reviews\ Dec 21, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Europa 1400 - The Guild - PC - Review

“To market, to market, to buy …”

The majority of real-time strategy games have concentrated on battles, with a healthy dose of resource management. JoWooD, along with 4Head Studios, has decided to twist that up a bit with Europa 1400, a release for the PC.

Rather than battle for lands, you are waging economic warfare. This is done through creating a family-owned dynasty in a certain trade, then building up that family business through 200 years of history. If you are successful throughout the open-ended game play, then you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are a Rothschild in the making.

In addition to the open-ended game, there are also scenarios driven through mission. Your goal is to accomplish a certain task within a time frame. And if, perchance, you think it is as easy as ordering up the goods and keeping payrolls straight, think again. The nuances of Europa 1400 will have you jumping from one disaster to another (actually make that potential disaster).

The game can be summed up rather easily. Secure the finances to start your business. Hire an employee or two to make whatever it is you are going to make. Buy the raw materials, make your product, and then transport the materials to market to sell. As your business grows, you expand your center of operations, hire more employees, et cetera.

That’s the underlying core of the game. Now throw in spying on rival businesses, thieves and bandits who force you to hire guards for escort of your shipments, building funds, employee payrolls, bribery, and aligning yourself with a host of power brokers (from guilds to churches and city councils, to name a few). And then there is the whole ‘family’ aspect.

The game starts with player selecting a town to call home, and then a mother and father, as well as the gender of their character. There are several likely candidates for your parents, including poet, craftsman and woman, traveling cleric, thief and mercenary. As the game moves along, you will have to court and marry a suitable mate, and have offspring to hand down the business to.

The game also sports 12 occupations you can choose from, though the game begins with only a select few such as perfumer, stone mason, alchemist, landlord, joiner, blacksmith, thief and preacher. As you progress through Europa 1400, other occupations will open up to you, and you can change your career path.

A clock ticks off the 24-hour day, then the year and season skips ahead. You begin in the spring of 1400. Once 24 hours have passed, you jump ahead to summer of 1401, and so forth.

Because the game takes place in the 1400s, there is another concern that can affect you during the game – illness. Characters in The Guild are graded on social standing, and favour. Contracting a debilitating disease (such as a cough, dysentery, plague, pneumonia or hair loss) will have an impact on how people perceive you and can hinder your game growth.

Of course, what would an RTS be without combat? Europa 1400 satisfies that aspect as well. You will likely have enemies mass against you (jealous fools who will stop at little to undermine your success or blatantly tried to sabotage your business). You can hire mercenaries and equip them to fight off any who would dare attack you.

While Europa 1400 does have some very real historical ties, the game also takes a giant step to the side with its use of magical items such as Faust’s elixir (adds a 10 percent bonus to your health), the Bloom of discord (a potion that will turn two people you dislike into each other’s enemies) and Dartagnan’s scent (the smell so frightens an opponent at a dual that the accuracy is affected).

The game has a rich look, and the handles well, but while offering depth of play, most of the nuances that make life so enriching are handled in cutscenes. The games sounds are exceptional.

Europa 1400 has great depth and the options are very rich. Coupled with an excellent AI, the game does manage to travel many of the highways and byways of the time period. But what is the game’s lure may also be part of its downfall, for some players. This is the type of game that requires players to immerse in the world, to micromanage almost to extremes, to grip tightly the reigns of power and balance them with familial responsibilities. This is not a game for the casual player. It is intense, frustrating, maddening, and can leave you either with an ulcer or a sense of great satisfaction. Long after ending a game session, you may find yourself coming up with strategies to improve your lot in Europa’s cyber-life.

This game does tread some new territory, and does it well.

This game is rated Teen for mild violence.

Gameplay: 8.3
While the city maps are not huge, you can explore the buildings, listen to the townsfolk and keep busier than you probably would like to be while running your business. The game has two ways of playing (in the open-ended game) – with historical events running through the game or without them. The latter is infinitely easier, though there are surprises while the former (if you are a student of history) is a little more predictable. The game does have a host of cutscenes to advance certain elements, and you can’t really play out all aspects of your life.

Graphics: 7.8
The town graphics are well done. The animation is also quite good. Some of the interiors do seem to have been ‘thrown together,’ without the care and detail that other screens have. Some of the interaction is a little blocky.

Sound: 8.5
The musical score is very good, and the characterizations are also well done.

Difficulty: Hard
This is a game that has five difficulty settings, but even at the easy level, you are kept very busy. The game controls are not really intuitive and this game has at least a 60-minute learning curve.

Concept: 8.5
Europa 1400 is a grand design. This game, while it does have some stumbling points, has incredible depth of play.

Multiplayer: 7.5
This game does support network play over a LAN. However, the complexity of the game is not really conducive to factional gameplay.

Overall: 8.3
Europa 1400 is an amazing game that succeeds on several levels. One of its biggest draws is the family and social interaction portions of the game, which do seem glossed over in the name of brevity. But the game is immersive, looks good and is an incredible challenge.


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