Guest Author - James Shea
Best described as a "medieval life simulator", The Guild II: Renaissance has a lot of detail, but lacks some humanization.
In "The Guild II", players take the role of a scholar, patron, craftsman, or rogue, and try to make a living in a fairly realistic medieval world. "Making a living" can include any profession from farming to smithing to trading to banditry - pretty much anything that needs to be done in a medieval world, in fact. "The Guild II: Renaissance" is a stand-alone game that, appropriately enough, takes place in the Renaissance era. The goals are pretty much the same though - make money and advance your status in society.
The Guild II is theoretically neat because it's detailed. It's about managing resources and wealth to try to stay afloat and ahead of your rivals. It's about spreading your family's influence through coercion, flattery, and extortion. It's about starting off in a hut and working your way to city-wide control. It's about buying cheap and selling dear. It's about making sure that your goods get to the marketplace before your loans come due. There's an obvious sort of appeal with regards to the gameplay dynamic - it's a classic rags-to-riches concept.
However, the detail only goes so far. Despite its grounded concept, it's pretty shallow in a lot of respects. Characters respond to the environment in a very basic way that reminds me of Peter Molyneux's "Fable". Interacting with people consists of "using an action" on them, whether it's "embrace", "beguile", "flatter", and so on. Romances consist of doing different actions and giving gifts - although there's a required pause between actions, so you can't just stand there and use it over and over. Marriage is more about politics and connections than any real characterization (which is at least accurate for the time, I suppose). The things you can actually do with the money other than "find ways to get more money" are fairly limited.
Really, despite the focus being on "medieval life", it's just as easy to say this is a game about medieval economics and politics. That's still a good niche to get into, but it feels like other than those two aspects the game is very scarce on content. It boils down to "if you enjoy those things you will probably like this game, if you want a more full experience you probably won't". If you don't go into the game with the desire to gain more money and more status, it's not going to be fun. The economic and political aspects are far more detailed than the "living your life" aspects.
The graphics are pretty good, although a bit cartoonish (this is probably necessary for the graphics). There's at least a visible style to everything, although it's not necessarily impressive. Cities feel busy because there's so many people going back and forth, and one neat aspect is that most of the AI characters do the same kind of stuff your character does - buying businesses, upgrading buildings, courting members of the opposite sex, and so on. This makes the world feel more real because it's not just a veneer, there's actually a bunch of stuff that's going on in the background.
Overall, The Guild II: Renaissance is a good game as a business/politics simulator, but lackluster as an actual life sim. If it's approached as the former, it'll end up a lot better than if it's approached as the latter.
Purchased through Steam with our own funds.