Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Lucas Molina for the review copy of Painters Guild that was used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
What Is Painters Guild?
Painters Guild is basically a casual management sim crossed with some time management game elements. As you can probably expect from the title, the game puts you in charge of an painters’ guild and tasks you with hiring and training artists, fulfilling painting commissions, and expanding and customizing your guild with furniture and other items. You start with a single painter (which you get to name yourself) and finish paintings until you can hire (and train) an apprentice to help out. From there, you continue to expand your operation until it becomes a prestigious academy (or you get bored of it and decide to quit).
While most of the game is as simple as making sure your artists are rested, keeping your mixed paint stock up, training your understudies, and completing your commissions, there are a few random events that can change things. Your artists can be accused of sodomy (historically punishable by death) or arrested, forcing you to either pay a fine or lose your painter for a certain amount of time or even forever (if they are sentenced to death). Your artists also age and eventually die (usually in their fifties or sixties since this game takes place during the 16th and 17th centuries), forcing you to continuously teach up new talent to eventually replace your older painters.
Painters Guild was originally a free browser game on Kongregate, I’m not exactly sure what the Steam version adds (I can’t find a list and I never played the free version) but I’m assuming it’s quite a bit.
Pros and Cons of Painters Guild:
I’ve played about two hours worth of Painters Guild and while I had fun, there is one pretty significant problem with the game. I’ve only played two hours and I feel like I’ve already seen and done pretty much all the game has to offer. Painters Guild is quite limited as a game, it offers just one game mode and you basically just do the same thing over and over again in it. While it is pretty fun to manage your painters and fulfill commissions at first, it eventually just becomes a grind. You pretty much get into a cycle: you have one or two superstar artists who churn out great painting after great painting, you start training up their understudies (send them away for training and give them the chance to paint their masterpiece), your superstars start aging and becoming ill (you try to throw money at the problem but have a 50-50 chance of them still dying anyway), the understudies replace them when they die, and then you start training up new apprentices. The cycle continues on and on again with the only differences being the size of your guild and the prestige the previous generations of artists gave your establishment.
Even the day-to-day operation is basically the same. You’ll have one or two painters sleeping (to regain their energy), one or two of them mixing paint (so you don’t run out of it) and training, and another one or two fulfilling all of the orders (and going out to paint frescos in churches and other buildings). The only thing that really changes the cycle is the random events, and I’m not really a fan of some of them anyway.
I am glad that Painters Guild allows you to play as or hire gay artists but unfortunately, the game incorporates sexual orientation in a very strange way. While I know it makes sense historically (even though the people of the 16th and 17th century were clearly wrong to do so), it is a little disturbing to see your gay artists being accused of sodomy and put to death. If one of your artists are accused, you basically have to either pay a fine or sacrifice them if you don’t have the money. Sexual orientation never comes up in any other way (there aren’t any romance mechanics or anything like that) and it is very weird to have this very horrible but historically accurate death penalty in an otherwise completely PG game. There’s actually a chance that if you made your original artist gay (I made my first painter straight and even he got accused of sodomy when he was 58 years old), they could have their secret found out right away, killed, and your game is over in five or ten minutes. It sucks that being gay in this game gives you a disadvantage. I love it when games include minorities that aren’t usually included in games (whether it’s women, different ethnicities, or gay people), but I think Painters Guild went about it the wrong way. I know it is historically accurate but it just doesn’t seem right to have a game that puts gay people to death in the 21st century.
It is also pretty frustrating (and even a little sad) when your good painters age and start dying off. Since this game takes place 500 years ago, your artists will start dying off in their fifties and sixties and then you’ll have to promote your understudies to replace them and find new apprentices to train. While this is obviously necessary for a simulation game (otherwise you could just have one or two great artists paint everything and never have to do anything again), I do think they die off a little too quickly. It feels like you only have them around for thirty minutes to an hour before they are dead. If the game speed was slowed a little bit (so you at least had the chance to get attached to your painters), this wouldn’t be a problem. Another thing that should be nerfed a bit is the fact that there is still a 50-50 chance your painter will die even if you pay for treatment (there is a 70% they will die if you don’t pay up). Paying money and still having a 50-50 chance of losing your painter is a little ridiculous. The odds should change as the artist ages. When they are in their fifties or younger it should be like a 20% chance, a 30% chance in their sixties, and finally a 50% chance in their seventies or older. It’s not like it was that unusual for people to live into their seventies or eighties back then (Donatello lived to 80, Michelangelo was 88, etc.).
While there is no tutorial and it took me a few minutes to pick up some of the mechanics (I had no idea painters had stamina at first causing one of my painters to get sick early on), Painters Guild is still a very easy game to play. After you figure out the basic mechanics by yourself, the game is very simple with only a few things you need to keep track of. While Painters Guild is still technically a management simulation game, it is actually somewhat similar to Diner Dash and other casual time management games (but better than them). While the lack of different gameplay mechanics is a negative in my book, this could actually be a good thing for some players because it makes it much easier to pick up and play for casual gamers. Even though I consider myself a hardcore gamer, I occasionally have days where I just want to play something mindless but fun. Painters Guild is a pretty good option for days like that. Players who like sim games but don’t like how complicated some of them can be are pretty much the perfect audience for Painters Guild.
One thing Painters Guild has going for it is that it has a theme that hasn’t been done very often in video games, art. There aren’t a lot of games about art out there so if you are an artist looking for a game about your hobby, this is one of your only choices. Since Painters Guild is about painting, you would expect the game’s art to be pretty good and it is. While there are a lot of people who hate pixel art, I love it and this game has some really good examples of how the style can be beautiful. I especially like that famous paintings like the Mona Lisa have been recreated in pixel form. Some of the paintings your artists paint look awesome and I would gladly hang a full size version of them in my house if they were actually real. In addition, the game’s music is very relaxing and I would actually consider listening to it outside of the game.
Bang for Your Buck:
While $9.99 isn’t an outrageous price, I do think Painters Guild is a little overpriced for the relatively low amount of features and repetitive gameplay the game has to offer. I’ve only played about two hours but I’m already starting to get somewhat bored of doing the same thing over and over again. However, Painters Guild is the type of game that I will put an hour or two into every so often when I don’t want to play anything too complicated. I could see myself getting eight to ten hours out of the game when all is said and done. I personally would wait for at least a slightly better deal before purchasing Painters Guild unless you are really drawn in by the concept.
While this review probably sounds pretty negative overall, Painters Guild isn’t actually that bad of a game. It just isn’t deep enough to justify the $9.99 pricetag. I wish the game would have included some more mechanics to keep it from feeling so grindy (you mostly just do the same things over and over again). However, if you like casual games, are interested in art, or are looking for a less complicated management simulator game, Painters Guild could be for you.