When I reviewed The Guild 2 back in 2007, I talked about playing it in spite of its myriad flaws. The game was fun and unique but had some serious technical issues, such as all human characters turning into cows from the waist down. Three years later, I’m not as easily dissuaded from poking at a game’s faults. That comes into play here because despite the fact that the game can still be fun, Renaissance may be worse off, technically, then The Guild 2.
The first thing that comes to mind is the absurd loading time. It took me over a minute of staring at a static progress bar at about 90% completion just to get to the main menu, and another minute or so waiting to get into the game – all this on a PC with a 2.5 GHz dual-core processer and 4 GB DDR2 RAM. Would a faster computer make a difference? I don’t think so. This game just shows signs of poor optimization at every corner. For example, this is at best an average looking game, and yet its performance can be poor at times with stuttering and crippled frame rates.
As I said, this game is not the most visually impressive game, either in quality or stability. The character models are rough have stiff ‘mime’ animations to represent their different activities. Games like The Sims can do this with a good deal of success, showcasing personality and attention to detail. The Guild 2 Renaissance characters move their blocky forms in general approximations of activities. It’s just dry and sterile with nothing visual to remember. Sound-wise the game isn’t much better, what with its overly posh soundtrack to the lousy voice acting. The only decent performance came from the narrator, and his repetitive comments get really old, really quick.
So what’s changed from The Guild 2? Some new features include maritime jobs like pirates or fishermen, large new maps, quests and jobs that you can undertake from citizens and guild offices, and occasional wars that you can volunteer to fight in. The wars can be very profitable, but you can also die in them so there’s a definite risk/reward proposition. When you join a war your avatar disappears from the game map until the war is over, so it’s not something you want to do when you only have one character.
I didn’t find as many crippling or game-changing bugs but the game did crash, allot. It was almost like Old Faithful in a way. Every one to one and a half hours and the game was bound to crash. Saving games can also crash the game, which is always a crippling flaw. Textures at times would not load fully, leaving me with extremely low-resolution textures to look at.
The game is pretty hard to start out. Making enough money to improve your buildings, buy title, or put your child through school can be an exercise in patience. Sometimes it seems you’ll never turn a profit, but there’s almost always an answer for your woes. It could be you are paying more then you realize by automating your businesses (a common problem), or maybe you need to try making/serving another product. Of the four bases classes (patron, craftsman, scholar and rogue) the most dynamic is easily the rogue. Instead of sitting in a shop or tavern producing goods, you’re out and about town robbing shops, waylaying shipping carts or extorting protection money, and that’s if you don’t opt to go the pirate or street performer route. The scholar route seems to be the easiest to stay afloat, financially. You build/buy a church, gather congregations and give a sermon – easy money. You won’t be rich but you’ll have a solid income.
In conclusion, The Guild 2 Renaissance is fun when it works, but it just doesn’t work all that often. It’s looks incredibly dated, and stuff like the political underpinnings revolving around city office elections and the method of undertaking guild missions just aren’t explained well, if at all. One thing I will point out is that it can be fun in LAN play. Beta and I have logged some hours in multiplayer and its fun to explore town together to compete or cooperate. Maybe misery just loves company. The two major faults I can levy against are that it is even more crash prone in multiplayer and that the chat window absolutely sucks. You can’t see it while playing, there’s no indicator that you’ve been sent a message, and when it’s up so you can read or type, you can’t work on anything else. Whoever designed this God-awful thing owes everyone an apology.
So, is The Guild 2 Renaissance worth your gamer dollars? Not at full price. It’s just too buggy, too resource-heavy and too crash-prone to be reliable fun. If you find it somewhere on sale for under $10 though, I’d pick it up and give it a try. It’s an interesting and unique experience that you can’t really get anywhere else. Of course, if you already own The Guild 2, I can’t really tell you that buying Renaissance is going to make any great improvement in your enjoyment. Finally, if you’re the kind of person who has no patience for hard-to-love games like this, stay far, far away. You will find only pain.
[Edited for massive typos – 3/25/14]