"You have been playing for five hours. Please take a break." When a game casually informs you that you've just spunked 300 minutes of your life wandering round a fantasy world, it must be doing something right. Or indeed wrong.
Aficionados of the original Guild Wars - now known as Prophecies - will be aware that it's the MMORPG that you can eat between other games without ruining your appetite. Dispensing with the levelling-up trudge of killing small animals, it's an action-packed affair that you can play in short, controlled bursts without any negative impact on your character. And crucially, there's no subscription fee.
Factions is of course Chapter Two (of several planned) and is available either as a 'standalone product' or as an upgrade to your already installed Guild Wars. There's only one game client, so my Factions character now sits alongside those from Prophecies in the menu. Of the two new classes available, the Assassin is a swift and deadly killer - with minimal armour - and the Ritualist is able to summon up an array of spirits at the drop of a wand.
EAST IS EAST
Ultimately though, it's more of the same, albeit with a new storyline and exotic new setting. With a distinctly Oriental flavour, the visuals genuinely are a joy to behold, and you will occasionally find yourself stopping to take in a sweeping vista, before continuing with whatever errand you're currently running.
Which is essentially what the game boils down to: team up with a few likely sorts and head out into the wide beyond to slaughter monsters, escort envoys, deliver packages or whatever job the powers that be foist upon you. On paper, it might not sound the most thrilling of game experiences, but as the five hours expended appears to confirm, it is mildly compelling, with an unfiddly interface that even the most RPG-phobic clown should be able to manage. Did I say five hours? Make that 15...
- No subscription fee
- No rat killing
- Accessible interface
- More of the same
- Tricky difficulty curve
- It's ultimately pointless