Action RPGs have been a video game mainstay for many years now, but it wasn't until recently that the action was taken online. However, recent increases in the online gaming community, thanks in part to the success of the Playstation 2, has allowed gamers to hook up with friends online and take gaming to the next level. Champions of Norrath allows for just such excitement as it follows in the footsteps of previous Everquest games, allowing players to team up and save the lands of Norrath in Champions of Norrath: Realms of Everquest. Set hundreds of years before the current events of Everquest, Champions of Norrath will follow players as they venture from the city of Faydwer into the wilds of Norrath, with the charge of vanquishing the gathering army of evil orcs and goblins.
Snowblind Studios, developer of the amazing Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, is taking the reins of Champions of Norrath to offer a highly customizable gameplay experience. In Champions of Norrath, players will be able to customize several different character classes: Barbarian Warrior, Dark Elf, Shadow Knight, High Elf Cleric, Erudite Wizard and Wood Elf Ranger. Each character will be able to modify their hair color, skin, tattoos and facial hair, as well as hundreds of different weapon and armor combinations. Players can also create their own unique magic items by combing magic components with weapons and armor. All told, there will be over 10,000 different in-game items in Champions of Norrath. As if that weren't enough, the game will feature randomly generated monsters and dungeons, making every gameplay session completely different from the last. All of these variables should create loads of replay value, so it's not surprising that Snowblind is promising over 100 hours of gameplay per character.
Spanning those 100's of hours of gameplay will be over 50 different levels, each with their own non-linear side quests. Every time you log on, you'll be able to tackle one of these levels with up to three other players, either online or at home on the same console via the Playstation 2's Multitap. You'll also be able to save your character data to your memory card, allowing you to take your champion with you to your friends' house. However, if you are feeling especially courageous, you can tackle these obstacles all by yourself, which should lend a new, and dangerous, dynamic to the gameplay experience.
Graphically, Champions of Norrath should offer several enhancements over previous Everquest titles. Snowblind is promising system-pushing specs, including superb lighting effects and the ability to support up to 40 characters on screen at any given time. One of the common gripes about Everquest Online Adventures was that it was somewhat lacking in visuals, so it should be interesting to see what enhancements Snowblind can bring to the table.
As stated before, there will be plenty of weapons and armor in Champions of Norrath, including rapiers, broadswords, maces, halberds, rods, staffs, battle axes, as well as several different styles of armor ranging from leather plates to chain mail. Snowblind is also promising a plethora of spells and skills equaling the variety of weapons found in the game, though at this time no specifics have been disclosed.
As popular as Everquest has been in the past, it stands to reason that it can only get better with the developers of Baldur's Gate at the helm of Champions of Norrath. For fans of epic multiplayer adventure, the tag team of Sonly Online Entertainment and Snowblind Studios is about as good as it gets. Champions of Norrath: Realms of Everquest is currently scheduled for a November 2003 release, and we'll have more information on this title as it is released.
7/26/2003 Ryan Hartmann