For anyone who has played the previous Champions of Norrath, or it's Baldur's Gate cousins, the sequel, Return to Arms, is very familiar ground. Very very familiar ground! For everyone else this game's basic premise is the acquisition of money, weapons and experience by exploring dungeons and smacking up the hapless mooks within. It's incredibly repetitive but also addictively compulsive. Once you're hooked on the process of obtaining ever increasing rewards you'll soon find that you are enjoying yourself despite the one tone gameplay.
The problem is that despite being the sort of anally retentive gamer who likes to collect every last gold coin I found myself growing bored of this game incredibly quickly. Most sequels are lazily produced affairs but RTA takes the biscuit. With recycled environments, characters and NPCS you'd be hard pressed to spot the differance between this and its predecessor. There are two new player classes to try out, namely the frenzied Vah Shir (catman) Berserker and the devious Iksar (lizardman) Shaman. The other classes have received new advances and there are supposedly new weapons but it all stinks of a rushed job. The biggest casualty though has to be the plot. The original game's story was wafer thin but after hours of playing RTA I am still none the wiser as to what my motivation is other than becoming the vaguely defined Champion of Norrath. It's hard to push yourself to trawl through yet another uninspired level without at least a semblence of a goal.
It's not all bad though. The statistics behind the scenes that run the show are all well balanced and the option of 4 player multiplayer and online play makes for hectic fun with your mates but in a genre which is supposed to be based on the boundaries of the imagination this game shows just how bland RPGs have gotten in recent years.