Champions: Return to Arms embarks for stores

Sony Online Entertainment ships the PlayStation 2-exclusive sequel to Champions of Norrath.

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Last year PlayStation 2 owners got a taste of Sony Online Entertainment's popular role-playing game EverQuest via Champions of Norrath. The console cousin to the ever-popular PC massively multiplayer online role-playing game used the original's fantasy setting, the magical realm of Norrath, as the backdrop for a hack-and-slash adventure similar to Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. Not so coincidentally, the game was developed by Snowblind Studios, the same company that created the Dark Alliance engine.

Today, Sony Online Entertainment shipped the sequel to Champions of Norrath, appropriately called Champions: A Return to Arms. Priced at $49.99 and rated T for Teen, the game picks up where its predecessor left off, following the destruction of the evil god Innoruuk. Unfortunately, that destruction was not complete, with his remains concentrated into several "Shards of Hate" scattered across Norrath. The game begins with Innoruuk's followers setting out to locate all the Shards of Hate and recombine them, thereby resurrecting their slain master.

Players of Return to Arms will be charged with stopping Innoruuk's minions from bringing back their dark lord. The game's storyline will include "twists and turns that require the player to choose his or her fate," according to SOE, and will let players import their character from Champions of Norrath. However, Return to Arms will also let said characters advance much further, all the way to level 80. The game will sport 100 hours of gameplay per character and will feature more than 50 gameplay areas, which will include nonlinear side quests. It will also sport two new playable races--the lionlike Vah Shir berserker and the lizard-man Iksar Shaman--as well as thousands of new monsters, weapons, armor, and artifacts.

Champions: Return to Arms will also feature an extensive online component that will let up to four players jointly adventure in Norrath via a broadband Internet connection. (Players can also enjoy offline co-op play via the PlayStation 2 multitap adapter.) The game will also feature an all-new competitive mode that will let two to four players "battle for ultimate supremacy."

For a complete rundown on Champions: Return to Arms, check back tomorrow for GameSpot's full review of the game.

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