A Hack and Slash game in the same vein of Diablo, set in the Everquest Universe. And it’s a sequel!
Champions: Return To Arms is a 2005 action RPG set in the Everquest universe. This title represents a couple of firsts for me. This was my first isometric hack and slash style game(unless you count Gauntlet for the NES). It was also my first and only foray into the Everquest universe. The game was a sequel to Champions of Norrath. I never played that game so I have no clue how it stacked up to its previous iteration.
Once upon a time, Everquest was everywhere. It was one of the first commercially successful MMORPG’s before the formula started getting stale, and there was no escaping it. My fourteen-year-old self-wanted to see what all the hype was about and so I begged my father to get me Everquest 2.
I have always been a console gamer, so I knew next to nothing about PC gaming at that time. When I tried to boot up the game, I was hit with a bunch of installation requirements which I didn’t understand. I was essentially stuck with a game I couldn’t play because the video game store wouldn’t take it back.
Fast forward to a year or so later and I heard about an Everquest game for the PS2, which I owned. It was unlike anything I’d ever played before, my RPG experiences heavily intertwined with Square products.
Classes and Races
Choosing my race and class was a new thing for me. I’d never had to do that in a game before. I was amazed at the diversity, unaware that this generation was introducing two new classes and races: the Iksar shaman(lizard man) and Vah Shir Berserker(cat dude). Funny enough, they were the first two I played as. During my time with the game, I ran multiple playthroughs with every class and race because I loved the fast action gameplay. I wanted to experience all that the game had to offer.
Sadly, couch co-op has become a thing of the past, with fewer and fewer titles offering it. Not only did this game have online functionality, it had 4 players local co-op. In a house full of boys, all into gaming, this was a big deal. Many of my fondest family moments happened because of couch co-op gaming.
It was bonding time for my little brothers and I. When my cousin came over to play, it was a party and on those occasions when my father joined in, it was invaluable time well spent. Now the co-op did not require or even inspire the most tactical of teamwork, so it was an easy game for all of us to pick up and play. As people get more and more addicted to screens, I think couch co-op is more important than ever and I seriously wish more games offered 4 player functionality.
The story isn’t anything special, but is enjoyable enough. At the beginning of the game, players are sent out on a quest to obtain these shards that have been thrown across all planes of existence, these shards essentially containing the essence of the big bad boogieman. Players can choose to gather these for the forces of good, with the intent of destroying these shards, or choose the dark side and gather these shards with the intent of resurrecting the Prince of Hate. Realistically, this only changes objectives for specific missions but provides enough of a difference for players who decide to play the game multiple times.
My favorite part of the story is the imaginative design of each plane of existence. Each level, while similar in structure, is drastically different in personality. One plane sees you in a drab wasteland, the other in a plane of festering flesh and oozing boils, and yet another underwater with players having to find various ports for oxygen. Enemy design is also unique to each plane, further adding to the special personality of each level.
One gripe I have looking back on this game is the representation of females. Not to get all SJW or anything like that, but all the female models were given cartoonishly, huge breasts and sometimes very little to wear. One could argue this is a stylistic choice, prevalent in high fantasy, both in males and females. You also would not have caught my teenage self-complaining about this, but times have changed. Women can be sexy without having their boobs hanging out. A good example of this is the Gears of War series. It’s a trope I’m tired of seeing, but this is a minor complaint and doesn’t really affect the fondness I have for this game.
There Be Treasure!
This game turned me into a loot whore. I got excited to see what enemies would drop because of the diversity in the drops. In the FF series, sure you’d get loot and could purchase different looking weapons, but this was on a whole new level. Weapons were so various in style and armors changed the way my avatar looked. You could find war fans and war picks as weapons. I’d never seen that in a game before. On top of that, I was excited to see what bad ass looking armor would drop. On multiplayer, we’d always be fighting over who got what because it all looked cool to us.
This is not the best hack n slash game I’ve ever played, but damn was it a fun one. If you have a PS2 still laying around and some friends to play with, I would give a go. If you know anything about PS2 emulators, you could give a go on that platform as well.