|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: 4Head Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: DreamCatcher Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 19, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The graphics in Europa are pretty rough by today's standards, but the game itself is amazingly solid. Inside buildings, the camera angle moves from an overhead view to the player's first-person perspective. Using the mouse to indicate a direction automatically pans the camera to different angles and lets you interact with the scenery. It's a neat interface, but the visuals are lacking. Fortunately, the gameplay holds up well for an older title. It's easy to look beyond the meager graphical trappings, once you get sucked into the meat of the game.
The Guild 2 and the Pirates of the European Seas expansion feature vastly improved graphics and some excellent tweaks to the gameplay. Unfortunately, it also ramps up the level of micromanaging required, which ultimately detracts from the rest of the bells and whistles that otherwise make it an improvement over the original. The game follows roughly the same premise and general mechanics as its predecessor, only this time the game takes place in 15th century Europe. In a slight variation, players are also given direct third-person control over their own characters and other members of their family dynasty. You'll get to hand-pick each character's visual features, which is a nice touch. The game also includes a deeper character development system which lets you select special attributes every few levels and equip them with different weapons, items, and armor.
There are primarily four professions to pick from - patrons, scholars, craftsmen, and rogues - and each has numerous sub-classes available to pursue. For the most part, they're basically the same kind of jobs you'll find in Europa. Grinding away in the shop all day to produce whatever money making items are available to your profession was fun in the first title, but even with an increased level of detail it starts to become a bit of a drag in The Guild 2. It's even tougher to handle the second time around since you'll also be micromanaging your employees and family members to boot. Shoddy A.I. path finding means you'll have to spend more time babysitting characters and supply carts to make sure they get where they need to go efficiently, assuming they're not jumped by brigands repeatedly.
Both games manage to nail some gameplay aspects just right, and each has its own high points that make is stand out from the other in some way or another. The built-in expansions also extend the features greatly, giving players a substantial amount of content for their buck. A huge variety of play options, a downright extreme level of gameplay depth, and immense re-playability make The Guild Universe worth the investment. Dated visuals and an unnecessary level of micromanagement are minor setbacks, but they don't spoil the overall value of this collection.
CCC Staff Contributor