In the past month or so, I have played a ton of arena-based brawlers, hack-and-slashers, and shooters. Some have stood out as chaotic fun; others were good on the technical side. Then I sit down with Clan of Champions and give yet another arena-based game a shot. If there ever was a middle ground for these genres, Clan of Champions would be it.
Clan of Champions’ implementation of arena-based hacking-and-slashing focuses on quick button combos, special moves, and character upgrading. You start the game off by creating your character. There are not many options available, but that really isn’t the point of the game. The options really open up when it comes to the combat, equipment, and abilities.
There are three proficiencies to use in the game: sword and shield, dual wield and close quarters. Each has their own special moves and fighting style that has both benefits and shortcomings. There are numerous moves to equip. You can only have four equipped at a time that are alterations on standard moves. When attacking, there are high, medium, and low attacks. Hitting different locations on enemies will do damage to whatever armor they have equipped. Once it’s broken, your attacks will begin to damage their health.
Proficiencies level up through use in fights. When this happens you gain skill points that will allow you to improve the moves you know in that proficiency. Leaning new moves and leveling them up can become addicting after a while. If physical moves aren’t your thing, there are also certain magic spells you can learn that give you an upper hand. These come in the form of lighting blasts, fireballs and buffs and debuffs that you can cast on your party and enemies.
In between battles, you can buy and sell weapons and armor or upgrade what you have equipped with other weapons and armor. It costs a little money, but upgrading really helps out when moving on to higher difficulties.
Levels are usually small- to medium-size arenas. You and two AI controlled partners take on a number of enemies until one side is victorious. Usually, that is epically the side I’m on when playing on Novice. Luckily, there are multiple difficulties that give better challenges as well as better loot opportunities.
The one thing the game doesn’t do very well is explain things that are going on. When you complete a mission, you are shown a number of items including armor, weapons, and shields. For the first few hours of the game, I was thinking these were the spoils of the battle. On the contrary, you actually BUY these items rather than just pick them up. Imagine my surprise when I “looted” everything on the list only to find out I had almost no money when I went back to the menu.
The game offers up controller support on the PC, and I highly recommend playing with a controller, but once again, the game doesn’t tell you what buttons do what. Even in the tutorial, it only tells you the controls for the mouse and keyboard even though I played the tutorial with a 360 controller. So the first couple of matches were a guessing game for me, but once I figured out the controls, things went a lot smoother.
That doesn’t mean the game is very smooth. The special attacks you use usually seem to have an enemy lock to them. This helped me out during combat, but the standard attacks do not have this luxury. Many times I found myself slashing at air due to an enemy wandering off some where. The camera will fight you almost as much as the enemies do. So many times I had enemies off screen beating the junk out of me while I was trying to maneuver the camera around to get a better view of the beat down. Overall, the combat feels clunky at times.
The AI controlled partners are another thing that makes me think of the word “clunky.”
They almost never seem to kill any enemies, and for some reason don’t really want you to kill enemies either. I say this because more times than not, they would completely block me when trying to do a combo attack on a baddie. Since friendly fire is not on, what ends up happening is I get pushed away from my target by a teammate, and just wasted my special ability on nothing. Now I have to wait for the skill to recharge.
The visuals are not very impressive, after your armor breaks and you take some damage, you begin to see some gashes and bloodied spots show up on your character, but overall, the characters and environments look rather bland.
The game also has online play both co-op as well as versus. I was unfortunately unable to try out these features due to not being able to find a game or having anyone join my online game. Even a day after the release, I could not find a game after multiple tries. This doesn’t bode very well. I can see how the game would be rather fun taking on human controlled enemies and having two other players on your team rather than the stupid AI partners.
I can’t say I had a bad time playing Clan of Champions, but I can safely say I didn’t have a blast with it either. For some reason, the skill customization and the equipment upgrading had me coming back for more. The combat may be sluggish, but once you get a hold of how the game is going to play, you seem to work around some of clumsiness, but I’m not going to say that the game is not clumsy. It has some good ideas and some of them work out rather well, but then you have some that really fell short. The biggest problem I have with the game is the $32 price tag. There are some good things about the game, but for 32 bucks, you can find a better arena-based game. Still, if I didn’t sway you from picking this game up, you may still find some enjoyment out of it.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.