Anyone looking for solid Action RPG excitement should look no further.

User Rating: 9 | Champions of Norrath PS2
As I said in my Diablo 2 review, RPGs and I have always had a lukewarm experience. Final Fantasy introduced me to the genre, but that did nothing for me. It took me a while to get interested again, and, when I did, Champions of Norrath arrived on its Tier'dal surf board and showed me what a REAL man's RPG should be.

I'll sum up the plot by paraphrasing the instruction manual's introduction: "The elves are in trouble in need your help. They don't have much as in terms of awards, but your chance of adventure is great." So, what it's trying to say is grab a sword and get hunting. Well, OK, there is a deeper plot and it does have its twist, but it doesn't stall you for any great amount of time. The plot is present and stays where it belongs: Out of your way.

At first, I wanted to play as a Dark Elf Shadowknight. How could I look at that and NOT immediately fall in love with it. But above all, Michael Bell, the voice of Raziel from Soul Reaver, perfectly captures the feel of a sadistic Dark Elf. I also played as the Barbarian, which is my favorite, and the Wood elf if I ever feel like playing as Legolas. All the classes are well balance and give a different experience. Sometimes it feels like a whole new game. While you may not play as all of the classes, you can get more than a full experience by playing only as your preference.

The skill set is smaller than in Diablo 2, but it's not like every skill in D2 was useful. The older game had useful skills, but some of them were completely worthless. Which aura did you like better: the one that increases attack power by 30% or one that increases it by 50% and increases accuracy as well? All and all, there are less WRONG choices in Champions, which makes choosing skills less punishing. Instead of spamming points to one skill, you are give more lax as far as variety goes. You still have to use your head when selecting attributes, however.

One thing that Champions has over Diablo is the fact that it understands when someone wants to play single player. While the multiplayer (offline, anyway) is seamless and it was always fun to play with my brother and murder tons of goblins, the developers understand when someone wants to go solo. The game was made with single and multi player gameplay as equal priorities, and both modes are just as awarding.

The sound effects are seamless as well. The sword sounds like an instrument of slashy-death and everything else seems to sound as they should. The music score is wonderful when it comes and the background sound effects are as they should be.

There are other improvements on the genre. The spells can be set to the circle and triangle buttons, and are easy to use and switch around. Manual blocking allows the player more involvement in the battle (rather than just holding down left click). You can choose your gender, and has a great number of options for customization. And the boss fights are more than just Keep-Pressing-Attack.