Champions: Return to Arms
Champions: Return to Arms, the sequel to last year's dungeon hack hit Champions of , is a return to more of the same, because not much has changed in the world of Norrath in the past year. You're still hacking and slashing your way through hordes of enemies, all the while leveling up and stocking up on the phat loot; a safe and proven formula.
But that's the real problem with Champions: Return to Arms: not much has changed at all. The visuals, while still solid, haven't been updated one bit; in fact, some of the creatures and environments are holdovers from the last game. Likewise, the core gameplay is still intact, but this isn't a bad thing necessarily. Champions: Return to Arms, like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance before it, walks that fine line between monotonous and engaging: the relative ease of the game, challenge-wise and gameplay-wise, makes Return to Arms perfect for playing with only half your brain turned on.
Champions: Return to Arms fixes up a lot of the issues with the online portion of the game. What was, for all intensive purposes, broken last year is now working just fine. There are now lobbies, secured servers, server-side saves, player versus player modes, and it all works out pretty smoothly.
New abilities have been added for each of the characters, but few of them feel like they're worth the pains of leveling for and some of them feel like they were added to help fix each classes' debilitating problems. The ranger, who relies primary on ranged attacks, receives abilities to summon arrows and have them weigh less as well as an ability that potentially bypasses shields. They're all nice, yes, but there's nothing terribly exciting, nothing that really gives you incentive to push on and keep leveling.
Of course, if the new abilities for your favored class don't tickle your fancy, you can start up one of the two new classes exclusive to Return to Arms: the lizard shaman or the feline berserker. The shaman plays like a hybrid between the wizard and cleric, with decent melee strengths and heavy spell-casting abilities, while the berserker plays like a ranger and warrior mix, with both strong ranged and melee attacks. Again, nothing terribly original for either class, but it's good to see the game expand a bit.
Champions: Return to Arms is still a solid dungeon hack, but after four years of the same, the formula is wearing a bit thin. Return to Arm's biggest failure is that it feels too much like an expansion pack instead of a shiny, brand new game. For fans of the first Champions of Norrath, this isn't a bad thing, but since so little has changed between the two, rookies to the realm of Norrath might want to check out the first installment in the series at $20 instead of Return to Arms.