea, and a game that doesn't follow the same old mindless formats that are out right now.
In the end, I would highly recommend The Guild 2 to any simulation fan. I would also strongly suggest that RPG types take a look at the game, and the world, as well as strategy buffs. Strategy here is pretty deep, I'm still assessing what I can and can't do, what will be successful and what will fail, and all the risks between them. As both a strategy and a sims fan, I am having a ball in this game. The Guild 2 creates a world of its own, an atmosphere I haven't seen in a game before, one where I can get lost in eating melted toasty cheese till 3 am.