It always was a strange game, this Guild Wars thing. I mean, a hybrid traditional RPG with major MMO elements, without a subs fee? It sounded like insanity from day one, but that final characteristic, as well as its huge playable areas, tons of skills and character builds, and innate skill-swapping fireball-throwing group questing charm on a huge scale. GW has missions, quests, sub-quests, PvE, PvP, trading, running, mercenaries, and a host of agreeable reviews from around the world. Massive in Korea, but spreading rapidly across the West, Guild Wars was a major success for professional bringers-of-MMOs NCSoft. And success breeds profit, and profit, for publishers, hopefully breeds more profit, hence the existence of the hugely generous new optional and stand-alone expansion, Guild Wars: Factions.
The game offers enormous amounts of new content for both Player vs. Environment and Player vs. Player sides of the game. In PvE terms, there’s a whole new continent, the civil war waged Cantha, complete with a suitably epic campaign structure of new missions. There are two new classes too, the shadowy, low health but vicious Assassin and the mystical, spirit-raising Ritualist. Despite some criticism concerning the assassin’s frailty the new classes offer a whole raft of new tactical options to the GW player, and particularly please the PvP old hand who’ll salivate at the new PvP builds available due to the wave of new skills the two classes usher in.
On the PvP side, those new classes are hugely significant, and are already changing the landscape of GW’s satisfyingly complex PvP game – literally. Factions introduces an alliance system, where player-run guilds can form mighty juntas and compete not only for GW’s Hall of Heroes, but for control of entire domains on the map, through the medium of newly enhanced guild battles on a scale never before seen. In the PvP in Factions then, the stakes are higher than ever.
And this underlines in this new expansion the importance of getting together with a dedicated guild, racing through some slap-bang-wallop PvE to acquire brand-new skills and weapon components to really sock it to those dastardly Koreans, Yanks or randomers from Bromley in the PvP arenas. The PvE and PvP sides of the game are more heavily integrated than ever, and it’s hugely convenient and well-implemented. Stuck on a quest? Leave it for a while, enjoy some PvP with the guild and get some tips while you’re at it. Can’t win at PvP? Play some more quests with some random players, identify new weapons, and use components to upgrade your PvP boomsticks. It introduces a fantastic cycle of PvE ambition leading to levelling up, leading to increased PvP success, and with the promise of future expansions on the way, it seems likely that this cycle can be running players along happily for many months yet to come.
Of course, Factions is by no means perfect, but most of its few deficiencies stem from problems that existed back with Guild Wars in the first place. Some quests seem mindlessly hard, the trade “system” although not really a system at all, (which is the problem) can be (and usually is) hugely frustrating. If you’ve found a quality weapon somewhere you want to sell, a NPC merchant will give you just a few measly gold for it, whereas if you can find a human taker they’ll happily hand over thousands of gold for the same item. Finding a buyer or buying what you want is genuinely difficult and annoying, and Factions would surely benefit from something like World of Warcraft’s convenient and fair auction hall concept.
Nevertheless, whether you like WoW’s largely old-fashioned MMO-age, or traditional single-player RPGs, the chances are that Factions, like its parent game, can cater for you generously. Although the PvP can be tough to get into, the game is (being standalone or an add-on to GW) as accommodating to new players as it is to the old. Consequently, Factions is a noble and successful effort and gets a hearty recommendation from me.