Have you ever wanted to open your own business that caters and serves the public’s appetite? Have you ever wanted to be a connoisseur of an artsy desire? Well, in Enlight’s recent development, Restaurant Empire 2, players get to experience the highs and lows of running their own business without the fear of ruining their financial history, their own health, and the normal headache that comes with the long hours. Actually, long hours can be expected.
The game can be divided into three distinct parts; there is the tutorial campaign, which is Restaurant Empire 1, there is the second campaign, which is Restaurant Empire 2, and a sandbox style, which allows players to manage their own restaurant empire without the story and goal objectives.
The game uses the original as a step-by-step tutorial to introduce players to the mechanics of the game. The player assumes the role of Armand LeBoeuf. He is a young French chef who takes over his uncle’s restaurant and begins to make a name. Through the assistance of his uncle, an organized crime boss, and various culinary artists, Armand battles against the evil Omnifood who are notorious for bringing down competitor’s restaurants. In an attempt to be noticed as a world class chef, Armand and company fight against the grain to achieve wealth and fame.
After the introduction, players begin campaign two. Campaign two is essentially Restaurant Empire 2. The events of the sequel begin shortly after the original. The campaign starts out with Armand and his new wife, Delia, returning from their honeymoon. While sitting together, Delia brings up her desire to start a café business. Through the pressures of wealth, fame and expanding businesses, it is up to the player to set up Delia independent of her husband while maintaining Armand’s restaurant empire.
Much of the mechanics revolve around three distinct categories: food, service, and décor. Much of the game involves the player setting up and updating a restaurant’s menu. Depending on the popularity and how high the restaurant is rated, players have to manipulate menu prices and manage ingredient quality. On top of that, players have to decide whether a specific dish belongs on the menu.
Food management is probably the most time consuming and most difficult aspect of the game. Early, it’s not too bad because players will throw whatever dish on the menu that comes his or her way, but when players begin to open new restaurants, it marks the point where food selection becomes extremely difficult. The food management screens are difficult to navigate and bring the efficiency of micro-managing way down.
A player will have to cycle between the menu screen to control prices, the employee screens to determine who is best suited to cook what dish, navigate through the quality control list to determine the quality of ingredients, and perform the process over again jumping from restaurant to restaurant. It’s a big headache. On the other hand, there is a high degree of satisfaction when finally getting a menu just right that caters to your customer’s expectations.
In the early stages of a new restaurant, hiring quality employees is a difficult task to manage. Players will quickly learn that much of the customer complaints come from discrepancies with employees. Not to mention, you’ll receive a vast number of complaints about people not receiving their food on time. To solve this problem, the developers implemented a system where players can allocate X amount of revenue toward employee training. Although you may be limited about how many employees you can hire, you’re not limited to how efficient they can be. It’s a simple and easy touch.
The last mechanic, decoration and setup, is the most intimidating factor early in the game. Players will have to set up two levels with proper decorations, tables, lighting, bathrooms, kitchens, café area and exterior view. The hardest part is setting up tables and decorations in an efficient manner that packs as many people into the building that doesn’t affect the serene ambiance of the restaurant. The restaurant is too noisy, the waiters are slow, the waiting staff don’t greet me, complain, complain, and complain. These are just a handful of complaints you can expect. On the other hand, after a few trial runs the process quickly becomes easier. Although, sometimes I wish there wasn’t an upstairs.
When talking about Restaurant Empire 2, it’s hard not to mention Maxis’ early Sim City games and what that has gone on to inspire; e.g. The Sims. There are many similarities between the two franchises, but there is one distinct difference that I like what Enlight has done over Maxis. They implemented a story mode that progressively sets goals for players.
Sure, in Sim City, you try to achieve certain population levels to unlock new technologies and perks, but Restaurant Empire 2 has set up a series of levels, which set standards that players have to meet in order to progress, or else you have to start the level over after a set amount of time. For example, some of the goals are: obtain a three star rating, win the Italian cook off competition, and make a profit of $25,000 to advance to the next level. It keeps the game fresh, and players have something to look forward to. Essentially, there is an ending to a very time consuming game. Conversely, if you like the never-ending saga, there’s a sandbox mode where gamers can play forever.
From the 2003 original to the 2009 sequel, there really hasn’t been much of an upgrade for the game. Restaurant Empire 2 doesn’t show an improvement in graphics, and the mechanics are virtually the same. Aside from a story addition and the inclusion of German cuisine, there really isn’t much a difference from the original.
Players will find the in-game voices a bit too similar to The Sims language; it’s the garble and non-translatable language. Similarly, when players first meet Armand, you’ll quickly notice his voice does not match up with his words. Quite frankly, the voice delivery is quite awful. Luckily, the graphics and sounds are not a huge part to the game. Whereas many other games are heavily based upon it, this game eludes it.
Finally, when you play through Restaurant Empire 2, you’ll develop mixed feelings for it. You’ll find that many of the mechanics and features could be improved if the developers implemented this or did that differently.
You’ll find the graphics irrelevant, but for some strange reason, you’ll be curiously drawn to the game play despite some of the hardships found within. Occasionally you’ll feel a bit overwhelmed, especially when your restaurants are doing poorly. Often times, instead of starting a new game, you’ll be sitting there going down with the restaurant after it hits the ice berg.
For a serious gamer, I’d highly discourage buying this title, but for a casual player who has to pick one game a year, I would highly recommend this. With the three modes to choose from: i.e. the first campaign, the second campaign, and the sandbox mode, you’ll be hooked for hours on end. Trust me; Restaurant Empire 2 will last a very long time.
Between the first title and the sequel there isn’t much of an upgrade. There is an added storyline, but the graphics are dated, and there is very little change of core mechanics.
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Managing a chain of restaurants, employing a coherent staff, and tailoring a menu is extremely overwhelming, but oddly, the game has a ton of addictive properties.
You’ll find that in-game character voices resemble The Sims and when the players do have speaking parts their words don’t match up to their speaking animations.
The overall complexity of the game can deter players from playing, but overall, the various modes will keep gamers entertained for a very long time.
While much of the time you’ll wonder how you managed to progress to the next level based on the complexity of the game, many will ultimately find the game to be very thorough and addictive.