Champions of Norrath


posted 4/26/2004 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PS2
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is one of my favorite games on the Xbox. Playing with a friend is a lot of fun but I was always annoyed at the fact that I couldn’t wander around unless both characters were on screen. That’s the limitation, of course, when playing with on a single Xbox cooperatively. The makers of Baldur’s Gate has come out with a new action RPG in the Everquest setting that not only alleviates that limitation but also adds more to the genre.

Champions of Norrath, from Snowblind Studios, is set at a time long before the current Everquest setting. You pick from a set of five class types along with a gender before you start out. The range of classes goes from the basic fighter to magic user to a few in between. Those wanting to bash through the game will want to play the barbarian while those that like to sit back and pick at the enemies will want to play the ranger.

There’s a skills tree for each character whereby advancing in levels lets you administer points to certain skills. Depending on how you allocate your points, some skills will be opened while following another path might close it off. Like all games, there will be some skills that are pretty worthless and you’ll have to read up on them to see which is worth having.

Like Baldur’s Gate, you can switch between a melee and range set of weapons quickly. Two bars, health and mana, are in the upper corner to let you know the state of your character. Missing in Norrath is the jump button. Thank god as the jump puzzles in Baldur’s Gate really seemed out of place and there’s no opportunity here with the omission of the action. Other than that, the gameplay is very similar to Baldur’s Gate. One thing I do notice about the game is that blocking does make a lot more of a difference. Where I could get by in Baldur’s Gate without touching the block button, I found I didn’t last that long without blocking a few shots and counterattacking. Norrath makes you think a little more and makes you a little less aggressive when going into battles.

You can enhance your weapons by finding special items. Weapons have slot allocations and you can fill free slots with these items thereby enhancing their abilities. It can help turn an average weapon to a formidable one. I do like the ability to mix and match these items and creating enhanced ones. Character classes are limited to certain types of weapons so you won’t be a cleric using edged weapons or a barbarian with a wizard’s staff.

The world is populated by a good number of enemies and you’ll even fight through areas with allies. The AI controlled characters don’t seem to die so you can exploit this sometimes by having the enemies lock on to an NPC and you can easily pick them off without any trouble. Killing enemies will usually result in dropped booty. It seems you can get a lot more goods in Norrath than you would in Baldur’s Gate. The result is a lot more trips to the merchant to sell off your goods. I found that I became overburdened a lot quicker in this game. But that just means plenty of opportunities to buy bigger and better stuff as you rack up gold at a little quicker pace.
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