Game Comment: "Champions Of Norrath" (PS2)

20 Mar

Champions of Norrath is a hack-and-slay action RPG like Diablo or Baldur’s Gate (PS2). I started to play this game last summer (maybe even spring), then stopped, and finished it last weekend (that is, I completed the first difficulty level with one character), so I don’t remember the beginning of the story. There’s a war and you have to get the baddie to prevent the destruction of the world (or something in that style). Not very surprising. But honestly, surprise and an interesting story-line are not things I expect from a hack-and-slash game (although you can be sure I would be exited to play one), more important are gameplay and the “just-one-level-higher” or the “let-me-just-clear-this-area” feeling, IMO.

I only played as a Ranger, so I can’t say anything about the other characters. I know that many complain about the uneven difficulty of this game, especially since there is no way to level up for a difficult boss fight in a started game (all the visited areas are “clear”). Either you make it or not, and if nothing goes, the only way to complete the game is to import your character into a new game and start over. Who would want to do that? (And if you’re unlucky, maybe even a couple of times?). I had no really serious problems with the battles, a few bosses – notably the last one – were annoying (= took a few tries to beat), but thankfully no starting over was necessary. Maybe I had luck with my chosen character.

What annoyed me about the ranger was the high weight of the arrows needed for the weapon. This led to a constant struggle with the character’s carrying capacity, although there is a skill that increases this capacity. But I preferred to concentrate on offensive skills. Maybe that’s why I didn’t have serious trouble with the battles. If that is the case, I’m glad I did so, although I had to go back to town really often to sell the items I found.

What I liked:

  • characters: the reason I mention this separately: you can choose between a female or a male version of each of the five character classes. There are also some options to change the look of your character.
  • graphic: most (all? can’t remember) of the areas were nicely done and detailed, making for a rich playing experience.
  • gameplay: the gameplay was easy to learn with no complicated button combinations as is appropriate for a hack-and-slash game. If you played the Baldur’s Gate games on the PS2 you’ll know what to do.

What I didn’t like:

  • technical problems: the game froze a quite a couple of times, especially in the first two acts. Apart from that, there are rendering problems: sometimes objects didn’t appear when I opened the inventory and all I got were placeholder signs and not the actual objects (like my weapon), or all the textures disappeared so that my character walked on the grid. So beware, this is a very glitchy game – save very often or you’ll be very frustrated. Slowdowns are rather common, too.
  • no “let-me-just-play-’til” feeling: I never really got this feeling and I’m not sure why. Are the skills available after levelling up too unexciting? Is it because I never did find something useful (even after finishing the game, my character uses only bought items)? Is it because I couldn’t go back to visited areas to hunt for items like it’s possible in Diablo 2? I don’t know, but the fact that I stopped playing many months ago and only finished it now because I wanted to be done with it, says something, doesn’t it? And I’m not really tempted to go back and try with another character.
  • items: there is a wide variety of items available, the equipment is level based, and there exists a system to improve it with gems and such. Problem is: I never found anything useful, so I bought all the items I used myself (see above). To do that, I had to pick up all the things I found and sell them in the shops because the items I wanted were so expensive. And the items to customize your equipment you have to find yourself. Go and hope to find the gem you really want, when you can visit each area only once and there is a wide variety of items you can find. IMO, that makes a potential exciting item system rather dull and uninteresting, maybe even frustrating.

Did I enjoy playing this game? It’s fun to play even with all the flaws.

Would I recommend this game? Yes, but the next one in this series is already available and comes (supposedly) without some of the problems.

Grade: 3,5 / 5


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