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Champions of Norrath: Realms of Everquest (PC) Reviewed!
Game Info
GENRE:
N/A
PUBLISHER:
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DEVELOPER:
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Screenshots
Gameplay: 9 / 10
Graphics: 8 / 10
Sound: 8 / 10
Replay: 9 / 10
Final Rating:
8.5 



When Snowblind Studios left Interplay and hooked up with Sony Online Entertainment, not all people were convinced that it was the right move for the company.
Well, after playing Champions of Norrath: Realms of Everquest, Iím here to tell you that it worked out just fine. Everything that Snowblind had implemented in Baldurís Gate: Dark Alliance has been perfected in Realms of Everquest. With more characters, more items (over 10,000), top-notch visuals, and online play, the end result is a stunning piece of work that will leave you wanting more.

Gameplay

The spell effects in Norrath are some of the best seen on the PS2.

Gameplay wise, thereís certainly more here that meets the eye. With a male and female version of each character, plus the ability to change their looks numerous times, the possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to character creation.
The story on the other hand is not so groundbreaking; itís a simple, lackluster at best effort, that barely keeps you playing to the end. Most of the story actually takes place at the beginning of the game.
You start out in the treetop city of Kelethin, which is home to the Faydwer wood elves. It seems to be that an army of orcs and goblins has managed to penetrate the great city and its up to you to save them and their precious city. You will soon figure out that itís not the army thatís the problem; itís none other than their leader, a giant orc, who seems to be rallying his army to a frenzy. You will chase this orc through over 50 levels and dungeons, which are all randomly generated each time you play. Although this may seem a little tedious and boring at times, its actually not, in fact it turns out to be much more than your typical hack and slash action adventure.
The enemies in this game are a vast improvement over other entries in this genre, including the baldurís gate series, which is built on the same engine. No more will enemies blindly rush you and force you to flex your finger muscles, well at least not all of them. Some creatures like orcs, giant ants, and spiders will rush you in a blind rage, while others like archers and wizards will stay as far away as possible, while raining down hails of arrows or devastating spells. This may seem like a simple task, but until your actually forced to fight an archer, a wizard, and an orc at the same time, you will truly understand the amount of strategy thatís needed to stay alive in this game.
The menu system has also been given a proverbial facelift, viewing items, weapons, and armor has never been so pleasurable. The menu is essentially made up of 8 tabs, or folders, that contain everything from items and armor, to your characters statistics and special abilities. Most noticeable of the changes has to go to the newly implemented skill tree. With each level you gain, there are a variety of skills that you can increase at your own leisure. Whether you wish to add fire, ice, or acid arrows to your arsenal of moves, or just simply want to increase the power of your melee attack, the choice is entirely up to you. The beauty of this system lies in the fact that your never forced to pick a certain skill set, and if you do wish to climb up the tree, you can always retreat back to the bottom to increase an earlier skill that may need a little beefing up. While this system may not reach out and grab you at first, you will greatly learn to appreciate it when the game forces you to change your skill set in order to defeat a certain enemy, and trust me, it will.

Graphics

Sorry to offend the Everquest faithful, bit this is not your typical looking EQ. Visually Norrath excels on all levels of graphical stardom. From top-notch character models, to the best armor and weapons seen this side of Morrowind, your appetite for eye candy will definitely not go unfulfilled in the realm. However, with enough visual horsepower to best Maní Oí War in a race, also comes some hampering slowdown and pop-up effects. This is mostly evident while rotating the camera, or zooming in or out on your character (which you will do an insane amount of the time in order to see your surroundings) while a large number of enemies are on the screen. You will also

The great city of Kelethin is the first to be invaded by the orcish army.
notice some draw in problems on some levels, you will simply be walking along bashing from orc to orc, when a large chunk of land, or a piece of a building will suddenly appear in front of you. While this is problematic and noticeable, the good news is that the effect it has on the action is very minimal.
As far as the character models go, they are most likely some of the best looking around. Whether you choose to embark on your journey with a Barbarian Warrior, or choose the more evenly balanced High Elf Cleric, you will definitely see that a lot of hard work and dedication went into every aspect of the game. Whatís even more impressive than the actual character models is the insane amount of items and armor that you can find, or buy while playing. With over 10,000 randomly generated items, weapons, and armor, you will be playing dress up for days on end. In fact, I almost completely forgot about this oversized orc that I was suppose to hunt down, in reality I mostly wanted to advance in the story for the sole reason of collecting better items for my character. To tell the truth, the main reason that I chose a new character for my second journey through the game instead of my now level 24 High Elf Cleric stud, was the fact that I wanted to see the different items that belonged to the other character classes.
Lastly, you will trot through over 50 areas and dungeons, all randomly generated and filled to the max with glorious water effects, incredibly realistic enemy design (anyone afraid of spiders), and unique locations that range from scorpion filled deserts to a vampires castle, all which will leave you breathless.

Sound

Not to be outdone by the gameplay or graphics counterpart, the sound crew obviously took it as a personal challenge to bring you an experience that you won't soon forget. Every bash of the sword, every block of the shield, and every shriek of a dying enemy is melded to perfection. The background score is also very well done. Each area totes its own unique melody that integrates itself nicely into the immediate sounds of what is happening on screen in the action department. The voice over, however, is a bit drab at times, and almost never elevates your playing experience like you would have hoped. Some of the voices are very well done, while some of the others are, well, tolerable at best. When you add the fact that every time I tried to pick an item up, while being at my carrying capacity, I had to listen to my High Elves ďthereís no place to put thatĒ speech more times than should be legal. Other than these few minor shortcomings, the superb sound in Champions of Norrath propels the action and gameplay into a supreme package that you shouldnít be without.

Replay

Where is Samwise when you need him.

This is definitely the section where Norrath will thrust itself past any competition, genre or not. The replay value in this game is above and beyond almost any game ever conceived. Not only are there 5 different races, in which you can choose male or female, but you also have the option of choosing numerous types of skin and hair colors. Throw in the fact that each race has there own unique set of items and weapons, not to mention being able to play through the game again with your character on a harder difficulty setting, and your left with all the motivation you need to lace them up and go at it again. If playing alone isnít your cup of tea, then feel free to invite your friends over for a multiplayer experience thatís rarely seen in todays games. Not only can you take the battle online with up to 4 players using the USB headset, which is great for planning strategies, or just simply talking to your buddies while playing, but you can also go old school and use the multitap if online play isnĎt readily available to you or your location.

Snowblind Studios has definitely outdone itself this time, and nearly ousted the competition before the match even began. With incredible graphics, invigorating sound affects, and unparalleled replay value, it wouldnít surprise me if this game appeared on a few ballots at the end of the year. This is an unforgettable effort that should not go unnoticed; if you yearn for an action RPG, then look no further. Without a contender in sight, a leader has risen to the top, and itís no other than Champions of Norrath: Realms of Everquest.