Good replay value with the higher difficulties and randomly-generated dungeons, plus the added multi-player fun.

User Rating: 8.7 | Champions of Norrath PS2
Champions of Norrath can be summarized in four words: Everquest meets Baldur's Gate.

The story takes place several years before the world of Everquest as we know it, so there is no need to know any of the original lore to play the game. You will meet many new faces and some familiar characters and places.

There are five pre-set races with their respective classes to choose from: Wood Elf Ranger, Dark Elf Shadow Knight, Barbarian Warrior, High Elf Cleric and Erudite Wizard. Not much for variety, many classes are missing, like the Magician, the Enchanter and the Necromancer. Necromancers are understandable, since this type of magic wasn't discovered until much later by Miragul. (If you'd like to learn more about it, read EQ Diaries III - The Forbidden Scroll.). But then again, don't Shadowknights have necromantic powers? Isn't that a bit contradictory?

Anyway, you will find some of their skills in the other classes. Clerics have the possibility of charming a monster and your Shadowknight can drain hitpoints and mana, and will definitely end up with a pet which - what a coincidence! - tends to get lost.

Customizable is the word of the day. You can customize your character's face, skin tone and hair. You can customize weapon and armor properties by adding magical items to them. You can customize your character's combat and magic progression through the skill point tree. And, on top of that, every single piece of armor equipped shows on your character.

The world is huge, there are so many places to explore, things to kill and treasure to find. There are thousands of items, which will drop accordingly to your class, so don't expect to see Wizard content if you're playing a Warrior (though there is the rare exception). Some of these items will be familiar to veteran EQ players. Remember the Lodizal Shell Shield? Barbarian Spiritist's Hammer? They're in there.

The gameplay has tons of options too. You can import and download characters from game to game, you can bring your friends and have a multi-player hack and slash party (need a multitap), or you can go online, though there are rarely any games going on.

The music is gorgeous, very epic (for lack of better words) and the sound effects are great. The voice acting isn't bad either, I especially like the comments from the characters when they reach certain areas.

The graphics are just amazing, and so is the attention to detail. Take the time to appreciate how the arrows stick to your enemies, how the ice rain spell falls down in little icicles and flakes, how the fire beetles shoot jets of flames at you.

In all the goodness that is Champion of Norrath, there had to be a small 'but'. Every single copy that we have rented has had lock-up problems when loading. Apparently, the tiniest scratch on the disc surface will cause it to lock at a certain point, and not just used copies but brand new ones, as I learned from a friend who has had this problem ever since he bought his copy. Lock-ups tend to occur when opening the inventory or teleporting back to the last town. So word of advice, save as often as you can.

So was it a bug? Were all the discs faulty? I don't know. But Champions of Norrath has a good replay value with the higher difficulties and randomly-generated dungeons, plus the added multi-player fun.

Review text part of