Game: Clan of Champions
Systems: PS3, PC, Xbox 360
Clan of Champions is a new endeavor from NIS America. It came to Japan nearly a year ago and has now arrived in America. Unfortunately, other than a few novelties, the wait was not quite worth it.
Story: Clan of Champions does not have a good story and it was clearly made in that way. The premise basically revolves around two nations fighting over dominion. For some reason, these two nations have no formal military or if they do they must be lackluster. Why? Because both sides use mercenaries to fight their battles. After years of battle, a lost land is found which is said to behold grand and powerful weapons. This is where you come in. You are a mercenary sent to get these weapons before the other nation does.
The backdrop is presented through a glorified title sequence, the story itself is progressed through a series of text boxes that are more akin to mission briefings, and every so often you are given a short in-game cutscene. These cutscenes are unimaginative and add almost nothing to the story. Most of the time you have to discern for yourself what exactly happened.
Bottom-line, this game was never meant to have a story so don’t expect much.
Presentation: The game falls flat on this aspect. The character models move smoothly, the game never staggers, and a few of the background textures are well done; however, this is not a pretty game. Even for a budget title, the game leaves much to be desired in the graphics department. Again, I would like to stress that the game runs very well, even when there is a lot going on, but there is simply nothing that pops out. The color pallet is filled with grays and browns, leaving it completely bland. In addition, you rarely see different settings. Even if they do change, it will mostly consist of stone walls and an empty field.
Furthermore, I found the menu to be quite clunky and bare. For example, you can’t upgrade your skills unless you go back to the initial menu and it looks like it was made in the Playstation 1 days.
There are a few nice details added during the battle sequences, on the other hand. Cuts show up here and there during the skirmishes and some of the magic attacks look nice enough.
Sound: The music that litters Clan of Champions fits it well. There are not many tracks and you will hear the same tune over and over, but it is done well enough that it will not grate your ears.
The sound effects are generic at best. There is no voice acting to speak of, other than the grunts and moans of you and your adversaries. The clash and clings of the weapons and armor do their job, as do the magic spells, but they just sound modest.
Gameplay: The game begins with the character creation screen. You are allowed to choose between 3 races: the balanced human, the magic centered elf, and the strong orc. You are given the chance to customize your character’s face, skin, and hair, but it is not very robust. The sex of your character is completely dependent on your race as well. Other than a baseline set of stats and starting with either fire or ice as your initial magic skill, your race does not affect your experience in any way.
You will also be allotted a few stats to distribute. Be wise in your choices, however, as your character will never upgrade these stats, but more on that later. Lastly, you are given three fighting styles: dual wielding, sword and shield, and close combat. They range from attack, defense, and speed focused play styles respectively. Fighting styles are completely dependent on your weapons equipped.
After creation is completed, you are treated to a poorly constructed tutorial. It lets you know that you can hit high, medium and low and that you can block, dodge, and cast magic. Also, it lets you know that you can pick up armor and weapons that fall from either you or your enemies during battle and immediately equip them. Then the tutorial states that you may change your fighting style on the fly by picking up different weapons. This may sound great in concept but does not work quite so well in practice. Why? Because you are only allowed to equip 4 skills and/or magic attacks. These skills are tied to particular fighting styles. Therefore, if you equip 3 close combat skills and suddenly become a dual wielder, your skills become unusable.
Other than that short tutorial, you are told nothing else. This leads to some undue frustration and an inability to truly enjoy the game immediately. In the beginning, I found myself being confused as to why sometimes I got hurt and sometimes I did not, or why sometimes my enemies died quickly and sometimes not at all. This is because the game fails to mention many things. The main aspect it ignores is the importance of armor.
First of all, you must break off an enemies armor before you can hurt them. You may use some magic to get through the armor, but generally, you must break it off. This is Clan of Champion’s biggest draw and biggest fault. As stated above, you can hit high, low, and mid ranged, which corresponds to the type of armor you hit. Be it the helm or the chest plate, you want to hit the same area over and over until it breaks. This leads to some strategy as the skills you equip follow the same high/medium/low set of focus. Furthermore, some areas break easier. For example the helm falls off quickly but your enemy can pick it up and put it back on, but the chest plate is destroyed for good. This does become tedious at some points as it can really drag out battles, especially during bosses.
Secondly, your armor is the main way you level up. The stats you maintain in the beginning of the game can only be increased by gems attached to your armor or weapons. These gems give you either extra vitality, speed, strength, or special. This would be fine and dandy if the game actually taught you how to remove these gems from items, put them on your desired weapon or armor, and tell you what each stat actually does, but it doesn’t. You must learn all this on your own.
Lastly, after each mission, you are given a choice to buy some weapons and items. These items are directly correlated to the pieces of armor that you break off your enemy. Do you like that shiny glove your enemy has? Break it off and you will be able to buy it later. I thought this was a great idea as it allows you full control of getting the item you want while still making it challenging. I often found myself kicking an enemy for 10 minutes simply to obtain the grieves he or she possessed.
So after learning the ins and outs of the game, it became quite enjoyable, though a tad monotonous. Every enemy is dealt with the same way, in the same types of environment, with the same humanoid foe. The bosses themselves are no different, just enemies with stronger armor. There are a few major caveats I had, nevertheless. One of these is fighting multiple enemies. The characters seem unable to quickly switch between enemies effortlessly. Moreover, you can only block against one enemy at a time. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the game didn’t swarm you with enemies every now and then, specifically in the last few missions. Even the area-of-effect magic attacks are flawed in that regard as they damage your partners, lessening the effectiveness of a support class. Secondly, your team’s AI is dim at best. They are typically only useful for drawing the enemies’ attacks. In fact, there were many instances in which I was fighting two enemies and my teammates were fighting a single foe. I managed to dispatch my two enemies before they even broke off a single piece of armor from the other adversary. Lastly weapon variations leave much to be desired. There are a numerous amount of weapons, but they don’t alter your fighting style. Two wands still play the same way as two swords. In fact, the wands themselves added nothing to spell casting. If they did, it was not noticeable, leaving the player to rely solely on weapon stats rather than type of weapon.
Bang for Your Buck: I found this topic a little hard to rate. Although it is quite a lengthy game, comprising of 24 5-10 minute missions and 4 difficulty settings, I still believe the 30 dollar price tag is a little too steep for this type of game.
This game will definitely last you a while, especially if you have friends to play with. There are the typical clans and versus modes, not to mention coop, which is essentially the only way to get through all difficulties. Still, even this comes with an issue, *disclaimer* this is not really the game’s fault but is notable nonetheless, it is very difficult to find people to play with. This is a shame because there is great potential hidden within this game if the community manages to thrive.
Why do I think that the price is unreasonable even though it is a lengthy experience? Simply because it is not polished. In fact, I have witnessed several much more cultivated free-to-play games. Not to mention that this game intends to sell dlc, nearly pushing the cost to a full fledged game.
Breakdown: Clan of Champions is a mixed bag. It has all the markings of a budget title but with a rather hefty price tag. It has some novel ideas with lackluster execution. It even has great controls bogged down by horrid AI. In essence, if you give this game a chance it will surprise you. Clan of Champions is one of the few games that becomes better as you play. It has the potential to eat up a good amount of your time, but with its current price I just can’t recommend it.