Clan of Champions is an an action game with underlying role-playing game mechanics launched on Steam, and soon the PlayStation 3 too. As part of the Gladiator series, originally titled Gladiator Vs, Clan of Champions is the third game in the series. The Gladiator series has gone generally under the radar, with each previous title simply passing as an underwhelming release. But how does the recently localized title fare?
Publisher: NIS America (EU/NA)
Platforms: Windows (Steam), PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network)
Release Date: October 30th, 2012 (Steam), November 20th, 2012 (PlayStation Network)
Rating: 16+ (PEGI)
Set in a fictional universe in which two nations war with one another, the story for Clan of Champions simply serves as a background for the title and an excuse for the combat, rather than one of significance. The player assumes the role of a mercenary doing dirty work for the nations as they seek powerful weapons locked away in a bunch of ruins. Ultimately, even this is inconsequential to the player, with the only real exposition lying in the description of the mission that it doesn’t even impact.
Split into twenty-four missions each with four variances in difficulty, the player must fight hordes of enemies in a string of similarly bland and typical ruined environments to progress. Occasionally, the player must participate in a boss battle, but even these require little change in tactics to overcome.
It’s not all that bad, and despite the uninspiring visuals and the repetitive missions, Clan of Champions can be fun too. The combat mechanics are nice and simple with a little bit of depth to give the player more room to influence battle with their own skill rather than relying on the statistic values of their equipment. Players have three attack buttons for low, middle and high ranged attacks. These multiple options enable the player to home in on a specific piece of armour, that their opponent wears, with the intent to smash it. An unusual, yet welcome, mechanic to the action genre: armour completely shields each character from damage. When a character’s equipment is smashed, it exposes their body to receive damage to their health. It’s not just the armour that can be removed either.
Blocking allows characters to avoid damage to their armour or exposed body parts; however, the blocking button may also be used in conjunction with the effective dodge button to parry an oncoming attack–disabling the opponent and disarming them. Furthermore, during battle, the player is quite capable of stealing dropped weapons, shields or helmets and equipping them in battle. Additionally, blocking isn’t invincible either as a simple guard breaking button suffices to … well … break through it.
Upon leveling up the player character’s stance, the player often learns a new ability. These abilities very between offensive and defensive, with four of each being able to be assigned to the character at any one time. The offensive abilities may be used within battle, but require a cooldown period before re-using them. These abilities may also be used to cancel the very basic combo that players may utilize, resulting in a more versatile fighter. This is especially useful when the player is given some abilities that cause the player character to jump backwards and then lunge forward into a new attack. Each ability has a strategic use.
Upon clearing a mission, the player is rewarded with loot. Unfortunately, as the result of an odd design choice that most likely serves as a simple solution for balancing the game, the player is required to spend their payment in order to actually acquire the loot that they rightfully obtained. This acquired loot can then be used to replace the player’s current equipment, or enhance them–the latter of which also requires money. Looting the fallen corpses of the enemy isn’t the only method of obtaining new equipment, as players may also buy equipment from the in-game store; however, obtaining equipment via loot is the most effective and efficient method. The player needn’t even replace their equipment either, as enhancing their current weapons and armour often leads to better equipment than would ordinarily be found.
The Clan of Champions isn’t exclusive, and players may participate in missions with up to three friends. The title is generally more enjoyable with others. In single player, the player is accompanied with two AI partners made up of the remaining races that the player did not choose to play. These partners are incredibly effective, so much so that they might just be too effective.
As previously touched upon, the player is able to customize their character, choosing to be human, elf or orc. Gender is an option, as well as hair style and colour. Customization is relatively shallow, with not enough options available.
As it stands, Clan of Champions is a very average game. Whilst the combat is well developed, the game offers little more beyond that. The title is even slightly underwhelming because of just how repetitive it can be–environments and all. Players who are fans of the genre may gain more from the title than others, but will ultimately find the title more enjoyable when played occasionally, in short bursts.