On your PlayStation 3 or on your coffee table, there’s always an epic struggle between a couple of players to control Australia whenever Risk is played. Millions have staked their fortune on control of this coveted, defensible territory, and in the digital version, I appreciated watching AI troops waste scores of units trying to take the continent, while letting me quietly take control of less desirable, easily attainable territory. As their troops fell one after another as they fought with futility, they realized all too late that my armies couldn’t be stopped. Risk never gets old, and its classic formula, simple rules and unrivaled strategic depth, lend themselves well to EA’s recently released Risk: Factions.
In typical Risk fashion, players assume control of a handful of starting territories and are then tasked with amassing an army and dominating all foes. But Risk: Factions dares to make some minor changes to the classic Risk formula and for the most part, the gamble paid off. In the campaign mode, players don’t necessarily have to conquer their foes to achieve victory. Each map in the campaign mode offers objectives that players can complete; achieve three and hold them through a round and victory is achieved. Most of these center around controlling key territories, but others focus on holding a number of special structures. For instance, on one map, players can work control mines that give additional, invaluable troops.
The addition of objectives adds a layer of strategic depth to the game, but players looking to play a classic game of Risk can load up a traditional map, which is a nice inclusion. I personally preferred the objective-based games myself, as I found it moved a little faster and made me consider new strategies that I might not otherwise have thought of. Completing certain objectives gives players special abilities too, another new feature introduced in Risk: Factions. If a player holds a crypt found on one map, they can convert a territory and all of the troops within it to their side. This can be incredibly invaluable when an opponent loads a huge amount of troops in a territory along your border and forces players on that map to spread their troops around.
With only five maps to play, the campaign mode is a bit brief, but it is extremely replayable. I was disappointed that players aren’t allowed to play out the rest of a campaign scenario after an objective victory has been achieved. Sometimes I felt like I achieved an objective victory more quickly than I would like and that there was still a worthwhile conquest game to be played, but the option of continuing is not allowed. Fortunately, players can select quick matches across either the campaign maps or the traditional Risk board and set the parameters such as number of players, or if objectives will come into play or not.
Risk: Faction’s single-player mode gives way to a very strong multiplayer suite. Not only do you get local play, but there’s also an excellent online mode with support for up to five players. This makes up for the AI, which doesn’t always make the best decisions (I’ve watched the AI strand upwards of 50 troops deep within their territory; fail to take strategically-advantageous positions when the opportunity presented itself; etc.). Online competition is generally good, though games can take a long time and rage-quitters are regular, frustrating encounters. But playing against human players, both in person or online, expands the replay value and adds a much needed challenge over the easy single-player mode.
Perhaps the best thing about Risk: Factions is how quickly matches move. While the physical board game can take hours and even days to play, an enjoyable, tense game of Risk: Factions can be completed in an hour or less, with no messy cleanup. There are some bugs; occasionally the game will lockup and once I won a game and the victory didn’t register. But these bugs and some AI issues can’t detract from what is a fun, enjoyable, robust take on the classic game. Risk: Factions is an easy recommendation for PSN players looking to add some strategy to their library.