Champions of Norrath

Snowblind Studios, who brought us the magnificent Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance never did manage to bring out the sequel, and eventually split with Bioware (and in the process, the D&D license). So instead they hooked up with Sony and the Everquest license, and this is the result. Essentially an enhancement of Dark Alliance, with a different dress. Cooperative play now allows for up to four players, and may be played over the net. More customizable, with five classes (Barbarian, Ranger, Cleric, Wizard, and Dark Knight) which can be either sex and adjustable skin and hair color and hair style, plus somewhat adjustable stats (four stat which have starting values in the 20’s-40’s and another 20 points to divide between them), plus a skill-tree-ish method of levelling up. Possibly this derives from Everquest, but I wouldn’t know.
The controls are essentially the same as in DA, even down to which shoulder-button controls drinking the healing potion and which the mana rejuv potion (same color potions on screen, conveniently enough). This makes it easy to jump into for DA fans, which is good, because the game is considerably harder at low levels than DA was–or at least than I remember it being. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve died; essentially any time I get swarmed by monsters, it’s over for me. And the monsters are objectively tougher than the early ones in DA; after clearing the initial training passel of goblins you immediately run into monsters that have ranged and magic attacks, and the pests have AI: they know how to block, and if you just stand there blocking they will (if they have room) sidle around you to get a clear shot. The AI isn’t brilliant; I lucked out at one point and just as I was about to be rended by giant badger-thingies stumbled into an alcove that they couldn’t fit in. They just kept running around, trying to attack. What’s more, they kept stumbling into a nearby open fire, and eventually killed themselves in it (I helped by shooting a spell every time I’d regenned enough mana, but I really think the fire did most of the work).

Now I have to split my time between this and Dark Alliance 2, which so far is much easier for solo play. Low level characters in DA2 seem unbelievably tough after having played a bit of Champions of Norath.

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