You may remember the 2010 PSP game, Gladiator Begins, which featured gladiators in ancient Rome fighting for freedom. Clan of Champions on Steam is its successor in a way, but set in a medieval fantasy world instead of Rome with a focus on team battles in place of a lone gladiator.
Taking place in a fantasy setting this time around, you are presented with the choice to create a human, an elf or a hulking orc as your avatar upon starting the game. It won’t be long before you realise that the character creator is extremely limited and allows only a specific set of modifications, which consist of swapping head models. Although this was quite disappointing, it is possible to change your character’s skin colour to any colour imaginable and I thought purple suited mine the best.
The combat plays similarly to Gladiator Begins, but is tweaked in ways that make the game more enjoyable and also less frustrating. Like its predecessor, you have several methods of attacking, which consists of a head, middle or low body strike. Each strike will damage different body parts and you will want to damage parts where the armour is broken to inflict maximum damage.
Another method of attacking comes in the form of skills. Skills require MP to execute and have cooldown, but can be cancelled from normal attacks to create some fancy looking combos. Also, there are three different styles of play in game: sword and shield, dual-wielding and close combat. Using these styles in battle will increase their level and allow new skills to be learned to increase your combat efficiency.
A new mechanic introduced in this game comes in the form of magic. Now it is possible to cast magic spells and they come in a number of varieties, ranging from offensive, debuff and support spells, which can turn the tides of battle for a team. Another major change from Gladiator Begins is the removal of the tripping feature. Now your character will not trip over equipment scattered on the battlefield, being able to tread safer than before.
While Clan of Champions’ combat has seen some interesting changes, but the same cannot be said for the game’s content. The single player content is shamefully barebones and consists of you selecting mission from a dropdown menu, making sure you equip your best equipment and defeating never-changing AI for the whole game in a 3-on-3 match.
Comparing it to Gladiator Begins once again, Clan of Champions offers only one mission type, which involves annihilating all your enemies. Sometimes the game will ask you to protect a VIP, but the VIP character model is mysteriously absent and the only way to proceed is again, to clear the map of enemies. Your first mission will likely feel like the last mission you have done, until you realise you actually completed the game. On the other hand, Gladiator Begins offered a variety of mission types, from protecting the gates of Rome to fighting rampaging elephants which actually made you fight for your own life.
It feels unfair to compare it to its previous incarnation seeing as it is made with multiplayer in mind, but the single player campaign offers absolutely no incentive for the player to continue playing it. The only thing resembling motivation for players is the loot acquired after every battle, which you can fuse with other loot to power up your equipment to take on the higher difficulty levels.
Seeing as the title was developed with a focus in multiplayer, I opted to try and find some people to engage in missions. To my disappointment, I could not find a single person online even after leaving the lobby screen on for half an hour. Whether the game could have benefited from human interaction, at this point I will never know since no one seems to be playing this game at the time of writing.
Unfortunately, Clan of Champions is just difficult to recommend. The lack of content and variation in gameplay modes makes it a tedious affair from start to finish. Furthermore, without the online community to back it up, it has nearly nothing to offer to people that are looking for a solid single player experience.
Food for thought:
1. The only adjustable graphical setting provided was to run the game either in fullscreen or windowed. An option to adjust the resolution or details would definitely be nicer.
2. If possible, use a controller to play the game. The default keyboard and mouse mapping needs some time to get used to as they are adopted directly from the PS3/XBOX360 control scheme. This involves holding shift to strafe, holding the ctrl + another button to unleash skills and a combination of the two.
3. Your AI partners are possibly invincible. I noticed during my playthrough on Legend (highest difficulty) their health did not drop by one pixel and their armour in perfect condition even after I died twice.
4. The game explains absolutely nothing on the process of upgrading weapons. There is a correlation between the gems on each weapon which gives different stat boosts, but it becomes a trial and error affair during upgrades.
5. The lack of variety is also present in the game’s arena and enemies. The arenas look similar and uninspired and aside from bosses and skeletons, common enemies are taken directly from the character creation’s models.