Kill or be Guild, CH1: Whilst You Frolicked With Troubadours, I Studied the Blade
When career aptitude testing day came around in high school, there was a field on the Scantron for “desired career.” I penciled in: “smug patrician, preening his wispy goatee as he weighs an ill-gotten sack of coins.” Or something. I may have run out of bubbles.
My actual result was “skin trash,” so I had to go into internet content. But though those exams are never wrong, I’m secretly certain I’d have made a fabulous venal and piggish lout. So at long last—after thousands of sleepless nights counting the commoners I haven’t bullied and fortunes I haven’t vainly squandered—I’m setting out to prove it.
I don’t actually know what The Guild is. Whatever genre the titles were sold under back in 2002 probably doesn’t exist anymore, but these days they can best be described as “games that creep into your periphery when you browse past all the appetizing Steam sales.” The franchise is like two decades old and has only three core entries, one of which is in “early access,” and apparently the IP’s changed developers and publishers and countries of origin on multiple occasions. I picked this entry in the series because out of all of them, it had the fewest Steam reviews grousing about game-breaking glitches. This is to say, only about a quarter of the Steam reviews were grousing about game-breaking glitches.
The manual’s not much more than a pamphlet. It consists of what I’d guess are the game’s actual in-game tooltips; these seem to be jokes which—though they positively squirm with the intention to amuse—do not contrive to explain how any mechanics work. Inasmuch as the intro cutscene sets my expectations, it does so by displaying a black screen and making glitchy noises.
Well, no matter. I’ve wrestled buggy and obtuse games before. As long as I can mock the common folk whilst hurling brandy at my portrait-maker, I expect I’ll have a good time. Let’s guild, baby.
According to my half-assed research, many releases of this game came with a hidden or nonfunctional tutorial. Mine seems to be an exception:
But out of solidarity with those who came before, let’s give it a miss. I can’t imagine this game is that complicated.
Like a lot of strategy/sim games, The Guild II: Renaissance lets you define your starting conditions. I carefully survey the available historical contexts while pretending I might not pick Transylvania. For any Romanian readers wondering if I’ve got a heretofore-unexpressed passion for Carpathian history: I do not. I’m a dumbass who likes Dracula. I’m sure you were not actually wondering, and I am sorry.
I think the rest of my choices speak for themselves. I’ve kept it set at four years per round, which I believe is the historically accurate amount, with an equally sensible one (1) office session every (something). And of course I’ve enabled campaigning lansquenets, because, frankly, what kind of bullshit game would this be if the lansquenets did not campaign? I would have refunded that shit immediately. This would be an LP of Math Blaster.
The difficulty I set to Maximum.
Next up, character creation. The developers were very kind to put the default character’s face as far from the camera as possible.
While it is a fine and noble thing to be a Patron, I’ve chosen to play as a “Rogue.” Whether this means I’m an opportunistic man of business or a PVE-specced DPS, I haven’t the slightest clue, but I’m keen to find out. Either way I should be well served by the hundreds of points I’ve dumped into Martial Arts. I’ve also chosen to be proficient in arts and crafts, sneaking, and “arcane knowledge”; the meta on this last skill is to sink enough points to learn magic isn’t real, thus averting any painful late-game disillusionments.
This seems like a good face to start a dynasty with.
That seems to be it for preparation. Let my campaign of sloth, usury, and vainglorious excess begin!
You know, I’m not sure what I expected to see when the game started. An opulent guild hall, perhaps, or a desk laden with important scrolls. To instead find my doubleted OC standing on a dirt patch in front of a thatched hut is something of a rude surprise. I’m starting to think orienting myself might be a little trickier than expected.
In fact, there are quite a lot of interface elements to pick through. Fortunately, the first I click on explains which basic game mode I selected, which was something I’d quietly been wondering about.
“Found a family empire that will last long into the future.” Oh, good, I think I got my build right. Martial arts are notoriously future-proof, and I happen to know that even to this day magic doesn’t exist, so we should be good to go. Now what?
Well—in the bottom left corner is a big, modern-looking claw hammer. That seems as good a place to start as any.
Right! That’s a fine selection of crime-zoned real estate. I seem to have enough money for a…Robber’s Nest? Great. We’ll build that. Let’s just drop it right off the intersection so it’s an easy commute from my hut.
As construction pokes along, I mosey back to our player character and try clicking him. Instantly and without further prompting he hollers “I’M ARMED.” A quick trip to the inventory screen confirms that he isn’t. Way to keep ’em guessing, Rhody.
A few more moment’s prodding and I’ve found my action menu.
As you’d expect, these aren’t the normal “melee, ranged attack, defend”-type actions you’d get in an action-oriented strategy game. Not remotely. They are staggeringly more violent. The red bar includes options to Plunder, Waylay, Break Bones, Threaten, Bribe, Blackmail, and Finish Someone Off, among other piquant choices. But it’s not all gruesome: there are also action buttons to give compliments, embrace someone, court, kiss, threaten someone into marriage—you know, it’s mostly gruesome.
What gets me is that these are my quick actions. They’re not contextual, emergent things I can do—they’re literally on tap at all times. I’m never more than two clicks away from any of ’em! Clearly I’ll need to exercise considerable restraint. Let’s see—one of these actions is to…train? Train what? Train how? Whatever. Rhodisland, go inside the hut and train before you accidentally coerce the postman into marriage.
No sooner has he retreated than a popup appears:
I probably should have done the tutorial.
NEXT: THE MURDER GUILD