Risk: Factions Review
Risk: Factions box art
System: X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Stainless Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Electronic Arts 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: June 23, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-5 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Rule the World
by Robert VerBruggen

It’s pretty hard to completely botch a video-game adaptation of a board game. All developers really need to do is program in the game’s rules, add some spiffy animations, and make sure everything runs smoothly.

Risk: Factions screenshot

As far as that goes, Risk: Factions gets the job done. If all you want is Risk on your Xbox, this is a great buy. The controls are intuitive enough that even your non-gamer friends can play, and all your old strategies still work. But beyond these basics, the game is a failure. Apparently, the developers just don’t understand what makes Risk so great.

For the few of you who have never played Risk before, the idea is that you control an army, and your goal is to conquer the world (in classic Risk) or accomplish various other goals (in newer, mission-based forms of Risk). Each turn has three phases. First, you place some new troops on the territories you already own; you get bonus men for controlling entire continents. Then, you attack other players whose territories border yours, and the outcome of each round of battle is determined by a roll of the dice. Finally, you move some troops between your countries to put them where they’re most needed. If you conquer at least one country in a turn, you get a card, which explains a bonus you can cash in on your next turn.

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As everyone who’s ever played it knows, Risk isn’t all that exciting in and of itself. Mostly, it entails watching other people roll dice. There are two things that make it a lot of fun, though. The first is that it gives you time to interact with your fellow players. The second is that the central concept of the game -- to brutally and completely obliterate every other army on the planet and rule the world -- speaks to something deep and disturbing in the human psyche.

Risk: Factions screenshot

The single-player campaign is short (five missions), but because it lacks social interaction, it’s tedious and painfully boring nonetheless. These missions teach you how to use the new bells and whistles that come with this version of the game (more on those later), but the bottom line is that no one wants to play Risk by themselves for hours. There’s just not enough action.

Most players will spend the majority of their time online, either playing against friends or taking on any strangers who show up. Fortunately, enough people are playing that it’s not hard to get a match going, and if not enough players show up, the game provides bots. It’s not long, however, before you realize something is missing: no one seems to use their headsets. When these games start, they have up to five players in them, meaning that you spend up to four-fifths of your time watching other people play. (Unlike in the board game, you don’t have to roll dice when other people attack you, so there’s absolutely nothing to do between turns.) The option to strike up a conversation would really help here, but all you can do is watch other people distribute their men and attack.

Risk: Factions screenshot

The fierce spirit of world domination is gone from this adaptation, too, thanks to the ridiculous graphics and animations. The cutscenes look and sound more like Saturday-morning cartoons than war footage, and every time you roll the dice, you watch an animation of the factions attacking each other whimsically. Speaking of factions, they include cats, zombies, humans, robots, and Yetis. (They’re just graphical replacements; they don’t have different abilities or anything.) Sometimes the zombies attack by puking on their enemies.

Screenshots / Images
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