Sony has unlocked Pandora’s Box by releasing some of its PS2 classics on the PS4 in 1080p with full feature support, including trophies. Sure, I could just as easily spend that $15 on a satisfying meal at Chipotle, but whereas Chipotle will only bring me temporary satisfaction, trophies last forever. So, the question now stands, what do we want to see them bring back? The PS2 had an enormous library, so every Friday I will make a case for the games that I think deserve the recognition. Some are beloved classics, others are deeper cuts. This week’s pick is:
Champions of Norrath (2004)
Before we actually had Diablo on Playstation (okay, we had the original on the PSX, but for the purposes of this article that doesn’t count) we had Champions of Norrath. For those who know me, and I’d like to think they exist, Diablo 2 was a critical cornerstone of my gaming history. Solving the mysteries of the Horadric Cube were more important to me as a young boy than the mysteries of the opposite sex. So, imagine my joy to find that I could play something like that on my beloved PS2, and on a couch with my cousins no less. But, to write off Champions of Norrath as a Diablo clone does it a disservice. It was a classic that stood on its own two feet.
Part of that comes from it being part of the EverQuest universe. It had years of games and lore to draw from. Canonically, it fit in before the events that began the first MMO. But it drew enough from that world that it did not become another typical fantasy romp. To this day, I somehow can still remember the name of the first stage and the music that plays as you attempt to break the orc’s siege. That may also be due to the fact that my cousin and I were young enough that, at the time, we found the name Faydark hysterical.
The game was built on the same engine that Snowblind had used to port over the Baldur’s Gate series, but it was here that the studio truly capitalized on what made the dungeon-crawler genre so great. The game boasted over 10,000 randomly generated items to loot, which at the time was remarkable. It also utilized a skill tree, like Diablo 2, with multiple specialization paths and each individual skill offering around twenty levels to climb for maximum build customization. The variety extended to enemy combatants, who utilized an array of tactics other than mob attacks, requiring more thoughtful measures to defeat.
Champions was beautiful for its time; the number of environments and the vibrancy of each was a marvel to behold in the era of the PS2. As you hacked and slashed through each, the music that accompanied the violence was equally stunning. Many complained about the over the top voice acting, but for me personally, I felt that it added to the game’s charm. Much like the ramblings of Deckard Cain, it was something that grew on you.
Please Shuhei, let me run through the woods of Faydark once more and do battle with Innoruuk.