One of games that I love the most is Diablo 2, which was released almost 10 years ago. I have not yet found a modern product that provides the same level of fun, but I did manage to find a game called Guild Wars: Factions back in 2006 that I thought had similar characteristics. Guild Wars: Factions is a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) set on the Oriental-inspired, fictional continent of Cantha. The player starts out as a student in a monastery. All is well until a mysterious plague arrives and begins to transform people and animals into monstrous creatures. Of course, you must intervene and stop the source of the sickness. There are many positive aspects to Guild Wars: Factions. Like the other titles in the series, Factions is free-to-play, which is a major boon. Many MMOs require monthly subscription fees along with the base price from the user, such as $10.00-$20.00 a month. I have always been old fashioned in my game purchases and do not believe in paying for something beyond the base price; Guild Wars fits my preference in this matter.
Factions also adds two new classes that its predecessor, Guild Wars: Prophecies, does not have: the Assassin and Ritualist professions. These additions expand the number of classes from the original 5 (Ranger, Monk, Warrior, Elementalist, and Necromancer) to 7 total, allowing greater diversity than before. I played the Assassin class first and was subject to the sharp learning curve of that profession. As a beginner, I did not do well, but I really enjoyed playing the character regardless. Luckily, leveling up in Factions is relatively easy in comparison to the other 2 Guild Wars campaigns (that are sold separately).
Visually, the design of Cantha and its inhabitants are quite appealing. You can tell that the developers were influenced by Asian art and integrated that art into clothing, architecture, creatures, etc. They also infused certain cultural elements in the main storyline, such as the themes of betrayal and revenge. Overall, you can feel a distinct personality to the world of Cantha, rather than another reiteration of more common fantasy components.
Factions has a similar gameplay style to the original Guild Wars. Players have a selection of 8 skills to use in combat and are able to switch among many of said skills while in town or an outpost. The various combinations that you can use add depth to the game. I often switch between various abilities depending on what enemies I expect to encounter in an area. I like having to choose between a limited number because it requires strategic thinking on the part of the player.
Customization exhibits the most appealing part of Factions. Players can pick the names of their characters and how their characters look, with many options for hairstyle, height, face, skin tone, and other details. In game, you can mix and match armor pieces for your character to distinguish them from others, as well as dye them with different colors. None of these aspects affect the gameplay, but it is amusing to fashion your avatar to your personal preference.
There are several drawbacks to the game though. To be honest, the storyline is not very engaging. Often, the main missions draw you from one place to the next to stop a threat, but the plot fails to make it interesting or meaningful with the exception of one or two instances. In addition, the dialogue contains cliched phrases and bland writing, and the average delivery by some of the voice actors does not help the situation. Not all of the dialogue is bad, and the actors try their best with what they are given, but it is a noticeable flaw in comparison to the other strong points of the game.
Playing with others also carries its own weaknesses. Choosing a balanced team of 8 for the main storyline objectives can be difficult since you have to factor in each person's abilities and how they contribute to the team. Coordination is hard to achieve because the only means of communication is by typing; there is no option for "team speak, " or voice chat over microphones. It is also possible for players to drop out of the game in the middle of a mission, which can cripple your team because new players cannot join, and the enemies do not scale in difficulty to the amount of players you have; for example, instead of lowering the difficulty of the game in relation to the amount of members in your party, the level stays the same even if only one person is left. I have often experienced frustration multiple times when players abandon the game mid-mission, causing me to restart it again with a new batch of teammates.
The replay value of the game will vary among different people as well. After finishing the main storyline, the player has several choices. They can go back and do the missions over again at a harder level to gain monetary and experience rewards, or they can engage in PVP (player versus player) mode. Most venture into PVP for the challenge of competing against other human-controlled players in different contests. You are also given the chance to ally yourself with 2 major factions (hence the title), the Luxons or the Kurzicks. Some outposts have disputed land that you can fight over, which can be exciting with other players involved.
Other players opt to fulfill "achievements, " which are accomplishments that require a large amount of time invested. Some achievements are difficult, such as completing all the missions on the highest difficulty in a small timeframe, while others are merely a way to enjoy oneself, such as drinking a large number of alcoholic beverages. Most achievements do not have a beneficial effect on your character with a few exceptions, so decide beforehand if you want to spend the effort on these goals.
On a side note, Guild Wars: Factions has an ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating of T for Teen. There is a fair amount of violence, but not a lot of graphic or gory deaths.
After playing the main missions, I set out to gain some achievements but only garnered a few. I did not play PVP that much and do not intend to do so in the future for personal reasons (I prefer multiplayer FPS's). I have not played Factions in a couple months, and I do not feel the need to revisit it yet. Eventually, I will play again, but for now, I have set it aside as well as another Guild Wars campaign, Nightfall.
Depending on certain factors, one should consider the arguments for and against buying Factions. On the one hand, it is a short game that can serve as a mild introduction into the MMORPG world. On the other hand, I believe it has a weaker plot than the third campaign, Nightfall, which I have also played. I bought a copy of the game for $36.99 at Best Buy in 2006, although you can find a copy for much less than that now. Personally, I would suggest buying the first or third campaign, Prophecies and Nightfall respectively, before purchasing Factions, so that you can experience some of the same gameplay elements as well as a solid narrative.