Europa 1400: The Guild

5_1Europa 1400: The Guild is sort of like a role-playing game. Except you play a villager in a medieval town instead of a wizard or a paladin, spend points on skills such as Handicraft and Rhetoric rather than Strength and Dexterity, and run a business rather than ransack dungeons. It doesn’t sound very heroic, but then neither was The Sims. You can be an artisan and spend your time manufacturing merchandise and selling it on a dynamic marketplace. Or you can run the local thieves’ guild and organize local burglaries.

There’s more – you can dabble in politics to make your business more profitable, court a wife or let yourself be courted by a husband (you’ll need an heir to continue playing), hold dinner parties or gamble at the local tavern. It’s as open-ended as it sounds, and it tops off by offering a slick goal system that lets you choose your own challenges, and set new ones after completing them. There’s also a nice historical tapestry behind it all, making you feel like you really are living in Europe during the 1400s.

Town life is a fascinatingly complex system in which everything that one character does influences everything else. If you make a living selling Poison Daggers, you’re probably making it easier for would-be assassins to kill you using your own merchandise. You can hire a spy to dig up dirt on competing businessmen, then blackmail the old chap or have him thrown in prison. If he’s not doing anything illegal, run for town office and change the laws in your favor.

17_1Complexity is both the game’s saving grace and Achilles’ Heel, with a troublesome interface compounding the problem. It will take several gaming sessions to even partially grasp what this game is about, and then some more to really appreciate its intricacies – the included tutorials are useful, but experience is the best teacher. In any case, Europa 1400: The Guild has a fascinating system of complex workings hidden underneath its rather rough learning curve, and players who go the extra mile will find an interesting strategy game.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, Win95

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