In the world of the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), 2005 saw World of Warcraft pronounced king. But it wasn't without its rivals, one of which was the original Guild Wars. Now comes the next chapter in the series, and the good news is that, unlike with Warcraft, there's no monthly fee.
For those unfamiliar with MMORPGs, the idea is that you journey around an online world, solving quests and gaining experience. As your experience points mount up, you gain levels, and this unlocks more advanced parts of the game.
You can gain and use extra skills depending on the profession you adopt. Enlist as a warrior and you'll have huge reserves of stamina, rangers can tame beasts and so on. Guild Wars has always been famed for its skills system, and in Factions you have more versatility than ever before, with more than 300 skills across the eight professions.
For most quests you'll need to recruit other players to assist you. Unfortunately, the interface and chat system makes it difficult to make meaningful contact with fellow gamers, with the result that you'll spend a lot of time standing around just trying to form a group. You can recruit computer-controlled characters, but groups formed in this way are dull and not terribly effective.
Missions take place in closed-off areas, so while you avoid the Warcraft-style frustration of rival groups pinching your quests, you miss out on random encounters with other players – in this respect, the game can be a lonely experience.
The graphics in Factions are ravishing, and there's plenty of content. The player vs player combat segment should keep users enthralled long after they've reached top level.