Champions of Norrath: Realms of Everquest – PS2
Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer: Snowblind Studios
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Release Date (NA): February 10, 2004
Nerd Rating: 7.6 out of 10
Reviewed by Dovahkyle
I may be known for a strange obsession with RPGs, and as these are typically loner games(except MMOs but I’m not big fan of these), it’s easy to lose fair weather friends while getting sucked into one of these for a month or two(who wants those kinds of friends anyways?). While browsing the $10 and under bin at my local Gamestop here in South Texas, I must’ve been around 22 at this point, I happen across a copy of Champions of Norrath for $8.99, for the small description on the back which mentioned up to four player co-op, it sounded like something I could get into, and for nine bucks what’s there to lose?
I remember playing Everquest a little when I was a kid, on my first computer, a Gateway(Windows 95) with a 1Gb Hard drive. I didn’t really get into it, and had no real appreciation for MMO-RPGs at the time, as Lords of Magic was really what I enjoyed playing. Champions of Norrath was a spin-off of this MMO for consoles, and is based in the land of Norrath. This game is at it’s core a third-person, hack and slash with standard RPG character development aspects. Like typical role-playing games the player is allowed to choose from one of five races, these races will directly govern the characters abilities, i.e.: Barbarians are warriors, High elves are clerics, Wood elves are rangers, etc. You can’t just pick a Dark Elf because you like the way they look, well, you can but just be aware of their abilities.
Each Race has their own dedicated leveling tree, for example, Barbarians can pick the duel wield ability, while the Cleric can pick a healing spell, etc. As for armor and weapons the same goes for both. This makes for much less bickering with co-op mates as they steal all the good loot. My suggestion is don’t both pick the same race, this way when you pick up a shield or a helm, it will be able to be used by one of the characters or the other, not both. There will be plenty to fight about with friends on this game, I have played with some greedy people, who, instead of helping me kill enemies, just run to the chests and jack all the gold, I hate that. Or worse friends that pick up armor or weapons to be used by my race and instead of dropping it for me, they sell it, that’s just mean.
Gameplay: Like I mentioned before, hack and slash, up to four players. This is a great game to play with a group, although not required, as the more people you have playing, the more enemies and loot will appear. So it is feasible to play this through by yourself, it’s just more fun with two or more, especially when you coordinate your efforts, like a team; archers and wizards in the back, paladins and knights in the front. Of course you can do whatever you like, you don’t have to listen to me. This is a mission oriented, level by level(realm by realm) game, you are extremely limited to where you can go, there is really only one direction. Pretty wide open dungeons and temples are the scenery, a little repetitive honestly, but as fast paced as the fighting is, you don’t really have time to look around.
When an enemy is killed, his belongings “splatter” on the ground all around the body. So all the player has to do to retrieve loot is make a quick pass over the corpse, this allows for constant action, no stopping to check for loot on bodies. There are a number of traps and chests to watch for, as well as hordes and hordes of enemies from Orcs and Goblins to creatures of all color and stature. Typical HP and MP bars govern heath and powers/magic, and the camera allows for full 360° rotation and zoom(these features are highly stunted when playing with more that one character). There aren’t any real mind games here, just start at the beginning and fight your way to the end, gather as much gold and loot as you can and level up like crazy.
There are multiple difficulty settings, based on character level. Once the game is completed, the player can choose to import his/her character and play again, with all the same weapons/armor/gold and level as he/she finished the game with, and play again at a higher difficulty. This is necessary if you want to see all the armors and weapons available as they are restricted by level and you won’t see even half of the stuff available if you only play once. It really is a totally different experience the second time through, I actually enjoyed it, it was like playing a new game.
Story: The story is set before the events of the online game, Everquest. The character starts off with the objective of helping the Elves fend off the Orcs, this level really gives you the feel of the game and allows you to get use to the controls. The orc leader, Pelys, is one of the three main Bosses of the game, although every level essentially has a boss at the end. The other two being, Vanarhost the Vampire, pretty awesome level this guys is involved with, the only time I really had to use the map, and Innoruuk the God of Hatred, who is the really the big bad dude.
I found the story to be lacking in many areas, as there really is barely one at all. The playable character is the hero and everyone else must die in order to restore peace. There are some interesting aspects to the story as the game developed, but nothing to really reel you in. Good guys are Humans and Elves, your on their side, bad guys are everything else, you kill them. Aside from the empty plot, you can always do some shopping, although to be honest as soon as you spend 20,000 gold on an awesome sword, you will totally find one better on the next guy you kill, so buy a bunch of health and mana potions and recall scrolls, that’s really all you need to get through this game successfully.
Controls: The controls are pretty self explanatory on this game, and I really liked the simplicity of it. Left stick controls the sprite, right stick controls the camera, one button attacks, and one button refills HP/MP(this is the most important button in the game). The simplicity of the controls allows even the most noobiest of noobs to master this game, it doesn’t take a butt-load of experience in RPGs or any game for that matter to become an amazing warrior here. Just run up to baddies, hit em with whatever you got, and bam, their down, on to the next one.
Graphics/Sound: Graphics are good for the time this game was released, pretty standard for the PS2. There really aren’t any super impressive visuals or cut-scenes, but the realms are pretty detailed, although repetitive in the same dungeon/realm, the different worlds are diverse. As for the sound, some eerie background music and allot of grunting and metal-against-armor noises. Nothing to really set this game apart here, just your typical dungeon delving ambiance.
Replayability: I give it a ten out of ten. Not only will the player have a different experience with each friend that he/she plays with, but the import character feature and three difficulties really give you three times the game you paid for. I have personally gone through this game co-op and single multiple times, and really never got sick of it. I think the only reason I stopped playing it was because my PS2 took a crap on me. My friend and I used to drive home every day at lunch break and play this instead of eating. I have lots of good memories playing this over and over.
Bottom line is if you want something that can be played with friends, but are also looking for a good RPG experience this is the game hands down. But if your looking for an in depth story to get all wrapped up in, you might just keep on looking because this isn’t the pick I would make for you. The nine dollars I forked out was definitely worth it and I would do it again if I had the chance, I really wish they would’ve kept making these.
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