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Guild Wars: Factions Review

publisher: NCSoft
developer: Arena Net
genre: RPG

PIII 800, 256MB RAM, 2GB HDD, 64MB video card
ESRB rating: T

release date: Apr 28, 06
» All About Guild Wars: Factions on ActionTrip

Given the rules of the cutthroat world of business, do you think that people at NCSoft like and respect the guys from Blizzard? Wait, let me rephrase that: I have to assume they surely do not *like* them, but do you think that feelings render into this equation at all, or is it all just politics devoid of any emotions? Guild Wars, unlike some other releases from NCSoft, doesn't follow the typical MMO model, but it still plays like a MMO game in many regards. So given the phenomenal success of WOW, and the relatively overlapping target audience of these two games, isn't it logical to assume that NCSoft management is thinking something along the lines of: "...if only we didn't have those bastards breathing down our necks every step of the way..." To be honest with you, that's exactly what I'd be thinking. But I'm a petty, petty soul.

With the latest stand-alone game in the Guild Wars universe, Guild Wars: Factions, NCSoft shows they are unwilling to part from their unique design philosophy for the franchise, regardless of how the competition may be doing. All jokes about their gay-looking character models aside (yes, Rangers still look like "Wham" male groupies), one can only commend NCSoft for setting up a great infrastructure for Guild Wars. You buy the product; it's not subscription-based, the servers appear stable and they are set up in such a way so that you always end up in "realms" (or "districts" as they call them) with the highest population of players, and the patching process is extremely efficient. To top that off, the community team is constantly coming up with PVP-oriented competitions and new content.

Speaking of new content, however, many players (including this reviewer), after finishing the main campaign in Guild Wars (and hitting the level cap), simply felt there was nothing worthwhile to keep them playing.

This is something that the team at NCSoft has definitely tried fixing in Factions. The game follows the same model overall as the original game. You have your main campaign set in Cantha, an Asian-inspired three-nation continent far to the south of the lands of Tyria, the setting for the original Guild Wars campaign. You can level to 20 again, as well as choose a secondary class as you go through the story missions. Each story mission offers experience according to how well you performed and how many additional tasks you completed. Players are encouraged to take other players on the harder missions (rather than the relatively daft Henchmen NPCs). As you approach the resolution of the main story, playing with AI will be very hard, given that some missions will require coordination and specific skills from the skill pool. Still, the story itself didn't feel as epic as the original. Obviously, the team didn't have enough time to flesh it out properly.

The good news for Guild Wars newbies is that you can play Factions without ever playing the original game. People who own both games, however, will be getting some cross-content stuff and will be able to take the boat to the new continent, so everything works out pretty well.

The way that the developers want to keep you hooked to the game after you've finished the main campaign is definitely through the PVP and the Elite Mission PVE systems unique to Factions: "Alliances belong to one of two warring factions, the Kurzick or the Luxon, and being a member of an alliance allows participation in alliance battles. Victory in an alliance battle earns faction points, and members can spend their points individually or they can add them to the alliance bank, which will enable the alliance to acquire control of towns and outposts. The outcome of these battles influences the progress of the war between the two factions. The current battle lines, and indications of the control of cities and towns, are always visible on the world map. Guild membership in Guild Wars Factions is extremely appealing and interesting for both cooperative and PvP players. By joining an alliance and achieving success with Alliance Battles, your guild gains control of high-level towns. With that control, guild members acquire access to elite cooperative content. In Factions, the strongest guilds most likely will not be made up exclusively of PvP or cooperative players. The strongest guilds will be a combination of both types of players, and such a combination will result in benefits for all members."

As always, you can create your high level PVP character right off the bat, so it's not mandatory to play through the main campaign.
In regards to player classes, two new ones make their way into the game: Ritualist and Assassin. The Assassin class is a high DPS dealing melee class, while the Ritualist is a support class, summoning powerful spirits to aid the group in combat or providing buffs for party members. I chose to level a Ritualist to 20, and I must say I was disappointed with the wide variety of skills on offer. Not efficient as a healer and yet hardly what you might call a DPS class, the Ritualist simply doesn't offer the kind of impact you'd expect a fun class to have on a group, or on the PVP scene (a Ritualist is like a Shaman sans burst damage). Luckily, you still get to choose your secondary class, which was a Necromancer in my case. Raising minions from the corpses of the fallen enemies, draining life and cursing whatever is still a very fun thing to do.

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8.5   Very Good

NCSoft delivers a new Asian-flavored adventure that is sure to appeal to GW fans, huge amount of new content, all of the stuff that was good about the original;

Ritualist class feels bland, the new hardcore stuff takes too much time and dedication, yet the core mechanics of combat don't feel right; the game's specific itemization policy might not appeal to some RPG fans.


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