Clan of Champions is a game that wants to address itself as an action game, but if you play it as such, I’d wager you’d grow bored fairly quickly. At least, that’s how it happened for me. Before I get into that, let me explain my process. My initial judgement of the game from screenshots alone led me to anticipate something along the lines of Rise of the Argonauts but what I actually got was a team-based version of the Gladiator arcade game. That transition took a little while to come to fruition because of a misunderstanding initially through the tutorial. If you look at the image below, you’ll see the tutorial section letting you know what you’re capable of doing. The unfortunate wording part of it comes in at the “close combat” part. For me, close combat means combat relatively close in proximity to your opponent. In Clan of Champions’ instance, they mean hand-to-hand.
So for the majority of my play, I am attempting with every cadence of button presses known to man. Quickly tapping the buttons, holding one button and sliding to the next, waiting for an attack to land before pressing the next button. Turns out, in the dual wield style, you can only do two regular attacks in before the combo ends. Perhaps I would have rethought my playstyle a bit earlier but you do gain new abilities as you gain the ranks. Thus I was thinking it was only a matter of time before I could unlock those other combos I clearly saw in the tutorial section. At this point, I’m thinking to myself that this isn’t the finished build. I’d already come across questionable UI elements, Fullscreen mode acting in windowed mode, and some sketchy translation. While the OSD (On Screen Display) info could have been polished a bit more, the fullscreen mode actually forced me to turn my screensaver to ‘off’ while playing, as the Xbox 360 controller input is not considered an event to prevent the screensaver from turning on. So I asked some questions and lo and behold, the game was final. It was at this point that I started from scratch and played the game completely differently.
Clan of Champions is a game that has a laundry list of interesting ideas that manages to never properly mix well. Back to my initial comment of CoC not being an action game, when I replayed the game as a strategy game the bouquet of the games nuance started making their presence. You have three separate attacks: HML (High, Medium and Low). Where you hit, and hit often, is important as you can knock off specific pieces of armor, including weapons. The interesting part is the ability to pick up your opponents weapons in real-time in place of your own. Combine this with the claustrophobic level design and you get a real ‘arena’ feeling. Unfortunately, the level design offers nothing in terms of strategy affecting your playstyle. Also quite unlike other action games, your special maneuvers are not an insurance policy, instead they are a means to an end. Liberal use of your skills must be applied at all times while your generic HML attacks should be used to buffer your energy and create openings.
Additional cool ideas are how equipment is handled in the game. Nothing comes in pairs. If you fancy putting on two distinct sets of boots, go right ahead. The combo meter is shared between the group and there is a feature called ‘Super Armor’ that seems to be geared towards the button mashers. Essentially if you are in mid-attack and your opponent lands an attack, depending on it’s location and your armor’s current durability, no damage will happen to you nor will your attack be interrupted. This feature alone really levels out the learning curve and opens up the game to a bigger audience. Lastly, on top of the active skills that you must use regularly, there are also four passive skills that you can configure to your style and new effects open up as you rise through the ranks.
Unfortunately the difficulty you choose is ultimately going to be responsible with how much fun you have with the game. Too easy and the game instantly becomes noticeably repetitive, too hard and you’ll get frustrated. There is no single correct way to play and while there are multiplayer options, I never actually succeeded in participating in one. I can see kernels of a fun game but I ultimately feel they’ll mostly be hidden from all but the most ardent of players. The overall lack of polish for the PC version is easily apparent. Not aligning the OSD elements with the controller you use (you’ll always see keyboard keys, regardless of input), the delays in all of the selections in the menus, non-streamlined controls (Camera is completely manual. Will not focus on current enemy even when strafing.), myopic level design, lackluster loot. All of these little elements that are the proverbial carrot-on-a-stick that keep you wanting to play the game are absent or willfully obtuse. There most definitely is a market for Clan of Champions, but it’s one along the same lines as Dark Souls.
5.5/10: Reads Great On Paper But Will Be Understood By Few.