The game was released a couple of weeks ago, and of course I was on board and playing it the day it came out, well the day before it came out since it was pre-ordered. I have been holding off on making any comments about it because I wanted to take the time to play some parts of it through a couple of times. Now that I have done that, I will start with the random observations about the game.
First, the beginning of the game is entirely too easy. I can understand the need for a beginners section, as this is a standalone game there will be a lot of gamers playing it that have never played the original. The problem with the ease of the beginning is the difficulty of the rest of the game. It is entirely possible to plug along and do all the quests and missions on the little island (the beginner’s zone) without ever dying, or even coming close to it. The second you step outside the city on the mainland it is possible to die without ever getting a spell or attack off.
My first time through I was trying to save cash by waiting to upgrade armor. I died so many times in the initial quests on the mainland that I was seriously considering just giving up on the game. It is not that I don’t like a challenge, I just didn’t understand my own skills, as well as those of the hired mercenaries, to be able to take on the monsters there. There is just a gap in monster levels between the island and the mainland. The last things you fight on the island are about level 12 while the first things you fight on the mainland are level 20. In a game where level 20 is max, 8 levels makes a hell of a difference.
There really should be either additional zones on the island that let you face some higher level monsters, or zones on the mainland that let you face lower level ones. There is simply no way to test out the effectiveness of your skills on higher level enemies until you are actually fighting in the city. Which wouldn’t be so bad except for the greatly improved AI in the game. The first enemies you face when you reach the mainland will target a single party member hit him all at the same time, and since it is a computer controlling them by “same time” I mean within thousandths of a second of each other, making it impossible to heal before the inevitable death.
The second character that I took to the mainland didn’t have nearly the problems that the first one did. This was mostly due to knowing what attacks the enemies were going to use, who they were going to attack first, and what character classes would work well together against the particular groups I was fighting. So it wasn’t nearly as impossible as I thought, but it really does need a place where you can practice against monsters that are above level 12 and below level 20.
The other thing that really stands out about Factions is the availability of high-end weapons. The rare (relatively) “green” weapons seem to be a lot more common in Factions, not that it really matters since they really aren’t that great in comparison to the other available weapons. The weapons that you can get from collectors now is, in many cases, vastly superior to the best of the “green” weapons. And those are the weapons that anyone can get with a minimum of effort.
The economy of the game, being directly related to available items, is changing dramatically because of the ease of acquiring such powerful items. A shield that used to sell for 50,000gold has exactly the same stats as one that you can get from a collector if you just pick up a few mossy webs during battles. Clearly no one is going to buy the one for 50,000gold any more. Which is great for the player, not so great for the bots.
Speaking of the bots. If you have ever done an ebay search for Guild Wars, just about all you see is money for sale. It seems that in order to slow the sale of Guild Wars stuff on eBay, they just made it easier to get all of it. Since it is no longer necessary to have a sword that costs 100k, what when you can get one with better stats off of a collector, you can really have a really well equipped character by the time you are level 20 with nothing but the gold that you are rewarded for completing quests. Of course there will always be people that don’t want to do the work and are willing to pay someone to do it for them, so the bots will live on, at least their prevalence will die off a little bit.