Champions: Return to Arms Review


Champions: Return to Arms is the sequel to Champions of Norrath, both of which are essentially versions of the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games set in the world of EverQuest as opposed to the Dungeons & Dragons universe. Like its kindred Champions is heavy on the hack and slash action, so if you’re looking for a full-fledged RPG you’ll be disappointed at its lack of depth. However, if you enjoyed any of the aforementioned games then you’ll probably like Return to Arms as it delivers all the hacking and slashing you could ever hope for.

Return to Arms is ostensibly a continuation of the storyline established in Champions, but the game’s story is far from fully fleshed out and most of the time you won’t even be able to tell that there even is one. Firiona Vie of EverQuest fame (you may not know who she is but I’m sure that you’ve undoubtedly seen her picture before) asks you to save the world, you agree, and then you’re off to cleanse a number of planes from just about anything that moves. Each plane is reached from Firiona’s tiny ethereal floating island and is built upon some sort of theme such as “fire’ or “war”, but their connection to each other – or anything else for that matter – is only that they are all reached from the same spot. The continuity with the previous game really comes from the ability to import a character from Champions into Return to Arms. The game does not seem to adjust the difficulty too well for imported characters, so if you want to keep your old character you’ll want to play the game at a higher difficulty level to keep the challenge up.

Screenshots
A berserker selects a new skill.

If you want to start a character from scratch, you’ll have two new character classes to choose from – a lizard shaman or a cat berserker. All of the classes in the game are well-balanced, so you’ll do just fine selecting the one that suits your interest or fits your style of play. Thanks to the game’s tie-in with EverQuest, the class choices are a welcome change from the usual, and stale, mage, warrior, and thief classes.

Making a return to Return to Arms is the character skill tree which lets you further customize your character. In addition to the stat increases that come with leveling up, you are also awarded skill points which you can spend to gain new powers or to further enhance existing ones. It’s a nice feature that really lets you tailor your character to your preferred play style.

After you’ve created or imported your character the hacking begins. Return to Arms has plenty for you to kill and you’ll be faced with a pretty constant stream of attackers until you cut them all down and move to the next area. It can be plenty of fun to mow your way through hordes of enemies, but it can begin to feel a bit monotonous over long play sessions – there’s not much in the way of puzzle-solving or brain challenge here.

Part of the game’s repetitive nature is due to the limited types of attacks you’ll face. Although there are a multitude of enemies, they fall into only a couple of categories when it comes to attack style. You’ve got the run-right-up-to-you melee attackers and you’ve got the keep-their-distance ranged attackers. There’s not much need to change your strategy as you face new enemies as what works with one enemy pretty much works with them all. The exception to this is the boss creatures, but they don’t come along often enough to inject a lot of variety into the combat.