Like the original Guild Wars, Factions is far less massively multiplayer than other online role-playing games. Compared to the immersive World Of Warcraft, where another player might pop up anytime to steal your kill, Factions pulls you through a lengthy storyline that mainly takes place in private instances reserved for just you and your teammates; you'll only run into other players in the towns and villages, which are mobbed like Grand Central at rush hour. The main reason to find other people is to kill them: Guild Wars' main appeal lay in its fast-paced player-vs.-player combat, and that holds true in Factions.

You can play Factions without setting foot in the original game—although you may wonder what the fuss was about. The new game comes with a clunky new story set in a cosmetically Far Eastern setting. The standalone campaign introduces you to the controls and the two new classes—the assassin, whose aggressive skills makes it more like a front-line ninja than a stealth player, and the ritualist, who conjures eerie, chained spirits that some players like to turn into line-dancers. But the campaign feels rushed: you'll be halfway to your maximum level before the story proper even starts, and the plot, about a mysterious illness that plagues the land, is clichéd. Factions wisely assumes that people will play through the story to bulk up their characters for the PVP side of the game, which is set on mysterious islands with exotic names like "Random Arenas." Here, you can take on other teams in battles that are sometimes tactically intricate, and at other times, so frantic that you'll feel like you're coaching a cockfight.

Beyond the game: Unlike other massively multiplayer online games, Factions has no monthly fee: For 50 bucks, you get unlimited access, which is a hard value to pass up.


Worth playing for: The committed players who join the biggest guilds get to compete for status and even territory, which brings a terrific leaderboard aspect to the player combat.

Frustration sets in when: Until you get your bearings or join a guild, it's hard to find good people for your team; you'll end up wading through the swarms in town, trying to gauge whether MC Daggerz or Pancakerepairman will really watch your back.

Final judgment: A great value on a not-so-great game.