Guild Wars: Factions PC Review

The original Guild Wars was the first time I really got into an online RPG. Notice I say RPG rather than MMORPG because Guild Wars was different. Although thousands could be playing online at any one time, you would only ever see these people in the city hub areas. Once you ventured out into the game world, that world was yours…the game instanced a version of the game world just for you and you alone. This was only one way that Guild Wars tried to break the mould, the other, and most obvious one, was the fact that there were no monthly fees…that’s right, nothing at all, it was free and you could play as much or as little as you wanted. The idea was always that Guild Wars would fund itself through a series of expansion packs, planned to be released twice yearly.

The first of those is now upon us in Factions, although the surprises keep coming. Rather than being an expansion pack as we know it, this certainly does expand the original game, but remarkably it is also a completely stand alone game, meaning you can play this without even owning the original. You’ll certainly have an advantage if you own the first game, but the fact that you don’t need to is yet another masterstroke in this series.

Graphically, the game has had a bit of spit and polish. It’s not vastly different to Guild Wars, but it’s like you’ve shined that favourite pair of shoes…it’s ostensibly the same but just that little bit better. The character models remain superb and the environments expansive and impressive. You’ll certainly feel like this is a huge world and it’s yours to explore.

Factions takes place on the new continent of Cantha which has a distinctly Asian feel to it. If you own only this game, then Cantha is yours to explore to the full. If you also own the original Guild Wars, you can travel between Tyria and Cantha at will. You can soon see how, with the forthcoming planned expansions, this will soon become a gargantuan game world to play in. Cantha has 15 core missions to play through and countless optional quests given to you by in-game characters. Again, this is a big game and will take a good number of hours just to complete the storyline in the expansion. The sound does an excellent job of following the action, dynamically changing to suit the mood and current situation. Environmental sounds and sounds of combat are particularly impressive and all add to the feeling of immersion in the new continent.

The single player component is only the beginning, much as it was with Guild Wars. The game contains a very complete and fantastic PvP mode, and this is enhanced in this game by the presence of two very different factions, the Kurzicks and the Luxons. These two civilisations are at war with each other and are determined to wipe each other out. Think Lycans and Vampires in Underworld and you have a picture of the feud going on here. Players must decide which faction to join, and that will instantly make members of the other faction sworn enemies. This adds a great deal of spice to the proceedings and is a really good addition to the game. Players can instantly create a full powered level 20 character in the game, although this character can only be used in the PvP component. If you want to play through the quests, and you will want to, then there is no short cut… your character must be levelled up as usual.

New to this game are the Assassin and Ritualist classes. The Assassin plays much like a super quick warrior and is great for beginners. The Ritualist is a magic type who has a lot more depth and may well be ultimately more effective for skilled players.

The game runs as well as ever online with no real lag as long as you have a decent connection. However, the extra graphical bells and whistles come at the cost of some slowdown on this reviewer’s machine…an Athlon XP2800+, a Geforce 6800GT and a gigabyte of memory. This is the first game that has really made my machine feel its age, so there are clearly a lot of DX9 effects going on here.

The game remains free to play and this is surely its greatest strength. How many times have you paid for other online games and then ceased your subscription as you didn’t feel you were playing enough to get your money’s worth? There’s none of that here, and it’s all the better for it.

This is a big game, as big as the original with a good 20+ hours in the story mode. The PvP adds potentially endless replay value here and with more expansion packs planned, this is a growing world you will want to remain a part of. Another top class effort, then, that continues to rewrite the rules of the online RPG, and long may it continue.

This is a growing world you will want to remain a part of.

9 out of 10