Clandestine Champion: Clan of Champions Review For PS3
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Clan of Champions (also known as Gladiator Vs. in Japan) took quite a while to reach North American shores. Released in Japan over a year ago, NIS America has taken over the publishing reigns on this side of the pacific, bringing the fantasy-themed fighting game to PSN. As the latest entry in a series that has previously been set exclusively in ancient Rome, Clan of Champions allows players to replace their Roman warriors with a cast of Humans, Elves and Orcs and fight through one particular castle town in the Kingdom of Ematrias with the objective of discovering weaponry that grants invincible power.
Whilst the story throughout the game is interesting, if clichéd, the gameplay doesn’t really connect too much with the text-based mission briefings that provide the narrative. There are a small number of cutscenes dotted throughout the various stages that serve to introduce some of the boss characters, but for the most part, your time with Clan of Champions is spent fighting enemies, picking up new equipment, and little else. Once or twice the mission briefing will introduce a new gameplay element, such as the first sighting of undead enemies, but if you’re not interested in reading, your experience in Clan of Champions won’t be lessened from not doing so.
Thankfully, fighting, which is the main focus of the game, is well done. Although calling it fun may be going a little too far, it’s well-managed, and can get quite tense and tactical at times. Essentially, combat is broken down into a number of sections similar to two-dimensional fighters such as Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, in that you have high, medium and low attacks, each mapped to a separate button. Each warrior’s armour is destructible or removable in combat, and targeting a specific area of an enemy’s body will cause that particular piece of armour to get progressively more damaged. This is communicated to the player by the armour flashing each time it gets hit, with the colour changing as the damage gets worse. Once that piece of armour is damaged enough to be either dropped or destroyed, the now exposed portion of your enemy’s body is open to high levels of damage, and it makes sense to target that one particular area.
The same can happen to the player’s character as well, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your own equipment, even as you attempt to destroy that of your enemy. The game does give you a notification if your character happens to lose a piece of armour, and it’s possible to either pick up what you just dropped, or scavenge other weapons or armour on the battlefield from enemies that have already been defeated. Unfortunately, Clan of Champions doesn’t offer the ability to compare armour or weapons to what you already have equipped, meaning that you have to either write down the statistics of your current set-up, or you need a really good memory. On the plus side, though, there are a lot of different types of armour and weapons, including daggers, swords, flails, and axes, and each category has a number of entrants within itself. In one particularly mind-numbing design decision, however, boots and gloves can only be bought one at a time, meaning that for a number of levels my character was running around wearing a single boot, until I collected enough money to be able to afford a second one.
There are some RPG-lite mechanics under the surface of Clan of Champions, meaning that various different fighting styles can be levelled up, and special attacks can be unlocked and assigned to different buttons. There are three fighting styles to choose from: Sword and Shield, Dual Wield, and Close-Combat, and each is dictated by how many weapons your character is holding. The styles don’t really vary, aside from the available special attacks, which are unlocked as you gain experience and level up.
Most of the statistic increases for your character will come through the equipment, though, and these increases are fairly staggered, as armour that improves your standing isn’t widely available. At the end of each level you get the option to cherry-pick the equipment left behind by defeated foes, although it is rare to find more than one or two pieces of equipment that offer a worthwhile upgrade. In another strange decision, there is a shop available, but this exists merely to serve as a place to sell unused or underpowered equipment. The only items that the shop sells are ones that you have already sold to them, making the purchase option nearly useless.
For those who particularly enjoy the combat on offer in Clan of Champions, the game offers 24 different levels, with four difficulties to play through the game on. Each difficulty requires a separate playthrough, meaning that you have to play each level in order on the Novice setting, and then again on each of the other three. Each level takes about 10-15 minutes to complete on the easier settings, although they do have a timer with a 30-minute limit, which seems to reset at various points throughout each stage. The gameplay does get quite repetitive, however, meaning that Clan of Champions is best played in chunks. It would actually work quite well on a handheld system such as the Vita, as it matches the pick-up-and-play mentality.
Aesthetically, Clan of Champions is a little disappointing. Even though it was released in Japan towards the end of 2011, the visuals still look dated even by the standards of a year ago, to the extent that they wouldn’t look particularly impressive even when compared to the graphics of the PlayStation 3’s launch titles. It isn’t even as if the game has to contend with sprawling environments, as the arenas are quite small, and even the colour schemes are bland, existing mainly as a mixture of various greys and browns. The arenas are fairly limited in style, with most consisting of grey castle bricks and muddy walkways, and you’ll see a lot of the same arenas repeated more than once through various levels. The themes do change slightly for the last couple of levels as players enter a series of caverns, but even over the space of four or five levels, you’ll see the same particular area in each one. What’s more, body parts frequently go through walls during combat, with buildings seeming to exist more as guidelines and barriers than solid objects.
Clan of Champions is unimpressive musically as well. Although the initial offering of music isn’t too bad, you’ll quickly realise that there are a limited number of tracks, running on a fairly short and continuous loop. It doesn’t take too long for each tune to become embedded in your head and drive you crazy.
Clan of Champions’ biggest problem is that it presents a very barebones experience. As mentioned previously, no real attempt is made to tie in the narrative with the gameplay, and the game as a whole has a distinct whiff of limited production values about it, from the dated visuals to the stale environments. Whilst the semi-tactical combat offers up something different from the usual hack-and-slash elements of most combat games, there literally isn’t anything else to do within the game, making the whole experience seem rather shallow. If you enjoy the combat, there is a lot of content here to keep you occupied, but otherwise Clan of Champions comes across as a game with some good ideas, but unfortunately lacking in execution and packaging.
Clan of Champions scores a disarmed 3.5 out of 5
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