2004 saw the release by SCEA of Champions of Norrath. The game was set in the world of Norrath, which aficionados will recognise as the world of Everquest, the massively multiplayer online RPG which is lauded and cursed equally in recognition of its fiendishly addictive nature. Champions of Norrath, as befits a console-only title, was an action RPG, and its lineage becomes even more clear when you consider that it was developed by Snowblind Studios, the same fantasy-specialising outfit that brought you Baldurs Gate. As well as offering four-player simultaneous action on one console, it also allowed play for four players on different consoles, linked up by Sonys broadband adapter for PS2. Players could choose one of five fairly typical fantasy roleplay characters (Wood Elf, barbarian, wizard etc.) and a nice touch was the ability to also select either a male or female gender for any of the characters.
Champions: Return to Arms is the sequel, and is again published by Sony and developed by Snowblind. In this version, you can import any of your fully developed characters from Champions of Norrath. The five original characters are featured: Barbarian Warrior, Wood Elf Ranger, Dark Elf Shadowknight, High Elf Cleric and Erudite Wizard. In addition, there are two new characters to try out: the exotically named Vah Shir Berserker and Iksar Shaman, who take the form of a huge Tiger-man and Lizard wizard respectively. The Iksar Lizard man can even summon a pet badger to assist him!
The game, like its predecessor, supports four player simultaneous play, either on one console or fee free across the internet via broadband. It also supports the USB PS2 headset so you can plot strategies with your allies. The characters too, have more skills, weapons, armour and spells to acquire. The game also boasts an infinite selection of items, with 10,000 items in-game and the ability to create your own items. As well as more than 40 levels with attendant sub-quests, you can challenge your friends with the player vs. player combat system on all-new maps. The dynamic storyline also allows your character to develop along both good and evil storylines. With its online capabilities and action RPG pedigree, this game will appeal greatly to console RPG fans.