CoN is the Dummies' Guide to Action RPGs
Champions Of Norrath is a great way to ease your friends into the Action-RPG genre. While some may debate this claim due to the game feeling somewhat lame and uninspired, I would counter saying that this game is still a lot of fun playing on the couch with a friend, both focused on the same screen, sharing the same gear and overcoming the same obstacles.
I tried playing this game alone once and when playing it alone, it is very lame an uninspired. With a game like Diablo 2 I didn't mind playing through that game alone through most parts of the game because I found it a lot more engaging, this game is just too bland without a friend to get you through it.
But CoN can give you the push you need to get your friends into the higher quality ARPGs like Diablo 2. It has intuitive controls which make it accessible for even the clumsiest of gamers. You control your character like a 3rd person top-view game due to a lack of mouse and keyboard. You press one button to attack, another to cast spells, two for the various potions and there is one for blocking as well. The blocking concept was something I really liked and can make the combat feel slightly more engaging than these types of games normally offer but really is only used in specific situations.
These controls are all the same for each class, of which there are 5. The classes are different per race and each race is inspired by a counterpart in the EverQuest universe. I personally played as a Wood Elf Ranger with my friend playing as a Barbarian Warrior. This created a really dynamic team that could handle many different combat scenarios and was fun all the way through the game.
Advancement in the game grants you attribute points and skill points, unsurprisingly. Most of the skill trees force you to go one way or the other offering only 2 or 3 true builds that will help you grow more powerful. I suppose you could be a "jack of all trades" if you like, but I think it would be difficult in the later portions of the game. The skill tree also requires that you get X amount of a certain skill before you can obtain Y-dependency skill, which I thought took away some of the player's control over their character.
Inventory management isn't something you have to really be concerned about in this game as you will find most gear in this game and have only your friends to trade with. Gold will be spent mostly on potions and other miscellaneous supplies and will rarely need to be spent on a better item or trinket. Because of this, picking up items to vendor is something you only need to do in the early stages of the game. In the later stages you will likely only be picking up what you need.
The sounds are varied enough to keep you from turning them down, but that is about all. There are enough different sounds for the various drops that, should you play the game to completion, you will know every item type that has dropped based soley on what your ears are telling you. The sounds for attacks and spells feels very generic and doesn't give them that much needed "Ooomph!" to make them feel truely powerful. The music is fantasy 101.
The graphics in the game weren't bad for when it released in the way back when of 2004. It was a 3rd generation ARPG title with a lot of advancements, graphically, over most of its competitors. The 3D did help it out in terms of being interesting and it had dynamic lighting to boot. Not much else can be said about the 3D though as most of the time you will just barely be able to see what it is you are fighting and you can only really see your character in detail at the inventory screens.
So there it is, Champions of Norrath broken down into what it really is: A mediocre action RPG that can't stand on its own, but with the support of a friend, offers a fun and engaging experience for all to be had from start to finish.