Friday, 9 October 2015

Painters Guild

System(s): PC

Genre: Simulation

Developer: Lucas Molina
Publisher: Lucas Molina

Release Date:
1 September, 2015

Steam Greenlight is now a massive source of new indie titles. There are literally thousands being approved and made for Valve's digital distribution platform. Most have, unfortunately, been little more than clones of other popular games such as Minecraft, Day-Z, pixelated retro 2D platformers or RPG's in the style of Ys or Final Fantasy. Once in a blue moon, however, a unique, quirky game like Painters Guild comes along.

Painters Guild is a one man project, a labour of love. Its relatively low retail price reflects that. You play a Renaissance artist, painting for clients, creating masterpieces, doing works for the church and training apprentices through your guild. The game progresses from the beginning of the Renaissance until 1620, during which time painters will make a name for themselves, make money and die, passing the mantle to new generations of painters.

The gameplay is very simple, but addictive. You start with your painter, whom you can customise to your satisfaction - male or female, bearded or un-bearded, with hat or without. If you want, you can even make that character gay. Obviously that is something that will potentially come into play later given the time period it's set in. You then pick one of three Italian cities that will give you different bonuses. Clients then shuffle over to your guild at a steady rate, as you assign your avatar to paint, after which a meter comes up showing his progress. Most of your time will be spent watching those little meters fill up for nearly every task, and managing your tasks effectively. Once the painting is finished, an arrow appears, you click and you get money. You also have to keep an eye on your paint levels, and will need to periodically mix paint to ensure your supplies don't get too low. That's not all - your painters will get tired, and you will need a bed to rest them in from time to time.

Painters Guild has a bit more depth than simply earning money, thankfully. Your job is made more complicated by skill levels of individual artists. By hiring apprentices, you can then teach them (and your original painter) to increase the number that represents their skill level. Your main artist will usually be quite competent, allowing you a fair start, but each apprentice you hire will require a great amount of training. When hiring a new painter you can pick from three apprentices instantaneously in your local district each month if you're low on cash. Early on, this will be your main source of new painters. If you have a little more, you can spend 250 gold and wait 50 days searching a little wider, or spend double the money and time searching to get the best available in the country. When a painter becomes skilled enough, they will become a 'Journeyman' and will go soul searching on a trip, which costs money, but will make them a better painter. Once they come back, they can attempt mastery by painting a masterpiece, giving mostly the same effect except it's much more like painting for clients.

Periodically, historical geniuses like Leonardo Da Vinci will crop up, allowing you to hire them for your guild. Painters have their own personalities and strengths or weaknesses, as well as their own styles they paint in. Clients will request a particular style, so it pays to have multiple painters with differing styles to meet demand and maximise profit. Every once in a while your artist may get into trouble and require financial assistance to get them out of it, as well as being potentially infected by disease or persecuted for homosexuality by the church.

Your guild building can also be customised with furnishings that will have various effects, like a larger bed to fit more painters, a desk to increase skill faster, models, and also d├ęcor and even a prettier building that will boost prestige and give you richer clients that pay better. Every once in a while you will get a request to paint a mural for a church building, known as a 'great work.' These are often slightly more lucrative, but result in your painter being absent for a few days. You can assign multiple painters to some of the bigger great works, although some sections of the building will require a particular style of mural.

Although before playing Painters Guild I felt like the pixelated art style had been done to death on Steam, I must admit it grew on me in this game thanks to some elements of the presentation. The setting largely helped me get over my initial scepticism, and a great deal of love and care obviously went into making the historical setting believable. The music is charming and very strongly sticks to the renaissance style. It's just a shame that there aren't more locations to see. The only real way to see any different scenery is to start a new game in a new city.

Some other noticeable strokes of genius include the pixelated versions of classical paintings, like Da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa' or Michelangelo's 'The Creation of Adam' and the way great works reflect the reality that the most lucrative contracts made by artists at the time were commissioned by the church. I did feel like there could have been a bigger reward for this though, as it only made slightly more in-game than individual paintings, especially given great works only crop up every few months and sometimes require multiple painters, leaving you with a virtually empty guild.

Overall though, Painters Guild has plenty to keep you busy. Its a very addictive style of gameplay, and will probably keep you entertained for some time while you juggle various tasks. Unfortunately, it isn't particularly deep beyond continuing the cycle of making money, expanding the guild's size and prestige and hiring new painters. In that sense the game isn't really that unique in its approach, as the game ultimately doesn't lead anywhere, something many games with this style of gameplay also have a problem with.


Summary

+ Unique setting that is faithful to the time period
+ Plenty of customisation
+ Great music, art style and presentation
+ Rare good use of pixelated graphics on Steam

- Gameplay, while addictive, does get repetitive quickly
- Very little variety of locations
- Great works could have been reflected better with more prestige and money


Overall Score

6/10
 

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