When I reviewed Europa 1400: The Guild over three years ago, I called it a “role-playing game / economic simulation / life simulation,” and then of course I made the obvious joke -- not another one of those games! We see them all the time! Well, its uniqueness helped make The Guild fun to play, despite a variety of unfortunate faults.
Now developer 4HEAD Studios is back with a sequel, The Guild 2. The premise of the game remains the same. You still create a character and run a business, get married and start a dynasty, and attempt to outplay or eliminate the other dynasties on the map. However, how you go about these things has changed. For example, The Guild used turns and action points, while The Guild 2 uses a real-time system. Each day in the game is also a season and a span of four years, and during that time you might work in your business, participate in a city council meeting, get your wife pregnant and then witness the birth of a child, dance with somebody in the local tavern, or just wander around complimenting or insulting the other people who live in your town.
Characters have to choose a class when they're created, and the class limits what kinds of businesses they can run. A craftsperson can be a tailor or a smith, a scholar can be an alchemist or a priest, a rogue can be a thief or a robber, and so forth. Characters also earn experience points as they play, and they can gain levels, build up their attributes (like charisma and constitution), and choose some abilities (such as bonuses to combat damage or better prices from merchants). Unlike The Guild, where you only got to have one character, and thus had to be very careful about producing an heir, in The Guild 2 you get to control up to three characters, and you can choose anybody in your family who is 16 years or older. That makes it much easier to keep your dynasty going, but it means you don't connect as much to your dynasty.
There are other changes as well. Each map in The Guild only had one town; the maps in The Guild 2 have two or three towns. The Guild was primarily 2D, and it used fixed location shots; The Guild 2 is primarily 3D, and you get full control over the camera. In The Guild, the town was fixed; in The Guild 2, the town can grow and add new positions in the city council. Basically, whatever there was in The Guild, there is now more of it in The Guild 2.
Unfortunately, one thing that hasn't changed is that both games are buggy and convoluted. I knew I was in trouble when I started The Guild 2, and the intro movies wouldn't play properly (I got audio but no video). How hard can it be to play a video? I've never had a game where the intro movies didn't work. Then I started a game, and the sound was choppy. The sound ended up garbled about 90% of the time when I played. Then I tried to load my game, and the loading process caused the game to crash. A good half of the time, saved game files somehow got corrupted, and so I never knew if I was saving my progress or not.
And then there are other things. I saw businesses using ox carts, but I never figured out how to hire them. I put a business under computer control, and for some reason it bought a bunch of handcarts (which are smaller than ox carts), but when I tried to sell them, nothing happened. Your house and businesses are given names, but you're not allowed to change them. It also took me a long time to figure out how to do things like hire a bodyguard, or how to allow my wife to work in a business. The manual isn't as much help as it should be, and while some games are promising enough that it's fun to keep playing to try and figure out how things work, that's not the case here.
I generally liked The Guild, despite its faults, but I didn't enjoy The Guild 2 much at all. All of its bugs certainly put a damper on things, but the pace of the game also seems to be much slower, and the activities seem much more repetitive than they were before (the daily council meetings in particular are a real killer). I'm not sure if the problem is that the premises of the two games are about the same, and so The Guild 2 lost the freshness factor, or if all of the changes simply didn't work for me. But for whatever reason, I had trouble making myself play the game, and the farthest I got was to reach the third generation in one dynasty, at which point I was totally bored. And so, with much disappointment, The Guild 2 isn't a game I'd recommend that you buy.