Clan of Champions|
Do you like Demonís Souls? Imagine that, except if it were a team-based multiplayer arena brawler. Clan of Champions brings just that. Developed by Acquire, the developers of the Tenchu series, and published by NIS America, Clan of Champions comes from a reputable background.
When you start up the game, thereís a pretty large text dump describing a world in conflict. The humans, elves, and Orcs are all on edge, and they want control over a previously unremarkable town that turned out to have some powerful artifacts from an era long past. They hire mercenaries to fight for control over it, and thatís where you come in.
When you start creating a character, you need to pick a race: Human, elf, or orc. Humans are balanced, elves are agile and magical, and Orcs are strong and tough. You also need to pick from three different fighting styles as your default mode of combat. The sword and shield fighting style offers a defensive approach thatís easy to use, offering a lot of room for error. Using dual weapons will give you two swords, which grants you a ton of offensive power, but doesnít have any defensive safety nets. The last default style, unarmed, lets you attack quickly and lay down some impressive combos, so a skilled player can get some quick hits in and get away while the enemyís still trying to counter. The downside of unarmed is that it requires you to get in real close, so with some enemies, you might have a harder time closing the distance. Whatever you pick, though, is only your default fighting style. Because of how the game works, it can be changed at any time, even mid-fight, so go with something you wouldnít mind starting off with.
Now, as to how the game actually plays. The game can be played either by yourself or in multiplayer matches. However, the single player is really basically the multiplayer, but with AI standing in for human opponents. Youíre given two AI partners, and your goal is to defeat some AI opponents. The solo campaign has a story, but itís just a few paragraphs of text before each bout. While it would have been interesting to see different campaigns depending on which race you pick, the execution of the single player format leaves much to be desired if youíre looking for something that really fleshes out the world.
What the single player game really is for is for teaching users to play the game and preparing them for multiplayer. When you enter a match, you have two partners, and your goal is to eliminate the three opponents on the enemy team. Itís pretty straightforward, though thereís a lot of skill required as you try higher difficulty levels. You have an attack that aims high, an attack that aims low, and an attack that aims for the center. Each attack also has a special move associated with it, triggered by holding down a special attack button before pressing it. Thereís also an evasion button that lets you dodge, and a guard button that allows you to block an attack.
These special attacks are especially useful because they add a lot of variety to your fighting aside from just doing more damage. For example, one vitally important special attack for those going with unarmed combat is the drop kick, which excels at throwing opponents off balance and knocking their equipment off, which is one of the most fun features in the game. If you hit someone in say, the head enough times, their helmet will pop right off. This isnít just useful for wearing down your opponent. Helmets, shields, weapons, whatever happens to get dropped in the heat of battle can be picked up and used by anyone, so fights can change up pretty if you want to deny your enemies the use of their best gear.
After each fight, there are rewards, of course. Depending on how you fight, you can earn skill points in sword and shield skills, dual wielding skills, and unarmed skills. The more you use a specific style, the better you get at it, so specialization is encouraged, but if you change up fighting mid-fight, then you can be more flexible as a fight evolves. Your skill points can be used to make your skills faster, cost less energy, or hit harder, and the more skill points you earn in one of those categories, the more new skills you also unlock.
Winning fights also gets you a healthy pile of gold, as well as your pick of a ton of loot. However, you donít just get all that gear instantly. Every piece of equipment you choose to keep subtracts from your cut of the gold, so it ends up working a little like a shop. Most of the gear isnít going to be an upgrade, but thereís an incentive to loot some, even if it wonít directly replace your stuff. A lot of that gear is useful in the gear upgrade system. In this system, you pick two pieces of gear. One piece is going to get its stats changed, and the other piece is going to be sacrificed to upgrade the other piece. Itís an interesting system that helps upgrade your gear at a regular pace without constantly having to replace your stuff.
The game isnít much to look at, graphics-wise. It looks like generic fantasy, but it looks more like a dark or serious fantasy. That means that the screen is dominated with tons of shades of brown and grey. The animations look nice enough, but the characters donít really stand out at all. The only real variation in body type is between race, and while you can customize your head to a pretty good degree, that head is almost always going to be covered in a helmet. You can buy cosmetic outfits in the shop, but those outfits are usually going to be covered in armor. The sound is serviceable, but doesnít really stand out. The game is one arena fight after another, so there isnít much in the way of mood music or voice acting. It isnít bad or boring, but thereís just nothing in there that really leaps out.
In spite of the lackluster aesthetics, the game is fun, and I can definitely see a lot of potential in it. Itís fun, and Iíd highly recommend that anyone grab it for $15 or $20. Unfortunately, the game costs $40, which is far more than the play experience warrants. Itís even harsher still because the game practically demands a gamepad to play with it. If you donít have one, be prepared to add even more to the price tag. Itís definitely worth playing, but wait for it to go on a steep sale first.