Good, clean, large scale violence
Fri, 17 June 2005
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Yes, my friends...we are the champions. Snowblind Studios (developers of this game) love their hack â€˜em up action, thatâ€™s for sure. If, like the Snowblind folks, you dig games along the lines of Diablo and Gauntlet then you should feel right at home with Champions: Return to Arms.
Baldurâ€™s Gate: Dark Alliance was, I believe, where Snowblind started making these types of games and they havenâ€™t looked back since. Iâ€™d say that if youâ€™ve played their previous games, especially the last one called Champions of Norrath, then you wouldnâ€™t have much need to play this one, as they are all very similar in look, feel and execution.
This type of gameplay is pretty repetitive, so if youâ€™ve already gone through all of this before, you could quickly grow tired of it. Especially as the last game (from everything Iâ€™ve seen and read at least) was almost identical to this one.
However, I have not played Dark Alliance or Champions of Norrath (meaning I havenâ€™t done this stuff to death already), so Return to Arms was still a relatively fresh game experience for me. If you are in the same boat as me in that regard, and youâ€™re after some fun fantasy action fare, this latest one from Snowblind is (presumably) the most polished game theyâ€™ve done yet and a great place to jump on board.
I suppose I should go into some detail about the gameplay. Honestly, there just isnâ€™t all that much to say about it that you couldnâ€™t figure out for yourself, if you have been a gamer for more than a week. But Iâ€™ll do it just the same, because that is my job after all.
From the outset you choose which type of "Lord of the Rings" or "Dungeons & Dragons" character you want to play as. They all have certain strengths and specialties; barbarianâ€™s are better with the close up fighting, wizards are good with spells (yeah, no shit) and so forth. I chose the "Dark Elf Shadow Knight" (they all have these longwinded names incidentally) just because I reckon he looks the coolest.
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Shortly into the game, you can decide whether to be good or evil, but it doesnâ€™t actually make a whole lot of difference to the gameplay either way.
Thereâ€™s some kind of story going on, as you meet various characters throughout the game that all talk in the wanky way these types usually use and you pay no attention as they explain your missions to you. Then you just kill heaps and heaps of strange and truly wonderful looking enemies; by doing so youâ€™ll get to upgrade your skills and experience every so often. You also get increasingly better weapons, armour, potions and that kind of thing, either by buying it or taking it from fallen enemies or the abundant treasure chests conveniently left lying all over the place.
It is all quite monotonous but I still got right into it. You get a definite sense of satisfaction as your character slowly gets more and more powerful. As repetitive as the action might be, it is still a lot of fun and kind of takes me back to the more straightforward games I played in my youth. Full on constant action is often enjoyable, you donâ€™t have to think so much, just react when necessary and have fun. If you have the means, the game can be played (online or with a multi-tap) in co-op mode with four people. The four player action would be a real blast, for a while at least, Iâ€™m sure. That is really just one more way this game reminds me of Gauntlet.
Visually, Return to Arms is a very appealing game. It really does a better job of looking like a modern version of Gauntlet than the actual modern versions of Gauntlet! The characters are well designed and the levels full of detail. Everything is really crisp and it doesnâ€™t feel too cluttered (as it easily could with all the action that happens onscreen). It also boasts some very nice graphical effects, with the water in particular being rather pretty.
By todayâ€™s lofty standards, there is nothing about these graphics that will leave you in awe, but they are definitely very nicely presented. The only complaint from me about the gameâ€™s looks is that it can be quite easy to get lost in some of the levels, as they donâ€™t always make it clear which way you should be heading. But thatâ€™s not such a major problem because you are encouraged to explore the levels and look for bonus items and stuff like that. You do have a map to help you find your bearings too.
I like the music in this one, it gets suitably grandiose and it really sets the mood, especially when you are about to engage in one of the gameâ€™s many great boss battles.
|Flame on! |
The voice work in the game is very competent too, I donâ€™t know how those people managed to say some of these ridiculous lines without laughing, but they did it and they sound pretty much on the money. Actually, there does seem to be a bit of a tongue in cheek vibe to some of the dialogue and characters.
Champions: Return to Arms offers a good stretch of playing time and plenty of challenge for any gamer. You wonâ€™t knock this one over in a day, particularly not on the harder settings. If you have played the previous games, Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath, you likely wonâ€™t have so much need for this one, since youâ€™ve already done it all before. But if you love this style of game to death and want more of it, don't let me stop ya!
On the other hand, if youâ€™re like me and have never played those other games, you could kick back with a few beers (if you are of age of course) and have a great time with this one. It isnâ€™t an all time classic or anything, but Champions: Return to Arms provides a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience that is most recommended for fantasy and hack â€˜nâ€™ slash fans alike.
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