When NISA announced they would be publishing their first game for Xbox 360 with Clan of Champions, I was genuinely excited. NISA has long been stubborn in moving to Microsoft’s console and to hear that they would branch out for the first time felt like the company would really be expanding in to new markets.
Unfortunately, they then cancelled the Xbox port. Still, Clan of Champions proves that NISA has an interest in the PC market. This marks their second Steam release, and Acquire’s first North American PC release. Oddly, the game isn’t even available for PC in Japan. With the PS3 release following some time after the Steam release, hit the jump to see how well this odd porting experiment turned out.
It really is interesting when you play games built around one game mechanic. As long as that mechanic itself is solid, you have something interesting to play with. Acquire chose to focus on the equipment system of this hack and slash beat-em-up and it works. Enemies and allies are all equipped with a variety of armor and weaponry. Boots, gloves, helmets, shields and weaponry make up for the design template of every character in game. Your goal is to find your enemies weakness in armor and attack. If they are fully protected, that means your character will simply need to break the armor off.
Clan of Champions is built around this system and it is effective. Knock off the helmet of an enemy, they are vulnerable to head shots. As a bonus, weaponry dropped by enemies in battle can be picked up and equipped on the fly. What’s given here is a well thought out idea that builds on a very simple battle system.
Every character on the field is hit with the same rules. If you get whacked in the shield too many times, you have just as much of a chance to lose it as anybody else. That’s why customizing your armor is a must. The game’s weapon management system is surprisingly rich. Weapons and armor have a variety of attributes that build offense, defense and magical potential, but it is when you start combining and upgrading the equipment that the game really becomes something different.
There are a variety of weapons to equip and adopt that coincide with the games 3 battle styles. Attacking with sword and shield is slower, but allows you to maintain a solid defense. The dual sword style gives you a boost in speed and attack but your defense is reduced. Finally, the close combat system is extremely effective for those looking to maneuver around the battlefield and attack at will. The defense and attack however is the weakest of the three.
As stated before, all allies and enemies adhere to these styles so understanding what style and weapon fit you best is pretty easy to do. If you want to be magic heavy, there is even a way to build your character up that way.
Unfortunately, besides customization there isn’t a whole lot Clan of Champions offers. While sticking to one thing and doing it well works in theory, it narrows down the audience for the game. There is virtually no story here. Outside of a box detailing your mission at the level select, there isn’t anything tying gameplay to any story. Not even the boss battles deviate from the standard formulas and you’ll realize pretty quickly that you are just fighting wave after wave of bad guys for a majority of the game. It is a knock 3 guys out, 3 new guys appear sort of formula.
While beat-em-ups don’t necessarily need a compelling story to keep you going, it does need something to keep you burning through the levels. That role is exclusively tied to diving in to a level and getting better equipment, which is a really hard motivator at times with only 24 levels on offer. They undercut this with the different classes offering significantly better weaponry, but it’s still a dive in to the same 24 levels over and over again.
Multiplayer likewise is built around the same idea. Co-op replaces some of your AI compatriots with human ones. Sadly, there still aren’t new levels to conquer. The difficulty certainly is increased, but that’s it. With such small levels, it all tends to become a chore after a while. Competing against each other in multiplayer to liven things up is always an option, but still the variety is somewhat limited.
Clan of Champions is a simple game with a robust customization system. A stronger storyline, stronger boss system, or just a deeper focus on level design would have made this a much more interesting beat-em-up. That’s just not here though.
While the game is interesting, Acquire just doesn’t have the leeway on this their third entry to the Gladiator series. This game is certainly prettier than the others, but the game’s focus on a makeshift orcs and elves style world seems thrown together just to build a bit more customization in character design. For those looking for a good customization grind, Clan of Champions does just fine in that regard. At the very least you walk away saying this is a solid game. It just lacks any real personality for itself and that’s a shame.
[+Rich Weapons Customization] [+Solid Battle System] [+Simple Controls] [-Simple Bosses] [-Weak Story Presentation] [-Repetitive]