Champions of Norrath
It has been established that Everquest is a fantastic , an okay , and a bad [RTS game] ' but how is it as a traditional console dungeon hack? That's the direction Snowblind and Sony Online Entertainment is taking the lucrative franchise with Champions of Norrath, the latest hack-n-slash title set in the EverQuest universe.
Much like the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance series, Champions of Norrath doesn't deviate much from the traditional hack-n-slash formula of hacking, looting, and leveling. In fact, it's identical to nearly every other dungeon hack out there, from Diablo to [Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance]. Nevertheless, Champions of Norrath still comes out on top by focusing on the little things that have otherwise been avoided on the consoles -- little things such as character creation and customization, randomly made dungeon maps, and cooperative online play. Without these features, Champions of Norrath would be just another standard, if not well made dungeon hack. However, with these features, Champions of Norrath breaks a lot of ground for the genre, even if some of it's a bit shaky. Online play for example is a lot of fun, but its can be frustrating since character data isn't hosted on SoE servers. That means that if the host of the game gets disconnected, then all the data from the last save point is lost. When that's coupled with the fact that newcomers can't join a game in progress and the voice chat can be buggy, it's easy to see that the online portion can provide more frustration than entertainment.
However, at its core the Champions of Norrath's gameplay of hacking and slashing is extremely fun, refined, and even addictive. Much like Diablo II, advancing your character can quickly become a top priority since there's so much to do after the initial game has been beaten. With 50 levels to obtain, five playable classes, thousands upon thousands of different items to collect, randomly made dungeons, online play' well, let's just say that Champions of Norrath has a ton of replay value.
Champions of Norrath is one of the first PS2 games to utilize a double-layered disc to pack more detail into the visuals and it definitely shows in the fantastic texture work, the smooth animation, and the nice lighting effects. Unfortunately, the framerates will tend to stutter and clipping issues will pop up every now and then, but neither is so bad that they interfere with the gameplay. Audio-wise, Champions of Norrath holds up well, though the voice acting will often lag behind the action.
After playing through and reviewing Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II just last week, I thought I was all dungeon hacked out for a while. A guy can only take so many health potions before they start getting to your head, right? Boy, was I wrong because Champions of Norrath glued me to my couch for hours on end with its refined take on the genre. It certainly hasn't revolutionized the genre, but it's pushing the genre in the direction it should be going and in the end, that's almost as good.