Developed by the creators of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Realms of Everquest : Champions of Norrath creates a new standard for action-RPGs. To compare this game to Everquest’s previous release, would be doing it an injustice. Both games are RPGs and online supported, but that’s where the similarities end. Realms of Everquest is far more action-oriented, and extends itself to a much larger playing audience. Where Everquest’s MMO-RPG is targeted to a niche market, Realms plays much more like Gauntlet: Legends. Anyone who enjoys a good round of arcade-style hack and slash will not be disappointed.
First off, Realms of Everquest takes upgrading and customization to a new level that most action-RPGs don’t come close to contending with. Since this title was created by the makers of Dark Alliance you might imagine that the upgrading systems are similar, but Realms doesn’t have nearly the same amount of features and character upgrades that Baldur’s Gate has. As opposed to approximately 25-30 upgradeable feats, which some character-classes share, Realms of Everquest’s five characters (warrior, ranger, wizard, dark-night and cleric) have only 15 abilities per character; but said abilities can be upgraded to level 20, and morph as you increase their levels. For example the Erudite wizard has an ability that surrounds the caster with a fireball that does damage to any enemies it comes into contact with. As you level this ability up, you receive more fireballs that even cause explosive damage and set the enemies on fire.
There are single player, multiplayer online, and multiplayer offline gaming modes. Up to four players can log on to a PS2 and play offline with a multi-tap, or each can get on his/her own PS2 and meet online. The online play is lag-free for the majority of the time, with only a very slight loss in response time; certainly nowhere near enough to tarnish gameplay. The hack and slash is top notch, but the only reason this game did not get a truly magnificent score is the frustratingly large amount of glitches you encounter. From spawning outside the map boundaries and dropping into oblivion, to our all-time favorite want-to-smash-your-PS2-to-bits game lockup – after you’ve been playing for an hour and a half (and neglected to save). The aforementioned problems only increase when you go online. The longest session I played with three other people was for a little over an hour and a half. Through the headset supported voice-chat, I was able to confirm with the other players that this was the single longest multiplayer game we had all encountered so far. So, all-in-all Realms of Everquest : Champions of Norrath is a huge whackload of fun?Eas long as the game doesn’t crash.
Realms is a visually rich gaming environment full of indepth textures. The spells and enchanted weapons give off great lighting effects and are a feast for the eye. There are even layered effects. For example, when my wizard would fire a ball-lightning attack and my friend’s dark-knight would fire an engulfing darkness attack (both ranged direct-damage spells), the two would combine for a rather spectacular looking light/dark ball of death. There are multiple landscapes that all have their own unique feel and some of the larger creatures in the game conjure images of Jurassic Park.
When travelling through a world of goblins, orcs, humans, and elves you must have the right music for a truly immersive gaming experience. Realms of Everquest does this beautifully with a soundtrack worthy of being written by Howard Shore of Lord of the Rings fame; but, of course, when you enter a dank, mould-encrusted cave filled with bloodthirsty, screaming goblins?Eyou don’t want something grandiose playing either. Realms follows through in this category with bone chilling screams and demonic funeral dirges. The voice acting is done well, with most of the NPCs having unique accents and speech patterns. The gnomes are absolutely hilarious and act exactly as you’d imagine real gnomes would (if there were real gnomes?Ether than the ones in my tacky neighbour’s yard… or that creepy world travelling one on TV?Ebut I think I’m getting off topic?E. Even the little things; like the guttural belching the orcs make as they talk, adds a unique feel that most games fail to accomplish.
Realms of Everquest delivers the goods when it comes to a variety of challenges. In addition to three difficulty settings; each one is only meant for a certain degree of experience. You start the game on Adventurous as whichever character you wish to start level one with. Once you beat the game on that difficulty setting you then move on to the next, Courageous, where you play the game over again with the same character (from the previous difficulty setting) except the enemies are toughened up to both absorb and deliver one heck of a beating. It helps if you team up with some friends, but the biggest challenge is playing solo; as enemies don’t increase/decrease in number as you add players.
The first time through on Adventurous isn’t all that difficult, but this setting is more to get yourself familiar with the gameplay and controls. Once you move on, things rapidly become much more difficult, and you’ll find yourself immersed in boss battles over and over. The replay on this game is huge, taking into account that you have five character classes (begging to be customized), and each with a plethora of abilities that can’t all be levelled up to max once you hit the level fifty maximum; so, in other words, if you want to see what your character abilities do when at their max; you have to play the game through with each character twice. In short, Realms of Everquest has hundreds of potential hours of game play. With three difficulty settings, and its online capabilities, this game has literally hundreds of potential gaming hours to offer.
Realms of Everquest: Champions of Norrath is a hugely entertaining game that can be enjoyed by all types of gamers. People who generally treat RPGs like the plague are finding themselves drawn to the satisfying allure of old school hack and slash. For anyone who’s a fan of skull bashing, magic throwing, and playing games cooperatively with friends, this title is a must-have. Although somewhat frustrating at times when it crashes (as it has a tendency to do), it’s more than worth if for the game play experience.