The Guild 2 - hands-on

While you start off as a lowly commoner with only a hut and some gold to your name, there are myriad ways to influence the town and rise to power. Friends made through compliments might lead to alliances, while enemies and feuds can come about simply by succeeding where others fail. Hire peasants and goons to work for you, and roll rickety carts to market for raw materials or to sell your wares. Woo a mate to put some heirs on your family tree, or just to have a companion. Relationships of all sorts are vital to your success, whether you're after a new title, a prestigious office and its privileges, or just want to get robbed a bit less often. Witnessing the daily events of the street can have its advantages as well: simply being present at altercations can accumulate evidence for use in the corrupt justice system.

For all the potential, there are a few nagging issues that seem unlikely to be addressed before release. The interface, with its compartmentalized information and tabbed displays, sometimes seems more evocative of a dry management application than a game. Plus, all player-controlled characters have a tendency to wander far out of their way thanks to some very basic pathfinding problems.

The variety of play approaches and social underpinnings could make The Guild 2's multiplayer contests the sort of diversion that classic table-top gamers would love, but we have to wonder how much mainstream appeal this unusual mix of game styles will offer. Whatever the case, this one's at least not just more of the same, and that makes The Guild 2 worth a closer look on that basis alone.