Have You Played… The Guild 2: Renaissance?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

If you’ve never even heard of The Guild 2: Renaissance before, you could be forgiven. It’s a relatively obscure mixture of genres (RPG, strategy, business management and medieval life simulation – Phew!) that flew under a lot of people’s radars – including my own, until recently.

It doesn’t help that virtually all the other Guild games thus far are pretty rough around the edges. (Okay, they’re disasters). Fortunately, though, Renaissance is mostly stable.

Mostly.

Set during the – you guessed it- Italian Renaissance, your ultimate goal is to make money and secure your family’s dynasty, all while moving up the social ladder. You start from relative poverty (You live in a shack) and eventually move on up to nobility, where you’ll dwell in fancy houses and regal estates. Naturally, this is accomplished by greasing the palm of your local corrupt government official so he’ll give you and your family higher titles.

Hey, this game is nothing if not realistic.

But to do all of that, you need money. How you pursue fame and fortune is entirely up to you, but running a business is usually a good place to start.

I typically like to run a mercenary camp, level up my characters’ speech-related abilities (so I can bribe other corrupt officials more cheaply), assassinate rival political candidates, and send some of my… er… employees to collect tolls from all supply carts that enter the city.

Oddly, this strategy seems to piss off rival dynasties for some reason. I can’t imagine why.

That outcome is especially undesirable in Renaissance, because everything is simulated and the other dynasties in the world are all running businesses of their own, and can do everything you can do including said kidnappings and assassinations. Irritating them too early in the game usually results in your dynasty dying a quick death.

Speaking of realistic simulation, even the market’s supply is governed entirely by people successfully taking their produced goods into town. This means that you can starve out an entire city by sabotaging all food-producing businesses.

If you like killing, sabotaging, and kidnapping to get ahead in life, you’ll probably like Renaissance. It’s a unique mix of genres that deserves more attention than it’s gotten so far. If you can look past some of the rough edges, you’ll discover a hidden gem that’s well worth your time.

You can read more of Cohen’s writing at CheapGamesGuru.

21 Comments

Top comments

  1. jonaswashe says:

    So a bit of trivia regarding this game. I worked with a community modder by the name of McCoy! a few years back. He was combining various mods to make the multiplayer more stable by fixing some of the biggest bugs still present in the game. We spent hours pouring through various debug logs trying to fix the multiplayer desync issues.

    Long story short, I discovered one of the biggest crash/desync bugs was caused by the market cart space outside the buildings. To protect your cart, the developers has created an untargetable zone in the place where the cart was programmed to dock with the building. This was good as it prevented rogues for stealing goods from your cart while it was safely docked at home. However, any NPC standing in this space was also untargetable. The AI was programmed so that if anyone attacked a building the city guards would attempt to arrest them. Any pawn attacking a building wall standing in the market cart space would cause the game code to continually send invalid commands to the nearest guards until the game crashed.

    This bug was still present in the code the last time I checked.
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    Topperfalkon says:

    They’re also planning on bringing out a sequel this year.

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    elvirais says:

    Really loved its predecessor, The Guild Gold. It worked fine for me, great mix of genres, although it was too easy. The interface was not the best, granted :)

    • pasha_bigdog says:

      I remember being so rich that I kept on building and buying mansions so I can hide my money in the vault under the stairs to avoid paying taxes. Ahh, those 1% problems!

  3. DUG says:

    I was going to purchase. This review didn’t help. link to youtube.com

    • lordcooper says:

      Damn, that guy has the most irritating voice I have ever heard.

  4. Sin Vega says:

    I have, and it is indeed much better than the first. I’d always hoped to see a few games take some cues from it, because for all its promise, it never really came together for me. There was too much grind and most of the wandering about town kind of stuff felt like too much of a chore, rather disconnected from what you wanted to do. That plus the way that nobody really had any personality, you’d get married to whichever of 20 random people who you’d never heard of despised you the least (how this was worked out is anyone’s guess, especially as you never seem to interact with them except when proposing or dropping a sprog), and your rivals might as well have been a column of numbers for all the difference it made.

    What it needed was a transfusion from Crusader Kings 2 – a bit of personality to give all the clever political/family feuding stuff some meaning.

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      QiVers says:

      I loved this shonky mess of a game. I also loved the shonky mess of The Guild, as well.

      I completely agree though, it really needs a shot of personality and character, even if that’s just for more important NPCs (family, dynasties, whatever).

      Still, I’m hoping for something like that in the Guild 3.

  5. noodlecake says:

    It got pretty terrible reviews when it came out (The original Guild II) due to being a buggy mess and a few strange design choices but it’s a really unique game that does a great job of creating stories and creating a feeling that you’re part of a living world where all the people are autonomous, a little like Crusader Kings II does.

  6. geldonyetich says:

    Very interesting game, I picked it up awhile back on Steam. Not sure if there’s any reason to play the previous once you have Renaissance since it’s just bigger and less buggy.

    What makes it so interesting is the utter uniqueness. In what other game can you play a medieval tradesman/scholar/rogue/mercenary trying to juggle a job in fields as diverse as gravedigging along with a genuine supply and demand market, finding a spouse and knocking them up while you’re still verile, attending court appointments, and engaging in some truly gnarly skullduggery? Nowhere else.

    But it was unfortunately a very rough, buggy game. I won most of my games to my AI opponents simply failing to procreate, probably snagged in pathing somewhere. Some idiot would always set fire to an opponent’s business, and since this was the age of thatch prior to building regulations, that meant the entire village was burning, always. Attempting to walk across a room would oft result in some idiot spinning on his heel for all eternity. The easiest ways to succeed were to break the game, exploiting glitches.

    Many games were unwinnable because some opponents were ludicrously wealthy and powerful. The pope could ruin you with excommunication and the authories could have you killed for no reason at all, only their lack of AI preventing them.

    It’s unfortunate to see so much glorious simulation and innovation on display as a half-finished mess. I tried the best fan patches, listing hundreds of fixes, and it made little subjective noticable improvements to me while introducing more issues (such as even more pyromania). I guess the project scope was so huge as to become unmanageable spagetti code, and that’s a shame.

    I very much look forward to the sequel in the works.

  7. jonaswashe says:

    So a bit of trivia regarding this game. I worked with a community modder by the name of McCoy! a few years back. He was combining various mods to make the multiplayer more stable by fixing some of the biggest bugs still present in the game. We spent hours pouring through various debug logs trying to fix the multiplayer desync issues.

    Long story short, I discovered one of the biggest crash/desync bugs was caused by the market cart space outside the buildings. To protect your cart, the developers has created an untargetable zone in the place where the cart was programmed to dock with the building. This was good as it prevented rogues for stealing goods from your cart while it was safely docked at home. However, any NPC standing in this space was also untargetable. The AI was programmed so that if anyone attacked a building the city guards would attempt to arrest them. Any pawn attacking a building wall standing in the market cart space would cause the game code to continually send invalid commands to the nearest guards until the game crashed.

    This bug was still present in the code the last time I checked.

    • geldonyetich says:

      That’s pretty wild. The mind boggles trying to comprehend how this game kept expanding while bugs like this persisted.

      • syndrome says:

        This is typical for the gaming industry. Amateurs get to make games, while those who know their bearings are economically or politically barred from this line of work. It’s either that, or there are no intelligent proactive software engineers in this world — only those who make themselves at service to those with monies, and those who are already famous (and expensive) because they’ve already made something robust for the world to take notice.

        Something funny is behind all of this: exterminating bugs isn’t economical at all, and whaddya know introducing bugs isn’t economical either… However, introducing bugs is likely to be a silent endeavor, quite possibly accidental (and therefore unfit for time- and energy cost-estimation), while exterminating them needs said bugs to be acknowledged and estimated.

        All taken into account, it is the inexperience, the lack of testing, the lack of patience, the lack of forethought, the lack of discipline, the lack of creative engineering mind that is generating bugs, and because anything capitalistic (i.e. a gaming studio in Germany) simply wants to grow, build, and generally move forward, they are likely to hire amateurs to move at a greater pace but less costly, and are thus even more likely to accidentally introduce bugs that are extremely hard to eliminate. After all is done, they have to make a prioritized list of bugs that glaringly break the product vision from a typical user’s perspective. This is, obviously, very far from perfect, and very costly.

        Aaaand… This is why a +1 sword in DND costs in thousands of gps, while the ordinary no-bonus sword costs only 10-20 gp.

        • modzero says:

          TBH at least a quick look at game code (from the perspective of a backend programmer with experience in telco and eCommerce) suggests that (actual, not the ones in job ads) computer science requirements for game dev are actually higher than most (though certainly not all) of eCommerce or lots and lots of business.

          • syndrome says:

            I don’t see an argument here, as I assume the role is well-remunerated.

            Read my message again, see if I’m talking about how “there are no professionals in the industry”.

            Or if I’m very calmly pointing out how exactly capitalistic behaviour drives the following two trends

            1) good engineers, in large volumes, turn indie, where they can shine, as corporate environments see them as risky, too committed, or too expensive.

            2) bad engineers, in large volumes, work for corporate environments, where they can hide from the public eye and “learn”, as corporate environments see them as cheap, loyal, and easily replaceable.

            You can perhaps find an exception here or there, but that’s so rare, it confirms my analysis.

            Financially-better companies typically invest a large sum of money in bug detection and extermination, but almost never in better engineers (who have the ability of avoiding this altogether but at a price of slower/more expensive/deliberate development) unless they happen to be the company founders.

            This is the main trick in the market, if you’ve paid any attention. Better companies treat their people better, and have smaller dev cycles with similarly good results, without having to hire an expensive 3rd-party QA facility. But good companies are so rare, people generally think it’s something that happens when you’re lucky.

            It all trickles down to the biggest issue of all: good programmers that have an eye for details, or talent for game design, are extremely rare types, and it is rare that anyone wants to employ them simply because they tend to be all kinds of eccentric. But also because they tend to have an opinion (i.e. many of them wouldn’t work for a free-to-play title, because morals).

            TL;DR The world lacks leadership to find, understand, and cater to its best engineers. Those who do things properly in the LONG RUN, and do it much more cheaply, if you take everything into account, are always shunned away by those who think in shorter spans.

          • modzero says:

            Actually, I believe those “great programmers” are largely a myth. I’ve worked enough to know that the developer who will solve a complex data mining problem will, nine times out of ten, require code review, the ones best at good overall design will often lack data science and algorithm knowledge, and full-stack developers and “rockstars” are the ones I’ll have to clean up after a year from now.

            So, tbh, when I hear good engineers turn indie, I often suspect it’s because indie tends to have bad or no HR, so they can get away with what they do to other on their teams. Truly best companies do pay good money, do give you opportunities to develop, and get rid of people who perform a bit better individually, at the cost of the work of others.

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      Martell says:

      I thank you for your service. It’s quite surprising how many patches, official and unofficial, was released for Renaissance after release, and they do help immeasurably. Made more surprising by the fact that Runeforge was I think the third dev that had their hands on this, since they changed devs with every expansion.

      But if there’s a game that’s still crippled by its AI and UI, it’s this one. Having one business is great, having ten is a micromanagement nightmare, even with the (worst ever) AI automation on. My dreams of a medieval zaibatsu that’s entirely self-sufficient has yet to be realized.

  8. Hyena Grin says:

    I had a lot of fun with this game, even if it was a little broken in spots, and was definitely pretty awkward.

    I never made it very far, I just kept building little tavern empires. It was delightful though, maintaining bakeries to send treats to my tavern, brewing my own beer, etc.

    Quite looking forward to their expected new entry in the series. I’m hoping they can clean up the formula into something a bit more presentable.

  9. scottossington says:

    I love this game. I installed the community patch and I never had problems or bugs, that I could see. I modded skyrim to be a merchant because of this game. Looking forward to Guild 3

  10. tehfish says:

    I actually got this ages back on a steam sale or something.

    I seem to recall abandoning it due to being very confused by the game and it’s total lack of any tutorial didn’t help that…

    Maybe i should give it another chance :)

  11. poliovaccine says:

    Never did, and as much as folks say it’s a bit of a mess, my god does it sound like an awesome game. The bit about trade actually relying on traders safely traversing some sabotageable trade routes, that’s what really sold me.

  12. Wulfram says:

    I tried it a bit, but everything seemed just a bunch more hassle than the previous game, which I enjoyed.