Starting A Guild Of Painters

After the fiasco of Party Hard, I thought picking up a slower-paced game may not be a bad choice. While not quite the slow-paced and easy game I expected, Painter’s Guild from by Lucas Molina has proven to be an entertaining management sim and is worth looking into.

Title screen. You can move around; not sure if there's another Easter Egg hiding here.
Title screen. You can move around; not sure if there’s another Easter Egg hiding here.

I should note that this is also Lucas’s first Steam game and first direct sales game. Let’s see how it pans out, shall we?

==The Pitch==

Painter’s Guild allows you to create an avatar that is a painter in the Renaissance. You create your own guild in either Florence, Venice, or Rome, take commissions from patrons, and work on great projects when invited to do so, all with the goal of making money and keeping the place going.

Humble Beginnings
Humble Beginnings. Always remember to sleep.

==What You Get==

I can say you get the above with a time management twist. You really do get a simple management sim that involves you running your own Guild in Italy during the Renaissance.

Patrons keep showing up with jobs as you start understaffed, you get a nice dose of history as letters arrive informing you of the events in Italian History (that are pretty accurate, I may add), and famous painters show up to be hired by you (my first famous hire was DaVinci).

Fun history here!
Fun history here!

As you play the game, patrons come to your door to request paintings. Each painter has a specialty, which is often tied to a type of painting, which seems to speed things up. The paintings are all on a timer; which is a small gauge that moves along the status bar (and it moves quickly if it’s a “urgent” request),

Randomly, a patron will request a “Great Work” that will involve one (or more) of your painters leaving for an extended time to work on things.

A sample Great Work.
A sample Great Work.

The game seems to be a combination of time management, knowing who to send where (locations of a Great Work, giving time to sleep, etc), and money management (supplies, decorations, hiring, expansions, and bail money). I expected something slower pace, but it moves at a good clip, causing me to think fast and hope no one shows up when all of my artists are busy.

Finished one, and another arrives!
Finished one, and another arrives!

You also get random challenges from time to time, like completing a masterpiece or travelling to improve the skill of your artists. Rather interesting, but it does have a few downsides.

==The Good==

While the art style of the game is simple pixels, it works with the premise of being a quirky game about artists. I also like the little touches, like the idea of being able to move around the title screen.

The simple graphics are a boon with the simple controls; you click and drag your painters to different areas to rest, paint, or make paint. Simple as that!

There’s also a bit of replayability right at the getgo. When you make your character, you get to choose from a number of details, such as clothing, gender, etc, but one point is the sexuality of the character. There’s a note on homosexuality that it was something you could be arrested and killed for, making me wonder if a homosexual character will die off sooner rather than later or have more jail time.

Each of the three locations also grants a bonus, which means a different focus. One location gives a bonus to paintings you sell, while another gives bonuses for “great works” that are completed. This almost makes me want to make another save in the other locations just to see how things pan out.

Besides, what other game lets you paint besides DaVinci?
Besides, what other game lets you paint besides DaVinci?

As you play, you are given a number of opportunities to expand your shop. While you have to expand it physically, you can also expand by getting more artists. You are given random notes when you can hire a “famous” artist, and you can also send one of your artists out for a set period of time (at the cost of money as well) to seek talent. The latter approach is much cheaper, but doesn’t always pan out as well as you’d like, making it a gamble.

I have a feeling hiring him is going to be expensive.
I have a feeling hiring him is going to be expensive.

I think my favorite touch here is the amount of history that the developers have snuck in. You get notes about the deaths of members of the De Medici, deaths of sculptors, and other big events that took place in Italy during the time you are living through.

Some of these events are interesting.
Some of these events are interesting.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the music (as you can purchase it as an extra or as a digital deluxe version). It’s classy and reminiscent of the period. Rather relaxing as well, which helps offset the fast pace you sometimes get. The music reminded me a bit of the first level of Braid, honestly, which had an amazing soundtrack as well.

==The Bad==

As I noted before, the art style is very simplistic. It’s almost contradictory considering the theme of being an artist during (arguably) the best time for art. This may be a turnoff to some who don’t like the type of art.

One of my biggest gripes was the lack of a tutorial. There was nothing helping you get started in this; you are frankly thrown in the midst of it and told to figure it out. Sure, you get some windows warning you when things are amiss (like when you run out of paint), but it would have been nice to understand how “yearly fees” are handled in game (so yes, you pay taxes), how the timers work, etc.

Patrons get angry and leave without a timer. They will also quit if you don't finish your job fast enough, as noted in the bar above the painting. You need to beat that white bar or lose all of the paint and progress.
Patrons get angry and leave without a timer. They will also quit if you don’t finish your job fast enough, as noted in the bar above the painting.
You need to beat that white bar or lose all of the paint and progress.

The early part of the game is an insane balancing act. You have one painter, but if you want to expand, you’ll need money, which means more jobs. Of course, you only have one person to paint, mix paints, and do Great Projects. This gets frustrating, as the character also needs to sleep, and the early part of the game ensures that you stay broke for a while (two hours in, I finally have three artists, still broke).

And some projects take 3 or more artists. I saw one that required four in the first two hours!
And some projects take 3 or more artists. I saw one that required four in the first two hours!

A minor annoyance is how the artists act. If you don’t assign them a task, they will just stand there instead of moving to a bed or a paint mixer. Slightly frustrating, but it does add to the challenge, making it a double-edged complaint.

Allowing your artist to acquire a mastery isn’t always clear cut. The first time I ran into that, I purchased a special canvas and set my artist to work, but he wasn’t making progress. I saved, turned off the game, came back to it, and the canvas (with progress) was gone. Thankfully I was able to give him another (as there’s a note: if you fail, it can’t be tried again).

On a similar note, some artists need to go on a journey through the country to become a Master. While out and about, they continue to get exhausted, sometimes to the point of death; apparently they don’t rest. This was rather frustrating to deal with, as it involved spending florins on travel, plus florins on a doctor, with the hopes they’ll survive. In my first case, they didn’t survive, costing me nearly 500 florins (or about 4-5 Great Works) as they didn’t rest on their travel. Ducky. Granted, you get a warning it’s a health risk, but it is rather frustrating to see a well-rested painter just suddenly die off.

As a final note, and this is a matter of preference: play the game with sound effects off. While playing the game and moving your artists, they make…”sounds.” My wife, who was sitting nearby as I was playing, stopped what she was doing to ask if I was playing something related to porn due to the specific sounds being made. Easily remedied, but not very classy.

==The Verdict==

If you enjoy management sims, you really can’t go wrong with it. While it can be a bit frustrating due to a lack of better explanations/tutorial, it is easy enough to figure out and roll with. You will get a fast-paced sim game that requires a great deal of micromanaging (but on a repeated formula), so be prepared to act fast!

Fixes have already been added to date, so if they address a few of the above issues in new patches, I can say this is well worth the money.

Just remember that your character WILL die. Not sure if the game has any other ending yet. . .
Just remember that your character WILL die. Not sure if the game has any other ending yet. . .

If you hate management sims, then give it a pass and find something else to play. Why not take a look at some of the projects that Lucas has made before (and you can play for free); I’m sure there’s something you can find within the eclectic collection.

Painter’s Guild can be purchased on Steam in a Standard (9.99) or Deluxe Edition (13.99). The Deluxe Edition includes the lovely soundtrack of the game, which is 5.99 when purchased alone.

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