Every so often I like to scrounge through the bargain bin, the dustbin of rejected or old games that are one step short of the compactor, and see if I can't find something worthwhile. In the past I've found it to be very hit and miss. Some games that you find are great, all of the SSI Gold Box games for me were bargain bin salvaged. However, other games such as World War I: The Great War, were also salvaged from a bargain bin somewhere and can only make you wonder how anyone could have thought the game was a good idea. You know someone had to because it made the journey from idea to production but the concept is still unfathomable.
At any rate, what follows is the a review of Europa 1400: the Guild. You'll find a neat summary of all the vital statistics including cost and location of the bargain bin at the beginning of the article. The game is already up for a sequel later this year so we can expect a followup review to see how well the developer followed up.
Welcome to the first of our Bargain Bin Game Reviews. The object of these reviews is to comb the discount bins of the world and find a game that costs no more that $10.00 to review. There will be some real gems but odds are most of these are going to be in the bargain bin for a reason.
Europa 1400 is a sort of The Sims for the late medieval period. You choose a character, city to live in and your background, skills and profession and begin. You're provided with your own house and your own shop as well as a small amount of starting cash. That's it. You are able to get married, have children, play politics, practice many different professions and rise as far as the Papacy or the throne. Characters have a finite life span but you are able to "jump into the skin of" your children or other members of your family after death.
I found Europa 1400 Gold for the princely sum of $5.50 at a Half Price Books in Cincinnati. The game is a life simulator of late medieval Europe starting at, surprisingly enough, 1400. Players have an option of cities to play in from across the continent Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Nuremburg, Berlin, Seville, London, Paris, and Florence. Options for starting careers vary from thieves to perfumers and players are also given the option of choosing their parent's careers for their starting skills. For my game I chose my father to be a Mercenary and my mother to be a traveling entertainer Ã¢â‚¬â€œ likely enough at this point in time I should imagine.
My profession I selected as Blacksmith. Sadly Guardsman is not among the choices for a starting profession. I figure I'll laze around the blacksmith's shop for a bit, working my apprentices to death and paying them nothing and promptly switch to a guardsman career at the first opportunity.
Alas; it was not to be. The pressures of family life (married at 24 after two rejections Ã¢â‚¬â€œ curse you Baroness von Trimble! I just can't afford to buy you a slave every year! Why won't you love me for who I am?) and of running my own business were too much and my first character died, worked to death, and left his shop to his children who promptly squandered it on ethanol and strong beer.
After my initial introduction into the game I made a new start as an alchemist producing such useful things as paint and explosives from flowers. I got married much sooner this time and funneled all of my money into my children, well my child. I picked a "favorite child" who got all the stat boosting toys, career training and university and simply left the rest to starve in their ignorance. After my 8 year old was a master of combat, rhetoric and handicraft (three of the six skill sets available in the game) I sent him off to an apprenticeship with a trainer. I dabbled in politics but was never able to rise beyond the city council every year despite the copious amounts of bribe money. Bribery is the biggest reason to have office - besides giving you the opportunity to rise to higher offices and bigger offices. You don't even have the option of being an "honest" politician - the money simply appears in your coffers with a message stating who sent it to you. Bribery isn't even a crime all the time, though if you rise high enough you can change that law.
Europa 1400 dates back to 2003 so I'm not going to complain about the graphics too much. The cinematics look a little cartoony but you should expect a dated look from a dated game.
Why is this game in the bargain bin? Problems with this game are many. First it doesn't come with a manual. The only way to get it is to download the PDF from the publisher. Secondly the game is very buggy and suffers from a poor translation. The majority of my sessions with Europa: 1400 ended with a crash to desktop. Many of the translation errors are small but glaringly noticable, some parts of the game were never even translated. Thankfully there is an autosave. You are also unable to alt+tab out of the game and into other applications. Doing so resulted in a crash every time. Other problems is that death takes a long, long time. I had my character jump out of a window once to favor his vastly better trained son but my intended suicide cut off half of the game menus with the message "You are about to die..." for 10 YEARS. I didn't think jumping out of a window would be so prolonged. Dying naturally isn't much better, dragging on for turn after turn.
There are a lot of rough spots in this game. It's fun, no doubt about that, but play gets bogged down a great deal at times, much of it simply waiting. It's a very slow paced game. I put a lot of hours into it, far more than would be justified by the five and a half I paid for it, but bugs, shoddy translation and other quirks of the game simply keep what should be a great game from escaping the clutches of the bargain bin. It's a very, very solid game, I can't stress that enough. The Guild has a very solid mechanic and an idea that I am totally in love with but a rushed translation and shoddy coding bring it down. JoWood has already released The Guild 2 and German press is already saying that it is a candidate for game of the year. My German is probably good enough to do a review now but we'll wait for the English version to come out first.