Reviews: Guilded Age

What even is this?

A small group of people who feel their smallness in the world around them but have the drive and desire and hope that they can change the world in meaningful ways. But they don't require an artificial threat for them to solve, a wizard whose invulnerable to armies but oddly weak to diverse groups of 5-6 people. They want to affect the world as it is, into something better. This is a group of people who are as likely to heroically negotiate for peace as to stab someone.

There are plenty of fantasy stories that deal with politics and social issues, the difference is they're normally about leaders and factions and people being tossed around in their world, whereas Guilded Age is definitely about an adventuring group. But an adventuring group who on some level want to fight racism. They go on special missions, they train people, they dabble in politics and acquire power for people to take them seriously but they retain those small family relationships of stories about more prosaic adventures. They act as diplomats, but diplomats who understand the 'carry a big stick' part of the famous equation and indeed there are people who need to be stuck.

And yet the characters are so real and fully dimensioned, in their own way they're all idealistic hopeful and competent people who can catch glimpses of a shared dream. I've never seen people like this before or who behave like this. Two people enter into a stable relationship with proper affection and challenges that both partners are willing to overcome. Despite how it seems at the start, the story doesn't rely on a lot of charged conflict between the party members. They've got their own personalities and motivations, but they're reasonable people who understand that leaderships need to change and are perfectly willing to stay at home and attend council meetings with the rest of the party going off somewhere else if that's what will have the most successful outcome.

And then there is the twist. It's a good twist and it would transform a generic fantasy story into something special, but this story was already something special and I didn't need it to change. For the most part I've been ignoring it and the slow update schedules of webcomics (although this one is every weekday) allows that to work, eventually I'll have to face up to it. But this is so good and so different, it's worth it.

Spoiler Free Review About Whether You Should Be Reading This

The title is, well, you know.

This comic is very enjoyable. It's not exactly revolutionary, but it does very well with the usual things. The art is nice to look at, the humor is top notch and approaches lampshading without ever diving right into parody, and the character interactions with each other and setting are interesting in it of themselves.

This review, however, is something of a warning. In Chapter 9, things... change. Depending on why you liked the first few chapters, it may simply be too much for you. I can't say too much about what that change is, but it's enough to upset the setting and severely shake up the story. I

That is not to say things change completely. Everything you liked about the first part comes back and doesn't show any sign of being shunted aside because of the change. Even the plot twist itself hasn't been fully explored yet and it is beginning to appear things may not have been shifted as much as people might think.

So why should you read it? It's witty. It does interesting things with the usual tropes and setting. The characters alone are enough to entertain you.

Why not: Things are going to change. Not totally, and they still aren't done yet, but this it isn't going to be all that pretty when you get to Chapter 9. It's not going to be a simple read.

My recommendation: Read it. Even if you feel ambivalent about a sudden shift in the story, it's good enough to warrant a try.