I find it amazing that games of this quality are still released on a console that is over six years old. Surely by now the developers have got a grasp of the whole ‘making a game’ thing, and even if the content isn’t great, the game will still have a certain level of polish. Not so, if NIS’ Clan of Champions is anything to go by.
Clan of Champions is nothing more that a lazy port of a PC game that wasn’t very good to begin with. A fantasy arena game at it’s core, Clan of Champions has you step into the sandals of a gladiator whose job it is to clear out each and every arena laid out before him (or her). There is a story presented in the form of scrolling text, but even the dramatic music that is played during it failed to heighten my interest.
You start off by selecting your character; male or female, Orc, Human or Elf. You can then equip them with a small selection of arms and armour and send them out to battle. Along with the weapons, you can select some special moves for your character, which include combo and magical attacks. Once you have readied yourself for combat, you then have to select which arena to tackle. There are plenty to choose from, but they can only be unlocked once the previous arenas have been completed. There are four levels of arena difficulty to choose from, and each level has plenty of battles to fight.
The only problem is that after a few of these, they all seem to feel the same. You are thrown in with two other allied combatants and pitted against waves of gladiators. There are three forms of attack (high, mid and low), each mapped to a different button. The idea is that you can vary up your attacks depending on the type of enemy you are facing and what kind of armour they are equipped with. By mixing these attacks up, you can create combos, but due to the poor combat system, it is often difficult to land enough hits to make combos work. I often found myself button mashing in order to try and wear the enemy down.
The gladiators you face will also be equipped with armour and magic, and as you progress up the ladder, the enemies will become increasingly more difficult. The number of waves you need to get through to complete the arena will also increase, but you will never find your team fighting more than three opponents at any one time. All combatants will lose armour if they take too many hits, but you are able to pick up fallen items from the battlefield and re-equip them. You need to be fast, as an attack from an opponent during the animation will result in you having to try again.
The biggest issue I had with the combat is that it is far too unreliable. Special skill attacks and magic often fail to hit. The camera becomes unstable in certain areas, and I got no satisfaction from landing blows. These should be the staples of combat games, and by getting these wrong, the game falls at the first hurdle.
After each battle you will get a chance to shop for new items and special attacks, along with the opportunity to enhance your current stock of abilities. There are two ways in which to level up. First, you can earn points to put into any of the physical skill attacks. However, when you go to upgrade these, it tells you how many skill points you need to upgrade, but doesn’t show you how many points you actually have, which seems odd. You will then need to upgrade your magic spells. This is handled with style points. Earn these in battle, and you can then spend them on magical upgrades.
Along with finding weapons and items in the arenas, you can purchase gear from the shop. Each battle rewards you with gold, which in turn can be spent on weapons, armour and new spells. The game provides you with plenty of ways to spec out your warrior and even allows you to switch combat styles. Started a match with duel-wielding weapons, but have decided you need more protection? Not a problem, just grab a shield from the floor and you are good to go.
The game’s multiplayer mode allows you to play with or against other players. But as of writing this review, I have yet to actually find a single match online. There are both team and versus matches to pick from, if you are lucky enough to find a lobby online. These have a maximum of six players and don’t differ in style from the single player mode.
The presentation of the game also lacks flair. Character models and arenas are dull in appearance, with most arenas varying little in design. The main menu isn’t very intuitive. It’s also bland to look at, and the sound effects are dull, with the music seemingly pulled from one of a hundred similarly styled fantasy games. The character models look like they are from a game made five years ago, and the game also does little to distinguish your character from any of the other five in play.
Clan of Champions doesn’t have a lot going for it. Every aspect of it seems poor. Controls, presentation, combat and even the grating music are terrible. The few things that do stand out, like the ability to swap combat styles on the fly, are overshadowed by the glaring faults. Even with the large amount of arenas, the rinse and repeat style of game play removes any form of longevity Clan of Champions may have had.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.