Risk: Factions Review

Risk was always a family favorite at holidays when I was a kid. Why just at holidays? Because games would take so long to play that everyone would pretty much have to have the day off to dedicate a healthy chunk of time to the game. A lot of fun when the family and friends are getting together, not so much so when you have a little time to sit down with your Xbox 360. The team at Stainless Games understood this when they designed Risk: Factions because they've tweaked the base gameplay in order to speed things up without changing the fundamental nature of the game. They've also injected the game with a healthy dose of charming humor that makes the all too short campaign game a blast to play.

The "Factions" in Risk: Factions are the six playable sides available in the game. In the original Risk it was simply a question of what color you wanted your pieces to be. Now you have your choice of playing as a human, cat, robot, zombie, or yeti army. The armies are effectively the same when it comes down to it, but the factions' personalities are reflected in their animated leaders, troops, and even in the look of the dice they toss to resolve battles. Battles are still resolved by the roll of the dice, but it's fun to watch cats spit hairballs at their enemies or zombies belch slime. You can skip the dice rolls and little battle animations by auto-resolving battles, but this time-saver comes at the expense of reveling in the game's personality.

The faction battles are played out on fictionalized maps instead of the world map of the Risk board game. This took a little getting used to at first because it wasn't immediately obvious where the dividing lines between the continents lay, but I was able to come up to speed on them quickly enough. The game's campaign is a series of five games in which you take the role of each of the factions in turn as you successively unlock the two, three, four, and five player maps (the first level serves as a tutorial, and is a human verse human two player map). The little animated stories that play between the levels and introduce each faction are hilarious, and my biggest complaints with them are that there was more of them (I would have loved a longer campaign) and that there was no animated cutscene at the end of the campaign. That latter issue really was a letdown, because the final battle simply ended the game. Even though the story was thin and goofy, it would have been nice to have it wrapped up in some way.