Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Stainless Games
For myself, as well as some of you others out there, I am sure this arcade game is bringing back some good memories from the past. I can remember quite a few weekends during my high school years when me and my buddies would get together to wage war on a beat up Risk board, often playing until the sun came up. Though I don’t think I will be staying up quite as late with the Xbox Live Arcade version of Risk, I certainly look forward to those long weekend battles and the feeling that comes from conquering the world once again.
With the concept of this arcade game taken directly from a board game there is only so much that developers could do to create great graphics while still staying true to the original game. The simplicity of the maps with the basic outlined areas/countries is definitely what I expected. The extra battle features including volcanoes, dams, missile launchers, and holy temples that are placed throughout the maps are minimalistic in their design but they pair well the maps visuals.
The graphics become much more creative and animated when you encounter each of the factions that comprise the armies within the game. The bulk of the animations during the Campaign Mode, where the story unfolds, are brief animated episodes detailing how each faction was brought into the game's conflict. There are a total of five factions including Humans, Cats, Robots, Zombies, and Yeti’s. Each of these has their own archetypal appearance as well as specific battle animations when they attack or defend. These battle animations can be downright hilarious at times with cats throwing their feces, zombies barfing all over their enemies, or robots zapping their enemies with electricity burning them down to a skeleton. To some these animations may be unsettling, but personally I thought they added a great touch to the game.
In addition to the above mentioned animations, each faction also has some unique facial expressions for when they are successful in battle, or for when they are getting slaughtered. There are also your basic game animations as well including rolling of your dice, and of course the explosions and other resulting effects of the battle features. Overall I enjoyed the game's visuals and I think you will too.
The sound effects and music of Risk: Factions are quite simple but effective. Explosions, bullets firing, cats meowing, zombies groaning, and dice rattling on the board are just a taste of the type of sound effects you will hear. The music is purely instrumental and is drum heavy leaving an impression of a glorious battle march, really quite fitting for a world domination game.
The short animations in Campaign Mode are where the voice actors come into play to aid the narrative's presentation of each faction. The leader of the human faction, MC Gutterpants, sounds like your typical war general while Generalissimo Meow, of the cat faction, sounds like a foreign dictator. Each faction has their own distinct voice throughout the Campaign Mode and this can be quite humorous at times.
Although the sound of Risk: Factions isn’t as extensive as some other sections, the music, voice acting, and sound effects do a great job enhancing and highlighting the overall gameplay experience.
There are three play modes to Risk: Factions. These are Campaign, Custom and Xbox LIVE. All of these modes share the same objective: take over the world. In order to win a game you must complete three objectives while remaining in control of your own capital. If you lose control of your capital, you must win it back before you can win the game. Each game mode can be played in two separate gameplay types: Risk: Factions and Risk: Classic. The classic mode allows for five players on the same world map and with the same rules as the original board game. Classic Risk will not include any of the special animations you will find in Risk: Factions.
Campaign mode is more of a tutorial and introduction to the five different factions that are involved in this XBLA game including Humans, Cats, Robots, Zombies and Yetis. Campaign does a great job at introducing you to each of the factions as well as the different rules, including different variables each map can have. Each round of play starts with each faction taking a turn drafting armies. The amount of troops you are allotted is based on how many capitals, countries or continents you may control. Simply put, the more of these variables you control, the more armies you can draft where you then distribute them to your countries and continue you war effort. Once you have completed your draft you will move on to your attack stage.
In the attack stage you can attack any territory that is adjacent to the territory you wish to attack from. You attack with one or more available troops within your territory, but you must always keep one troop behind to defend the territory in case of defeat. You can continue attacking territories as long as you have available troops, or you can attack once and pass the turn off to the next player. If you are successful in your attack, you will be given the option to redistribute your troops to adjacent territories that you control in order to space them out. At the end of each turn you will be given a special reward card which may have a star, or number of stars on them, which you can exchange for additional troops at the beginning of your next turn.
As mentioned, you must complete three objectives in order to win the game. Objectives will vary and you can view any available objective by pressing the Y button during gameplay. Objectives can only be accomplished once and you can only earn one objective per turn. If you are successful in completing an objective you will receive a special reward in return. These rewards will vary but may include such things as special attack or defence dice. Throughout the maps there are special battle features that you can control such as mines, airfields and barracks. Controlling a territory with these special features will provide you with some added benefit such as adding +1 to your dice roll for controlling an airfield or gaining control of some handy dandy missiles by controlling three barracks.
Custom and Xbox LIVE modes are also available and are played the exact same way, except there a few more options. In Custom play you are can to choose your gameplay options such as your map and if the starting draft will be done automatically or manually. Other than this, the rules stay the same as in what you have learned in Campaign Mode. The same applies for when heading online over Xbox LIVE. Here you are also given the ability to change your gameplay options; however, you are now playing other human opponents and can play in Ranked or Unranked matches. I’ve played quite a few Xbox LIVE matches already and human opponents are definitely the way to go if you want a real challenge.
Risk veterans will find that the arcade version is like riding a bike with a few new gadgets thrown into the mix. You will either really like them or want to toss them out and play with the standard options. Newcomers will find that the game is easy to pick up and play and you will most likely become addicted to it quickly. Either way, the world shall be conquered.
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