Nov 032012

It wasn’t until after I had been playing for a while that I learned that NIS America’s latest publishing effort, Clan of Champions, is actually part of a series of sorts. I was told by a fan of the series, since the game itself makes no effort to acknowledge the fact. I’ve never played any of the “Gladiator series,” and to be frank, Clan of Champions hasn’t done much to motivate me.

Clan of Champions is an odd game. Mostly because it feels half-finished. The game has next to nothing in the way of bells and whistles or window-dressing. It starts out by setting up the two opposing forces by giving you names and no other context, hardly giving you a sense of the world of the game. It is presented as a mix of Romanesque gladitoral combat and light fantasy elements, as characters can be elves and orcs in addition to humans. Why the world is the way it is is pretty much up to your imagination. Each mission has a little bit of flavor text to tell you whom you’re going up against, but it’s so lifeless and free of anything meaningful I found my eyes glossing over every time I tried to read it.

The UI of the game is also really cluttered and rough. You get a stack of menus and not much explanation regarding what some of the more unique or specialized choices can do for you. It also, well, looks like crap. The game booted up and I couldn’t believe I was playing a game developed in 2011.

The main focus of Clan of Champions is on the fighting, which is as it should be, but I can’t shake the feeling that the developers spent a ton of time creating a fun system and then stopped before they had a complete game. You create a character, assigning a race and a class, each with their own unique and unsurprising benefits. You can then play around with your skillset and equipment before starting your missions. You and either some friends or a team of AI partners face off in a limited arena until the entirety of a team is dead. Fighting is complex and unique, surprisingly enough. You have several buttons; three for attacks that target different heights, a dodge roll, a skill button, and a guard breaker. You can chain most of these together for light combos. The really cool part revolves around equipment. Your dpad (yes, dpad, the game is designed to be played with a controller and if you don’t have one, be prepared to deal with beyond awkward keyboard controls) corresponds to different pieces or armor. You can take off or put on anything you encounter on the field, mostly bashed off of your opponents. As the fight progresses, the arenas become littered with stray weapons and bits of armor. It makes for both a pretty neat battle damage mechanic, as well as a fun way to mix things up for your character on the fly.

The big problem is how repetitive the game gets. All you do is play missions one after the other, and other than the occasional new enemy, you do the same thing over and over. There’s no real need for strategy; you just run down an enemy, beat on them until they’re dead, then move on to the next one. It may work in games like Dynasty Warriors in which unrelenting, over the top action is the order of the day, but in a slower game with much less content, it wears pretty thin, well before the end.

Clan of Champions has potential, which would be great if it was some sort of work in progress. Sadly, nowadays, solid mechanics and not much else feels like little more than a really nice tech demo.

Clan of Champions

ProsReally cool and unique gameplay
ConsOne of the most unfinished feeling games I've played in a long time

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