I was kept in the dark concerning Guild Wars: Factions up until about 2 weeks before its release entirely on purpose. Guild Wars: Prophecies popped my MMORPG cherry and gave me so much joy that I just couldn’t allow myself to hype Factions up any, so I made a conscious decision to allow no information concerning it whatsoever to reach me. This was definitely the right move, because in the last two weeks I’ve put so many hours into Factions that I’ve probably killed a portion of my eyes, let alone my social life.
Keeping with Guild Wars of old, Factions is simply a cleaned up version of Prophecies on a new continent with a few subtleties here and there. No longer are we on the continent of Ascalon, but instead we’re taking to the East and we find ourselves in the Asian themed Cantha, the continent which is made up of sewers, large grasslands, forest and a huge sea made of Jade. Those who have an account already in Prophecies can purchase Factions and then use their original character in the expansion, and actually play on both continents, traveling back and forth via water travel from a town in each game.
The player still has the option of playing the game completely alone, using the computer controller "henchies" as teammates to go through the main story missions and side quests, or the option remains to join a human group of anywhere from 4-8 players and play with human teammates in your quests. On top of the PvE element, there is still PvP and GvG (guild vs. guild) play which keeps the game infinitely entertaining after the "story" is completed and over with. For those of you looking for a completely player vs. player game, it’s possible to create a character with which you can only play PvP with, but it will, in my opinion, greatly detract from the experience, as well as the character’s skill.
Guild Wars: Factions offers two new character classes to compliment the original six: the assassin and the ritualist. The assassin if merely a quicker, yet weaker, warrior that adds a new element into battle in chained attacks. The assassin's attacks will be quick, and consequently the potential for mischief is quite evident. The ritualist, on the other hand, isn’t a very good primary character class but a splendid secondary. I personally used it as a secondary for my monk, and it has worked wonders. The ritualist deals mostly in spirits, be they support or attack, and also works with restoration magic, and the spirits have a variety of functions ranging from attacking enemies to protecting friendlies. The two new classes are definitely worthy additions to Guild Wars and do nothing to alter the delicate balance of the inter-class mechanics.
The most extreme change from Prophecies lies in the way guilds now operate. On the continent of Cantha, a war is underway between two factions, the Kurzicks and the Luxons. Both as an individual player and as a guild, the player and guild have the option to align themselves with either side, and then, once aligned, the guild can enter into an alliance of up to nine other guilds of the same side, a feature unique to Factions. The alliance works the same way as a guild does, but instead of having players as members, it has the guilds as members, and then the players as members of those guilds, so the guild system is now three-tiered instead of two. Alliances from opposing factions battle each other daily for land and the border that splits the two factions is constantly shifting based on the outcome. To convince players and guilds to enter into alliances, the alliances on each side with the most faction loyalty are assigned cities which they will control.
I was apprehensive about purchasing Guild Wars: Factions after getting rid of my Prophecies account out of fear of being far too weak to compete with those who had both games, and I wasn’t too sure on the how good a game Factions would be as a stand alone title, but I put my faith in ArenaNet and took the dive since I loved the original so much. They did not fail. The exceeded my expectations and provided me with a game that I probably won’t stop playing four hours a day for a while, and in December I get to start it all over again with part 3. It seems as though we’ll be getting a new standalone/expansion every six or so months now, and I’ll consequently have a required purchased every six months. I had been craving something worthwhile to play for a while, and I now have it. So what happens when an MMORPG this good has no fees? Simple... you lose your social life.