Guild Wars: Factions Reader Review
If NCSoft followed the conventions of other Online RPGs, Guild Wars Factions (GWF) would be a lucrative expansion for the original Guild Wars game. But it's not; it's a complete standalone game packed full of new competitive player versus player (PvP) features and a new continent to explore.
The core game is unchanged from the first, you can still choose to follow the RPG storyline and team up with other players or go it alone with NPC henchman as team mates, instead. The game still uses private, or 'instanced', areas between permanent outposts and, of course, you're able to jump into team-based PvP with a level 20 character from the start. This time though, custom 'builds' designed by the top tournament guilds will help you crack some heads or run away much faster.
GWF sits comfortably with the old. If you played the first game you'll notice familiar heroes that have turned up to help and later you can even ship your new Asian-inspired characters back to Tyria. Cantha, the new continent is a pastiche of numerous Far Eastern cultures with a political landscape modeled loosely on Imperial China.
Considering the game engine is now a year old, the world looks surprisingly detailed, enhanced by atmospheric musical compositions that frame the world very well and sound effects which add just a little extra adrenaline to the combat. It's often easy to forget that there's no subscription fee, when the game is crammed full of new quests, cooperative missions, places to explore, objects to collect and chests to open and even special player titles to attain.
However, while GWF benefits from two new classes, new skills and enemies, and the legacy of the first game's strengths, it also suffers from the same problems. The world is attractive, but the characters that inhabit it are decidedly lacklustre. And like many online RPGs,it has a very generic and ultimately forgettable high fantasy storyline. Surprisingly, finding mission parties still involves shouting your head off in the middle of town and wasting half an hour, while the NPC party members haven't been upgraded enough to make them a worthy alternative for the harder missions.
But the game wouldn't get the addendum 'Factions' without adding a little competition. Guilds are now forced to pick between two warring factions and as well as the usual tournament ladders and guild wars, groups of guilds can create an alliance for much larger battles over in-game territory. Not everyone is likely to experience this aspect of game, since only the best alliances will get territory to defend. But to compensate there are numerous types of competitive missions to complete, some are part of the story, others are designed to challenge your team play against waves of enemies, while other elite missions offer rare items as a reward.
Considering that GWF is a full game that costs a mere £18 (www.play.com) and offers months of content for the casual player and a home for the more dedicated, it puts most MMOs to shame � and I didn't mention World of Warcraft once...
8 / 10