If you haven’t had enough of the Baldur’s Gate/Diablo/Gauntlet types of dungeon hack titles, you’re in luck, as Sony’s released Champions: Return to Arms for PlayStation 2. The game is basically and expansion for last year’s Champions of Norrath for the PlayStation 2, and while it’s an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon dungeon crawling, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Not a bad game, but you shouldn’t expect too much change over the last Champions title.
Ok, so maybe you haven’t played Champions of Norrath, and are wondering what Return to Arms is all about. I can boil it down for you pretty quickly. You choose a hero from a list of melee (close-in fighters), ranged (archers) and mystical (wizards and clerics) classes. Each character type has a few basic visual configuration options such as fur type, body shape and sex. Once chosen, your character is dumped into a world he/she is of course charged with saving from evil. From there on out, you fight your way through dungeon after dungeon (ok, some are outdoor levels, but really, they are still based on the mazelike features of a dungeon) slashing, bashing and killing off tons of villains. Kill villains, earn experience points, use those points to level up and increase your stats and skills. As you hack your way through the dungeons, you’ll pick up a variety of equipment, from armor to ammo, and plenty of power-up potions to help keep you alive. To spice things up, there’s a nice multiplayer online game that lets you form a party with online buddies and make with the baddie bashing. The online works well, and is pretty much lag-free, since honestly, there’s not much to clog a ‘net connection in this game.
Visually, it’s a darned good looking game, that shows there’s still some life left in the PS2’s emotion engine. Lots of rich textures and pretty character designs will surely make graphics junkies happy, though the darkness of some levels can be a pain. The other half of the presentation, the audio, gets the job done admirably, with some good voice acting and a decent sound palette.
Champions: Return to Arms may not be the most original game, but in the end, it’s a fun one. If you want to spend a weekend hacking and slashing alone or with online buddies, you can’t go wrong with this game. But if you haven’t played the first in the series (Champions of Norrath), go grab that at what will almost assuredly be a discounted price, since this game isn’t all that different from it. If you love the original, then go grab this to extend your adventures in the EverQuest universe.
- Gameplay: 7.9
- Straightforward hack and slash RPG. Online play gooses up the fun.
- Graphics: 8.5
- Shows that the PS2 still has some graphical gusto left in it.
- Sound: 7.5
- Good voice work, pretty standard sound effects.
- Replay: 8
- There’s a ton of worlds and dungeons to play through, and when you’re done, you can always jump online for more fun.
- Overall: 7.5
- Not terribly original, but worth picking up if you’re a fan of the genre.
— Craig Falstaff