One of the biggest draws of the Xbox Live Arcade, in my opinion, is that it offers incredibly accessible family titles right alongside hardcore greats such as Ikaruga. The fact that I can literally quit out of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and join my wife in a game of Catan or Carcassone in a matter of seconds really speaks volumes for the value of the wide variety of the marketplace.
Risk Factions, thankfully, honors the Xbox Live casual legacy.
If you’re not familiar with Risk, it’s a fairly simple game on the surface that features a ton of strategic thinking. Each player starts out with a set number of territories on a world map, and the objective is to play until one person controls everything. Everything is turn based, and during a turn, players place soldiers, take territories, and consolidate troops – in that order. You basically do that for three to four hours until there are two people left, the rest of your friends are either playing video games or at home, and you’re tired of playing the game.
Thankfully, Factions alleviates a lot of the monotony with unique visuals presented by the team that worked on the Penny Arcade titles. Once you boot up Factions, you’ll immediately notice the effort that went into making the experience feel like a Saturday morning cartoon. Every faction feels significantly different, and the voice acting for the game’s cutscenes is beautifully done – in fact, they could easily make a successful cartoon series out of it.
In addition to its unique comedic charm, Factions essentially contains two games: the original “conquer everything, this is taking forever” classic Risk, and the new 2008 shorter objective-based Risk. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the “take forever” version, because by the end of the game there’s always someone in arms cursing the group who subsequently throws the board up in the air in a fit of rage. So for all us impatient people out there, Factions features shorter gameplay and an option to automatically divvy out everyone’s territory in the beginning of the game. This is something you obviously can’t do with the physical game, and it saves a lot of time.
Factions saves all the heartache by requiring everyone to take three objectives to win, which can range from “capture Europe” to “capture three cities” to “capture ten territories in one turn”. Once you claim an objective, it’s yours for the rest of the game, and you get a special ability or structure for it (one of which is the dam, a structure that allows you to flood enemy territories). With these rules, games will last from thirty to forty five minutes, which is a lot shorter than an entire evening! There’s also an option to play the classic non-cartoon version, in addition to the spruced up goof-fest. In other words: Factions leaves a lot of options open for you.
The single player experience, while featuring tons of funny cutscenes, is pretty cut and dry, and not too exciting. In fact, it’s really just a tutorial sequence for multiplayer. It’s also fairly short, so plan on getting your money’s worth from other modes. Eventually, you’ll also come to realize that the most fun moments of Risk come from side by side confrontation, horsing around and yelling with your friends as you take their territory with lucky dice rolls. If you aren’t playing locally, a lot of that fun is lost in translation.
Also, considering the online arena is pretty barren and there are a few connectivity glitches on top of it, it’s going to be really hard to find games down the road, so just be cautious if you’re not going to be playing with anyone on the same console.
Despite a few holdups, Risk Factions is a worthy addition to any board game enthusiasts library – provided you have friends to play with.
Faction's visuals are probably the best part of the game - the well drawn cartoon scenes look like they came right out of a golden age Nickelodeon cartoon.
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Factions showcases Risk's classic dice rolling gameplay, which is fun, but may not appeal to everyone. Not a whole lot has changed, but the fact that they include both the original rules and the new update is admirable.
While the voice acting is great, the sound effects and music grate on you after a while.
With a bigger advertising push, Risk Factions could have been much more popular, and you would actually be able to find games online (and if you actually find one, there are heaps of connection issues). As it stands, I'd be wary of buying Factions if you have no one to play with locally.
Risk Factions is a superb board game title, and offers plenty of fun: provided you're playing in the same room.