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Guild Wars: Factions Review

Updated Wed, Dec 16, 2009 by Cody Bye

by Cody "Micajah" Bye

Expanding upon an MMOG is always a tricky business proposition. Many of the current players of the game expect big changes to be made – increases in the level cap, better equipment and more skills introduced into the mix – but new additions to any game also means that new players and returning veterans may be attracted to the old world and want to begin anew. Not only do the developers need to worry about keeping the high end content of the game balanced for their current high-level players, they also need to be wary of the younger players that are just getting their feet wet in the MMOG world.

Like this encounter, I thought I'd initially made a mistake when I deleted my old Guild Wars character.

From a journalistic standpoint, reviewing expansions is equally treacherous. Instead of getting a game that you need to play from beginning to end – or first level to end game – you’re often forced to play through several parts of the old world to experience the new world, especially if you’re playing as a new race or class. You’ll go through many of your old motions, and it’s difficult to judge whether the game is still as entertaining as the original version once was.

This was the dilemma I faced when I picked up Guild Wars: Factions from ArenaNet and began a new character in that world. It had only been a few months since I last took a trip into the green, opulent fields of Guild Wars, running throughout the world with my immense Warrior/Necromancer, Micajah Hammerfall. Yet here I was with an expansion in front of me that needed reviewing.

As I described previously, Guild Wars: Factions is a game that’s created for both the old and new player in mind. As a standalone experience, players don’t need to have purchased Guild Wars: Prophecies (the original game) in order to play Factions; but I’d recommend it in order to access all the varieties of PvP content and skills that are available in the original game. In order to get the full experience of Factions, it was suggested that I start from the beginning (level one), and thus I was faced with the conundrum many old players encounter when returning to games that they enjoy.

Luckily, I had prepared myself ahead of time for this situation, and although I was tempted to simply stick with my old character and explore the new area that had been opened for me, I resisted. Instead, I gritted my death, closed my eyes, and deleted the old warrior. Oh the sacrifices I make for the Ten Ton hammer readers! After getting over the sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach, I looked up and there it was, an empty character slot just waiting to be filled with whatever new character appeared in the slot. Despite the frightening feeling that I’d made a mistake, I went through the character creation process anew and began entering the realm of Guild Wars: Factions.

Two New Options

Instantly upon hopping into the character creation screen, veteran players will notice several changes in the Factions set up. First off, two new professions have been added to the core set in the game: the Assassin and the Ritualist. Both of these classes provide abilities that were not prevalent in the first set of professions in Prophecies.

The Assassin is a master of stealth, secrecy and damage-per-second. Like a Thief or Rogue in other fantasy games, Assassins live for the quick kill and meeting one on the field of battle is a rough experience for any Guild Wars player. Several abilities make the Assassin a notorious combatant, including the Shadow Step skill that lets them teleport into and out of battle with incredibly expediency…if you blink, you may be dead already. Also like their Rogue and Thief counterparts, the Assassin has fairly weak armor and cannot withstand many direct hits and ending their lives quickly.

The other new option, the Ritualist, is an interesting character in his own right. Operating similarly to the Necromancer, the Ritualist can conjure spirits to fight at his side and help him defeat the enemies that he encounters. Unlike the Necromancer, however, the Ritualist is also an amazing support character with skills that augment the weapons of his teammates and enhance his own ability to deal damage to his opponents.

Factions includes several new creatures, like the bird-like Tengu.

While I wanted to experience this new version of Guild Wars, I also wanted to center myself on a character role that I was already familiar with that didn’t cause me too much initial confusion. Compromising, I choose Warrior as my primary profession, but opted for the Ritualist as my secondary selection.

Rounding out the character creation section, I found that most of the other options available to players are the same as Prophecies, albeit with an Asian twist. Unbeknownst to me until my initial foray into the world, Guild Wars: Factions takes heavily from ancient Asian traditions. While Prophecies was mainly a European product, Factions definitely explores the cultures of Asia with thrilling pagodas, incredibly rugged terrain, and multiple references to jade.

Put the Pedal to the Metal!

Upon entering the world of Factions, you’re immediately put through the same sort of tutorial scenarios that you initially encountered with the original Guild Wars, although you are given an option to bypass these guides. In these initial sections, you’ll be introduced to Master Togo, an influential member of the world that serves as your “instructor” throughout your first twenty levels in Factions. This pretty much means that Togo will provide you with the majority of the “storyline” quests and serve as an ally in a number of the more essential instances.

While the storyline of the game is sound and spattered with hints of intrigue, the pacing of the game is almost too fast to really catch everything that is occurring. It took me only five days of gaming 1-2 hours a day to reach level fifteen and I’ll probably reach level cap within the week. But judging from the current plotline of the story, I’m only part of the way through the actual storyline of the game, which takes you all along the coastline of Cantha. By level 14-15 you’ll still be on the training island, and by the time you reach level twenty you may only be halfway through the entire plot of the main storyline.

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