Champions of Norrath: Realms of EverQuest Review

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) is now using the mythos of the world created for their popular MMORPG EverQuest as the inspiration for games in new genres. The first of these new EverQuest games was a strategy game for the PC, Lords of EverQuest. Now SOE has released an action-RPG for the PlayStation 2 that draws its inspiration from Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. That Champions or Norrath (CoN) looks and plays a lot like Dark Alliance is no coincidence, as both games were developed by Snowblind Studios. CoN has given the team at Snowblind Studios the opportunity to improve upon Dark Alliance’s gameplay while also freeing them from the constraints imposed by the rules of the Dungeons & Dragons universe. The result is a great game that should be picked-up by all action RPG fans, whether or not they’ve ever played EverQuest.

Every dungeon has plenty of monsters.

To those of you who have played EverQuest, the first thing that you should know is that CoN is not EverQuest as you know it. You’ll certainly be familiar with the races and monsters appearing in the game, the character classes, spells, etc., but the gameplay experience is quite different. EverQuest requires extensive interaction with other players and NPCs and features a wide-open world that gives you a large degree in freedom in choosing where you go and what you do. CoN on the other hand has pretty limited NPC interaction whose purpose is to occasionally drive the game’s thin plotline along. In CoN, you enter the wood elf kingdom of Faydwer as it is under siege by armies of goblins and orcs.  The wood elf king Liethkorias implores you to save the treetop capital of Kelethin before it is overrun by the goblins.  Being the hero that you are you agree to help and are soon the vanguard of the elves defense against the invasion.  Not only must you repel the invaders, you need to discover why the invasion was launched in the first place.  Overall the story serves its purpose of giving you a reason as to why you need to slay hordes of creatures, but don't expect a compelling and captivating storyline.  The game's plot is very linear and plays as a series of goals served up in sequence. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as it is quite fun in CoN to bash a bunch of evil heads on your way from Point A to Point B.

While the game is ultimately a linear journey from Point A to Point B, it’s a long journey and there’s plenty to see and do. Dark Alliance had a fairly limited number of different locations, but in CoN there are many more locations and a wider variety of terrain from the aforementioned treetops to subterranean lava fields. The dungeons also tend to be large and consist of multiple levels, and there are even bonus dungeons to explore to boost your experience and gold. Finally, the game’s areas are all connected so you can move back and forth between them at will, either on foot or by using the game’s system of teleporter portals.

The game itself plays very much like Dark Alliance. You control a single warrior from an overhead perspective view. The right stick moves your character and the left controls the camera. The camera controls work well and let you rotate and zoom the view to your liking. There are very few areas where the game won’t allow you to rotate the camera, so you’ll always have a pretty good view of things. It seems like a simple enough thing, but so many games get the camera controls wrong that it’s worth mentioning when a game gets it right. Attacks are unleashed with one button, spells and special abilities with another, and you can block enemy attacks with a shoulder button. If you played Dark Alliance you’ll be familiar with the control scheme, although you’ll find that there is no jump button any more. The controls are easy to use and responsive, leaving you free to concentrate on slaying monsters.