dragonbloodthirsty's Guild Wars Factions (PC) review

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Guild Wars: Factions was the second release in the Guild Wars franchise.  The game focused on the Cantha region, which draws heavily from eastern and Asian inspired cultures.  The biggest selling point for the game competitively was the endless conflict between the Luxons and the Kurzicks, while the story was more about the empire as a whole.  The game introduced competitive missions, elite areas, challenge missions, and alliance battles.  There were a few excellent ideas in this game, but there were many that were implemented in less than ideal ways.  Factions ultimately tried to do too much, and ended not doing most of it well.

Factions also introduced two new classes, the Assassin and the Ritualist.  The assassin is a close ranged melee fighter focused on spiking (dealing large damage quickly), and uses "Shadowstepping", a teleportation ability.  The Ritualist is a support class that uses spirits to provide one-sided support in a large area for their team, either with spirits that provide a buff or with spirits that attack your enemies.  

The Assassin was a poorly designed class.  First, although much of the competitive play at the time of release did focus on "spikes", which are coordinated attacks on a single target, the required coordination and the obligation to commit a number of people to the attack made them more balanced.  The Assassin's attacks must be used in a particular order - missing a link in your chain keeps you from being able to continue.  Ultimately, the Assassin either completely murders a person by themselves without warning, or is underpowered.  The inability of a class like this to find a fun middle ground for their attacks was unfortunate.  Shadow stepping is fun, but is available to classes that use Assassin as a secondary class, making primary assassins unnecessary. Their primary attribute, Critical Strikes, is also unreliable because of the statistical nature of "a chance to critical".  Compared to the options offered by many other classes, the assassin fell flat.  In PvE, assassins are particularly poor, because enemies are often killed before the player can finish their combo, leaving assassins consistently unsatisfied.

The Ritualist fared better both as a design and as a class.  Mechanically drawing inspiration from engineers that build turrets in other games, the Ritualist creates immobile spirits that attack foes, or spirits that provide buffs for your team (rather than changing the whole environment, like the Ranger spirits).  A Ritualist summoning attacking spirits is one of the most individually powerful classes in the game.  The Ritualist also has "weapon" spells.  These cannot be removed by your enemies, but affect your weapon so that only one can be in effect at a time.  The Channeling attribute focuses on attack spells, many of them gaining benefits from nearby spirits, while the Restoration line allows them to heal.  Their primary attribute gives their summons extra health, and since an update also makes their weapon spells last longer.

The competitive mission(s) are fun, but there's not enough of them.  Fort Aspenwood and Jade Quarry are the only two available.  The focus of these missions is on accomplishing an objective that the other team does not want you to accomplish;  the direct player vs. player part of these missions is downplayed, instead focusing on player/npc interactions.  The missions are fun and very different from much of the other content in the game, and I regard them as the best part of this game.  They have a great replayability, and continue to be fun even now.

Alliance battles are big PvP battles, where players put together a team of four, and then three teams of four are matched up for a king-of-many-hills competition.  The end result, while quite fun, can be frustrating as you take time to put together a decent team, only to be randomly matched with another team where half the players leave if you fall a few points behind.  It has many of the same problems of both arranged teams and random teams, as you must assemble a team, but are then unable to coordinate with your random teammates well.

The story was fulfilling, and difficult to talk about.  The biggest problem with the PvE was that much of the game is spent fighting enemies that all look the same.

Factions had a number of technical and design hurdles to jump over, and is a good game in its own right.  Unfortunately, the classes that were added were often dull, under powered, or just simply designs that were not fun to play with.  The competitive missions are great, and much of the excellent PvP experience from the original game is there.  The new skills that were introduced did add depth to the game, and I would recommend the game to other players.  I just wouldn't recommend it first, since Prophecies and Nightfall were both very good, while Factions is merely pretty good.

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