After Hasbro Family Game Night was released, gamers began to wonder what classic board games they'd like to see brought over to the Xbox Live Arcade. To many, there was really only one possibility: Risk. The game of global domination had seen a handful of video game adaptations over the years, but none in the current, "connected" generation.This had to change, and earlier this year, it was announced that it would be. EA announced Risk: Factions, a game that looked to bring Risk to gamers in a way they've never experienced it before.
As the title suggests, Risk: Factions isn't standard Risk. In 2008, Hasbro revamped the rules of Risk. It still focuses on rolling dice and moving solders, but the "World Domination" angle has been downplayed. Instead, it's an objective based game, and players need to complete several tasks before winning. It's this new mode of Risk that Factions uses to expand the gameplay, asking the players to not only fight for control of territories, but to do so while attempting to earn Rewards. There are a number of different Rewards that can be claimed, like "Control 20 territories" or "Capture an opponent's Capital," each of which coming with a different benefit. Some allow the player to place down bases that improve his rolls near a certain area, further piling on strategy. It's surprisingly fun, and follows the typical Risk formula closely while adding some new layers to the game, something that even die-hard Risk purists should appreciate.
Where the Factions come in is in the art style and campaign, both of which are leaps and bounds above other digital versions of Risk. Looking like a Penny-Arcade comic come to life, the game's singleplauer story is broken up into different segments, each of which being prefaced with a video explaining why Humans, Cats, Robots, Zombies, and Yeti are engaged in a massive war. It's a genuinely funny story, though it's a shame that it's as light as it is. Within an hour the game is over, and the lack of an ending cinematic is criminal. Thankfully, a message announcing that an Avatar Reward has been unlocked makes up for the omission, as it's an awesome Robot Helmet that will likely be showing up across friends lists nationwide soon.
Factions mode is fun, and will surely enjoy a fair amount of play from anyone interested in trying something new with the previously established Risk formula. It comes packed with a number of different maps, each of which sports different elements that should create unique scenarios. Some, for instance, have bases that can be captured and used to convert territories to the player's side, meaning players can expect to fight over these areas. Another features a volcano that will occasionally erupt, slaughtering all but one unit stationed around it, meaning that it's usually a dead zone for conflict. The maps features keep things fresh, but it feels as though they could have been better laid out, as they all end up looking like a giant blob of countries. Not that Earth is perfect, but it features a continental layout people have grown accustom to. We're simply used to seeing large land mass surrounded by water. It's sort of our thing. Instead, we're treated to several versions of what amounts to Pangea.
For those who wish to just play traditional Risk on the traditional map with the traditional rules, this option is available as well, and plays exactly like it should. There's one large feature that is missing, however, and serves as the single most detrimental issue in the entire package: online saving. Both traditional Risk and Factions played online, allowing five friends to join together from across the country to engage in a battle of world domination. The problem is... Risk takes a while to play. Factions? It can be over in an hour. Regular Risk? Games can take hours if the players know what they're doing, while the option to save a game offline is available, that pleasantry is not extended onto Xbox Live. I'm sure it would have been a pain to get working, and I'm sure it would have required all of the players to be online at the same time. Hell, I'm sure many people might not have even known it was missing. It would have been worth the effort to include it, however, and without it, the value of the game takes a big hit.
EA did a fine job of bringing Risk to the current generation. They could have just thrown together a bare-bones version of the game that would have sold to fans and called it a day, but they didn't. Instead, they went the extra mile, bringing in new game modes, maps, and an art style complete with animations for every battle. While it runs into issues in areas it likely didn't realize it would, there's no denying that the sacrafices made are more than justified.