Guild Wars: Factions (PC) Reviews

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Guild Wars: Factions (PC)

By: Rex Inego | Jul 12, 2006 04:03 PM

The original Guild Wars was released last year to huge critical acclaim, predominantly because it was one of the first MMORPG?s (massively multiplayer online role playing games) to have no monthly fees attached. The game itself combined most of the best aspects of the genre and expanded upon them to give an utterly charming experience, which is still deeply revered a year or so later. So like many others, when the standalone expansion Factions was unveiled, I was awash with an interfusion of scepticism and apprehension. After all, how much could actually be improved within a year of release? The answer? Quite a lot. This game is brimming with new content, new experiences and new ways to play.

It?s not a secret that these types of games have an element of exclusivity to them. New players are often found complaining about the sheer level of complexity and/or depth contained within MMORPG?s. Thankfully Guild Wars: Factions caters for newer players through the implementation of guides and training sessions near the beginning, without compromising the experience for the more veteran players amongst us. Since the game is a standalone package, it caters for both the new and the old. Those with both games will be able to access new content and have extra character slots but new players shouldn't worry about being underclassed or overwhelemed as this certainly isn't the case at all. On the grand scale of things, the benefit of having both games is minimalistic due to the game being more than just a simple expansion pack.

The underlying premise of the game builds upon the formula of the original. You control a single character who has access to a wide variety of unique abilities. Eight of which can be equipped at any one time. Does that sound familiar? That's because it is. The tricky part is knowing which ability to use at which time. It's slightly reminiscent to the development of a good card deck in a collectible card game. Each character class is designed to be balanced and there is no one character class that is truely superior to the rest, as each class has strengths and weaknesses that can be utilized by both the character and their foe in the midst of battle. The real key is preparation and experimentation. The more experience you gain with the game, the more efficient your choice of manevours gets and through trial-and-error techniques it's easy to figure out which move is the most proficient on which enemy.

Although both Prophecies and Factions are undeniably figuratively intertwined, the same cannot be said about their landscapes. Whereas the first game took place on the massive sprawling Western-medievil continent of Tyria, the sequel introduces the Asian-inspired continent of Cantha, which blends together Chinese and Japanese influences to create a detailed, yet surprisingly lonely landscape which is highly complimented by Jeremy Soule's epic composition. Despite the sheer size of this new landscape, it's easy to move around to places you've already been in a matter of seconds with the mere click of a button. You can still move around the continent on foot and the loading times are brief but this addition cuts out needless backtracking.

Rather than sticking with the same character classes of the original, Factions throws two new classes into the mix. These are the Assassin and the Ritualist. The Assassin hits hard and quick and is able to string together dagger combo attacks which build in intensity and damage. In the PVP (Player VS Player) segment of the game, the Assassin is one of the most lethal character classes because of the combination of speed and deadliness the character exhibits. The main downside is that Assassin's have paper-thin armour, meaning they have to make use of teleportation and ninja skills to stay alive. On the PVE (Player VS Enemy) side of things, the Assassin can be seen as unreliable due to the spontaneous nature of the character. The Ritualist is almost the complete opposite to the Assassin because it plays like the ultimate hybrid class of Necromancer, Healer and Mage. Ritualists call upon nature and ancestral spirits to heal and strengthen their party or cause massive lightning damage. They're somewhat mediocre in PVP but they really shine in PVE because of the flexibility of their powers. A major disappointment with the inclusion of these characters is the fact that you can't start off in the original Prophecies campaign as either of them if you own the original Guild Wars, however you can work your way up to where they get to the lands of Tyria by ship and vice versa if you have existing characters on Tyria.

The role-playing portion of the game is a somewhat hit or miss affair. It doesn't quite have the same epic feel to it as its predecessor, mainly because it seems to rush you all the way up to the game's maximum character level of twenty in no time at all. This is especially highlighted in mission scenarios as every time you complete a new quest, you are smothered with experience and skill points. This simply means that there is no real need for exploration or side-quests as by the time you reach level twenty you'll have no real reason to develop your character any further unless you're a perfectionist. The story revolves around a plague which is causing Cantha's populace to turn into aberrations. It is told mostly through cutscenes involving stereotypically bland voice actors and text windows. Despite these minor setbacks the story is adequate but not quite engrossing enough. The questing process itself is instanced, meaning players form groups in towns and cities but generate their own private mission zone. This is a breath of fresh air as it eliminates a lot of the more frustrating aspects of the genre such as other players kill stealing or intervening in matters that don't concern them. Unfortunately in the earlier parts of the game, it can be hard to form a party due to the constant stream of conversations emerging between various different characters. Luckily you can enter the mission zones with A.I provided by the game but as you'd come to expect, they aren't as intelligent or motivated as a human player and can let you down on certain missions. The mission zone system does have a lot of benefits as it eliminates the ugly realities of MMORPG games and demonstrates exactly what teamwork is about, but it also eliminates the level of freedom a player can have within the world of Cantha. The mission zone is primarily designed for you and your party alone meaning that for the mostpart there are no other players anywhere in sight. It really depends on the users preferences as to whether he or she will adapt to these new surroundings. It can be quite a lonely experience at times, but occasionally that feeling of loneliness transcends into happiness at the thought that Arena.net designed a world specifically for you and your companions.

The PVP side to the game takes place between the two continents on the Battle Isles. Just like the first game, Factions allows you to create a high-level PVP-only character at any time who'll be limited to engaging in combat through competitive matches. Unfortunately this character won't be able to experience the storyline or see much of the world of the game. Still, it should be noted that PVP combat is where some of the most exciting action takes place. The PVP section is a lot more pick-up-and-play than the roleplaying section because those who want to dive right into some PVP combat can enter random arenas which automatically assign you to a small team and let you battle the rival team until either side is wiped out. Larger battles are usually a lot more organised and can contain certain objectives which are more than just 'kill the other side'.

Player guilds are a key part of the game and this is emphasised early on as the game pushes you to get yourself into one. As guilds grow stronger and more influential, they may earn their own luxurious guild halls. This means many guilds regularly fight against eachother in tournaments to become a more recognised and powerful authority across the land. The ''Factions'' from the title builds upon this, as it is now possible to have alliance battles between multiple player guilds under either the Kurzick or Luxon factions. As one side or the other wins successive battles, the borders between these warring factions shift back and forth, granting one side or the other control over additional outposts. Though, the losing side can never be completely eliminated and as the borders push deeper into the losing side's territory, it gains natural advantages in the maps where the fighting takes place. There aren't all that many alliance-battle maps, but this tug-of-war setup keeps the game's factions busy for a while. Winners of alliance battles earn faction points, redeemable for special rewards. You also gain this type of currency for killing other players and winning battles in standard PVP matches. There are also new cooperative-based challenge missions that are also tied to the factions systems, allowing alliance members to contribute to the cause without having to viciously battle other players.

Pros: - Beautifully designed - More than just an expansion - Grandeur scale of design - Epic in nearly every way - No subscription charges - Strategic teamwork

cons: - Storyline could be improved - Hit or miss gameplay value

conclusion: Overall, Guild Wars: Factions is much more than a yearly expansion. It's a whole new standalone experience. With the addition of two new characters, new ways to play and a whole new landscape, this is a game designed for both new players and the old guard. There is quite literally something for everyone. Naturally there are some elements that can be a little off-putting to some players, especially those who aren't quite as experienced with the genre, but most of these problems iron out within a few hours of play. The social and roleplaying aspect of the title could be improved, but the fact that it has no subscription charges should make this game a lot more appealing to the potential consumer. You couldn't ask for much more out of an MMORPG. 7.7

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