Guild Wars took the normal MMORPG model and turned it on its ear when it was released in April 2005. The game, created by developer ArenaNet and published by NCSoft, was a fantasy action-PPG themed game but with no monthly fees and it turned into one of the best-selling PC games of the year. Now ArenaNet is close to releasing Guild Wars Faction, a standalone continuation (ArenaNet doesn't call it an "expansion) of the original game. Last weekend, a preview weekend was held for people who pre-ordered the game and FiringSquad briefly checked out parts of the new expansion for ourselves.
Guild Wars Factions takes place on the fictional continent of Cantha , which the game's official FAQ states is located to the south of the original title's setting of Tyria. While both games can be played as separate products, ArenaNet has stated that people who have both games can have characters visit both lands via boat connections between the continents. Players who own both games will get two additional character slots for new characters to add to the original four. Cantha's art and graphics style definitely has some Asian influences so don't expect Factions to look exactly the same as the original game either.
Factions adds two new professions to the Guild Wars mix, the assassin and the ritualist. Assassins are as you might expect: the swift and stealthy part of the bunch, charging in quickly and taking out enemies with their daggers and various abilities.
The ritualist is something else entirely. Using this character class will allow the player to summon up a magical spirit to take out the bad guys. Both new classes get the choice of 75 extra powers or "skills" that like the original game can be used eight at a time. If you prefer to create new characters from the six previous Guild Wars character classes you are in luck; for in Guild Wars Factions you now have 100 skills to choose from. Altogether the folks at ArenaNet are adding a whopping 300 new skills to the mix for the new game.
During last weekend's preview event for Guild Wars Factions we were able to check out some of the adventure and quest-oriented parts of the game with some AI controlled party hench folks. We made the journey into a location that was partly frozen by a kind of jade-like ice (naturally the jade ice is a magical creation). The land actually freezes up massive creatures inside the ice and we were a little spooked when we approached what we thought was an unusual building and found out it was a huge turtle-like animal that moved around slightly while trapped in the jade ice. Of course all of the creatures you encounter are not stuck in the ice. During our brief time in the preview weekend our party encountered large tree creatures, floating slug like monsters, and various other new denizens of the Guild Wars universe.