Review: Clan of Champions for Windows

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Title: Clan of Champions
Price: $39.99
System(s): Windows (also coming to the PS3)
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher (Developer): NIS America (Acquire)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood and Violence
Pros: Basic attacking controls are pretty simple, has cooperative and competitive multiplayer, three races and three fighting styles available, matches aren’t terribly long, no friendly fire in coop and damaging opponents may make their equipment available for your character to steal. Can see damage on your character and opponents.
Cons: Story isn’t very strong, bosses offer little challenge, non-attack controls can be awkward, single player is disappointing, few character customization options, very repetitive and visually underwhelming. Playing feels like work, rather than pleasure. Only one save file. No pause function. In single player your AI allies can and will do all the work for you. There’s are also some lag.
Overall Score: Two thumbs down, 54/100, F

Believe it or not, Clan of Champions is actually part of a series. Crazy, I know, since odds are you haven’t heard much about it or the other games. It’s considered part of a line that includes Colosseum: Road to Freedom (PS2) and Gladiator Begins (PSP). Neither were particularly beloved or well received, which makes it odd that NIS America would pick up Clan of Champions and take a chance on it, especially since it is a weak and unimpressive game.

Big countries fight for powerful weapons, but that doesn’t matter because you’re just a mercenary doing their dirty work.

Clan of Champions starts out with a brief history of a region fighting over super-weapons from a lost civilization. There are lots of fancy names thrown about. Like the Kingdom of Ematrias and the Al-waav Urban Allied Forces. It’s all very technical and fancy. Fortunately, you don’t need to remember much about it.

Here’s what you do need to know. There are ruins that hold magic weapons. Both Ematrias and the Al-waav Urban Allied Forces want them. Since their armies and forces alone aren’t enough to make it possible to claim the weapons and in turn power over the whole region, mercenaries have been hired. All players are these mercenaries and they’re all fighting amongst themselves in the hope they’ll get the magic weapons.

Honestly, you don’t even have to know or pay attention to Clan of Champions‘ story. It’s of no consequence to the player and is an excuse to go into ruins and beat other people up. You get some glory if you win, mostly bragging rights and maybe some weapons, and there aren’t any truly terrible penalties for you personally if you lose. As a result, you tend not to really care what happens, which sums up my general feelings towards Clan of Champions.

You can tell what 2 hours of gameplay would feel like after only 15 minutes.

Clan of Champions‘ story goes from weak to non-existant. As I mentioned earlier, it’s there to provide some framework and excuse for constantly jumping into battles that could last up to 30 minutes, but usually only last about five or ten. If you don’t have a gamepad connected, you move with the WASD keys, use skills with select keyboard keys and do specific attacks, guards or combos by pressing the left or right mouse buttons while perhaps also pressing keys on the keyboard. It starts out a bit complicated, but there’s a nice learning curve so it isn’t too difficult. Not to mention if someone is playing alone as opposed to engaging in competitive or cooperative multiplayer, its easy to get away with doing nothing. The AI partners can and will do absolutely everything if they are around, to the point where they will get in the player’s way so he or she can’t do anything.

Honestly, I was okay with this because Clan of Champions gets so tedious and boring. The environments are almost always the same, with similar, dreary color schemes, bleak outlooks and nothing interesting to catch the eye. Even if something does look cool one time, by the fifteenth time I was placed in that arena the magic was gone. The characters all tend to look the same too, as there are very few customization options. Though there are three races, the differences between them are minor, each only has a few different visual customization options and each only has one gender option. (If you’re a female gamer and want to play as a woman, you have to be an elf.) Even if you do choose any customizations, it doesn’t matter because you won’t notice it. From what I’ve seen so far while engaging in multiplayer, everyone still looks pretty much the same because we’re all using the same equipment. When there are only three different kinds of weapons, which are tied to the three different fighting styles, and weapons/armor/accessories are all varying shades of brown, silver, black, beige and grey, it’s hard to get excited about your appearance.

Don’t worry about similarity between characters. There is no friendly fire in Clan of Champions. If there were, the AI characters in single player would have died instantly because they always got between my opponents and me. There is also a helpful, red “Target” descriptor above all enemies in both single and multiplayer modes, which is quite helpful in non-boss battles because otherwise I’d have had no idea who was or wasn’t on my side.

Clan of Champions is clearly a game where the multiplayer experience is valued above the singleplayer, though it is completely possible to go through the campaign missions alone with only AI assistants. It’s a good thing that option is there, because otherwise I would have been trapped, unable to advance. There aren’t a lot of people playing Clan of Champions online, making matches hard to find. I’ve yet to find a coop match, and only was able to participate in two competitive matches. Each time, there was noticeable lag, which was disappointing.

Speaking of lag, you’ll notice it during standard Clan of Champions play. I’ll admit, I don’t have a top-end gaming PC. It’s adequate. I managed to play Torchlight 2 and Gotham City Imposters without any trouble or lag, so I figured I should be more than okay. That was true, for a time. During the one-on-one tutorial matches, Clan of Champions played perfectly. However, the second there were six characters at once on screen, all trying to attack at the same time, I’d sometimes see the framerate dip and suddenly my elf and her daggers weren’t flying as fast and furiously as they were moments before. It was at its worst during my second and last multiplayer match, when one of the people I was playing with and I both decided to use special attacks at once.

So if someone buys Clan of Champions, they get a game that emphasizes the multiplayer experience. Except it can be really difficult to find a good competitive or cooperative multiplayer match. Which means playing through the available missions alone. Except that gets really boring and tedious, which means people end up like me, starting a mission, leaving his or her character near the entrance and letting the AI partners beat up the opponents while you watch, read or maybe play a great NIS America game like Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention, Legasista or Atelier Meruru.

Clan of Champions is one you won’t want to join.

I honestly can’t think of any particular segment of the gaming community that would want to play Clan of Champions. People looking for a good multiplayer cooperative or competitive experience would do better turning to a free-to-play MMO. Vindictus seems to have a similar premise and color scheme. People who want a gladiator-themed brawler would probably do better with Gladiator: Sword of Vengence. People who want a challenging, action RPG probably have Dark Souls on their computers by now. There just isn’t much demand for a game like Clan of Champions. Maybe that would have been different had it been a compelling, interesting coliseum fighter with a solid story mode and matches players would want to participate in, but Clan of Champions just doesn’t have what it takes to be king of the ring. Playing feels like work, and I derived no joy from it.

If Clan of Champions had all of these issues and was, say, an indie game selling for $4.99 or perhaps even $9.99, I’d be more tolerant and forgiving of its many flaws and mistakes. It’s not. This is a game from Acquire, which we know is capable of good games like Orgarhythm, Akiba’s Trip and Way of the Samurai 4, and NIS America, which has brought us beloved games/series like Disgaea, Atelier Meruru and ClaDun. This is a $39.99 game and these two companies know better. I can’t help looking at Clan of Champions without feeling both disappointment and resentment, knowing that NIS America chose to work on and release this when it has the good and worthwhile Black Rock Shooter: The Game waiting in the wings

Site [Clan of Champions]

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