Growing up, classic board game Risk was always a favourite. It has made the leap to Xbox Live with barfing cats. But does Risk need barfing cats?
Risk: Factions is the classic game of Risk, a dice rolling command and conquer territorial land grab, with a few twists. You want to destroy enemy factions, retain control of your capital and complete a set of three objectives given to you at the start of the match. Those objectives might be to conquer an enemy capital or gain control of a certain area.
The five "factions" in this version of Risk consists of Cats, Humans, Robots, Yeti and Zombies. When players attack, their animated troops do things like shoot machine guns, barf or throw ice, depending on which faction they belong to. If you roll two or three 6s, they will get an "overkill" and demolish half of their enemy's troops. In Factions, the terrain is "dynamic", meaning that players can do things like gain control of a dam and flood their opponent's land.
If players want the classic Risk rule set and map, that's available, too.
So Risky: Risk: Factions is, for a board game, fast. Some online games can seem to go on and on, but the rounds I played (online and off, multiplayer and single) clocked in somewhere between thirty minutes to an hour. The objectives change the gameplay from dominating the map to dominating elements of the map. This gives players more options to win - a good thing! The game's dynamic terrain and the ability to do things like "freeze" your enemies also opens up new strategies.
Saving Grace: Okay, Risk: Factions is not primarily a single player game, but a multiplayer game. But I appreciated the fact that the developers allow players to save their single player game as opposed to keeping the player captive. It's a small touch, but I think indicative of the overall approach the developers took.
King of Cartoons: Risk: Factions is, surprisingly, a very funny game. I laughed audibly in several spots during the single player campaign and was not expecting the animated cut-scenes to be so enjoyable. I almost skipped through the first one, fearing the worst. Glad I didn't. The writing is smart and knowing, the animation smooth and polished. Seeing a new animated clip after each campaign was a real treat.
Risk: Factions is a multiplayer game at heart. Though, I was booted from a couple online matches, multiplayer is smooth and solid. Sometimes players would drop out, which was only a problem when that player was a host. Risk: Factions' competitive experience would probably be best enjoyed via local multiplayer - a couple of friends in the same room, just like you'd play the tabletop version. The game's wonderful execution make it more than worthwhile.
Risk: Factions was developed by Stainless Games with animation by Powerhouse Animation Studios and published by EA for the Xbox 360. Released on June 23, sells for 800 Microsoft Points. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed single player, tested multiplayer online and off.
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