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July 15, 2005
Champions of Norrath: Realms of Everquest - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
24/6/2004UbisoftSnowblind Studios1-4M15+Hard
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Graphics are pretty special.
Champions of Norrath was released to critical acclaim in 2004, but has now only just arrived at Future Gamez for us to cast our opinion. This game is from one of my favorite genres the good old hack 'n slasher, which sadly have become quite rare in recent years on consoles. The only real successful one I can think of has been the Baldurís Gate Dark Alliance series other than that we have not seen much of the genre made famous by the legendary Gauntlet series. Now with the backing of Sony Online Entertainment and set in the famous world of Everquest we get a classic hack 'n slash game with co op and online support, so letís see how it stands up.

The story to Champions of Norrath is just how a classic fantasy adventure should be. There is some wicked beast causing havoc across Norrath, and it is up to you save the day and the land. Before you get adventuring you must choose from five different classes, and for once the choice you make will be significant. You can choose between Barbarian, Ranger, Cleric, Shadow Knight or Wizard and you can choose between male and female. Choosing a Barbarian gives you a character that is great in up close fights but has no magic abilities, a wizard has powerful magic attacks but has low health points or you can go for a cleric who is capable of both but not as effective as the other two classes. It really gives the game a great depth and should lead to players going through the game more than once to find there own favorite class to use.

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Check out the lighting.
The meat of this game is straight out adventuring with enough action to satisfy pretty much anyone. The game revolves around finding items, dungeon crawls and battling army upon army of enemies. This does not sound terribly original and to be honest itís not, but it is so brilliantly done I do not care. Finding a potion or operating a leaver hidden in a cave may sound boring, but when you have to hack through hundreds upon hundreds of enemies to do it the hours will fly by without you noticing. The fantasy worldís favorite monsters all make appearances goblins, orcs, zombies, giant insects are all there to hinder your progress.

The actual attacking in this game is simple to do, and it is oh so enjoyable. The X button swings your Melee weapon and various spells can be ordered to either the triangle or circle button. Blocking is a simple matter of hitting the R1 button, itís simple but effective. The more fights you are in the quicker you can level up and improve your four main categories, Strength, Endurance, Magic and Health, then you can upgrade about 20 different spells or fighting skills with the points you earn. Leveling up is done quite well in Champions of Norrath, as there are not many re spawning enemies for you to plunder to make the rest of the game a cake walk. Oh no this is one bloody tough game that will fight you every step of the way, as you get stronger so do your enemies, which only makes the game better in my opinion.

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Character stats...
One of the big selling points to Champions of Norrath is that it can be played with one to three of your friends either via a multi tap or online. This is a much welcomed feature and can provide many hours of entertainment. You and up to three of your friends can embark on the game in co op mode, one cool feature of the online mode is that you can chat via the USB headset. More games especially adventure games really need to get online as it can really extend a games life.

So far this review is going great guns, but unfortunately there are a few niggles that do slow the momentum down. The main one for me is the online mode, while it is great that it has been included, it is pretty light on in features. There is no game lobby where players can chat and line up a game, so you have to organise a game before you log on. The other online problem is the way the games themselves are set up to begin with. If you host a game you start the game from your last single player save point and the game continues from there, but once you save the online game that is were you will pick back up in single player mode. If you are a level 15 player and join a game with a level 7 player and save it, you will be back in an area that you explored many hours ago, and if you join say a level 19 character your game will be skipped forward. With this system you can miss entire chunks of the game in single player mode, which is really annoying. The only other real problem is pretty much un avoidable really, the game does get repetitive with all the dungeon crawls and fighting. So there will be players out there that get sick of the game, I personally love the system but it still had to be said.

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Now that's an enemy!
Champions of Norrath comes on a dual layered DVD with good reason, this game is stunning to look at. The visuals in this game are on par with pretty much any game on the PS2. The detail in the characters is fantastic; while the game is viewed from a high up angle in single player you can zoom right in and really appreciate the detail that has gone into this game. Your character and all the numerous enemies look great. The environments, of which there are nearly 50 are enormously varied and also include fantastic details. Every environment in the game looks and feels spot on, from dark dank caves light by candles to lush green fields it is all first class stuff. The only downside to the visuals is how some enemies disappear straight away while some donít and the frame rate can slow down with heaps of onscreen enemies. Other than that it is high quality looking game.

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Cut-scene time.
The sounds to the game donít quite hold up the visuals lofty standards but they too have there moments. The music that plays through the game is absolutely great, with an orchestra that has every moment covered with a suitably accompanying sound. When there is danger near by the music picks up and gets louder, while the cost is clear you will hear a slow quiet track. The voice acting in this game is usually pretty good with only a couple of silly accents ruining the sounds to the game. The sound effects are also pretty good throughout.

Champions of Norrath is one of the most enjoyable games I have played in a long time, and while it is certainly not for everyone I think it is well worth checking for those who like a good adventure or are after a splendid action game. The game oozes quality in almost every area. If the online portion of the game was better organized making it easier to get a game going then this would have come close to my top five PS2 games ever, as it stands it is simply a very, very good game instead of being a classic. If you get this game (which is now probably quite cheap) try and get a few friends to buy it as well and you will have a game that will last you a very long time. Highly recommended.

Review By: Graham Darko

GRAPHICSOne of the better looking games on Playstation 2 despite a few bugs.
SOUNDSuperb orchestra, sound effects and some solid voice acting.
GAMEPLAYSo simple yet so addictive, if you like this genre you will be delighted.
VALUE50+ areas, heaps of quests, 4 player online and offline. Great value.
OVERALLA fantastic game that will give fans of the genre months of fun, find some friends to play it with and you will have a blast.

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