Every once in a while a game comes along that changes everything. Be it through storytelling or mechanics, it brings something new to the table that other games can’t help but poach for themselves over the next years. It becomes that game you talk about with all of your friends, and even when you’re playing something else you’re subconsciously thinking about it. Clan of Champions is not that game. So bear with me as I come up with 1000 words to aptly describe the frustrations, let downs and boredom as I yet again sacrifice parts of my sanity and sobriety for you, my dear reader.
Clan of Champions is a third-person arena brawler set in a medieval fantasy world where orcs, humans and elves have all been battling for territory. During the battle, an old abandoned town was discovered. Afterwards, it was learned that, during the Golden Age, the location was the source of incredible technology capable of creating “weaponry that grants invincible power.” Teams of mercenaries decided the best plan of action would be to immediately storm the city looking for this fabled power, and they’ve decided to go about their quest by punching everyone in the face.
You’ll be able to choose from elves, humans and orcs, as well as three different fighting styles. Sword-Shield is your standard layout, with a decent mix of offense and defence, while Dual Wield allows you to double up on your swords for longer reaching offense. This leaves my personal favorite of my three. With Close Combat, you’re going after your opponents bare-handed or with grappling weapons. This is all you really need to know. Ignore the low defense and the fact that you’re limiting your reach; you will simply punch things in the face until you get what you want. I imagined myself as a traveling orc wizard out to save the realm. I had spent my entire life perfecting my craft, and ended up being left with one spell capable of destroying my foes. That spell was “fist.”
The combat has one of the more convoluted control schemes I’ve encountered. You’ll control your character (or fist wizard as the case may be) with the AWSD keys while preforming attacks with your mouse. To attack high, you click the left mouse button. Middle attacks are done by hitting the middle mouse button, and low attacks are assigned to the right mouse button. It’s incredibly awkward, and I found myself concerned for the safety of my mouse as I mindlessly spammed away middle attacks. This can be adjusted through the configuration, or you could do what the game really wants you to do and plug in a controller.
The missions themselves are glorified arena battles where you and two teammates go against a set number of enemies three at a time. Occasionally, you’ll have to enter a secondary area after you’ve cleared out a set number of baddies, which really doesn’t do much other than prolong the event. There are a few “boss” encounters where one of your opponents will be stronger than a normal enemy, and once they’ve been defeated the mission ends. These events do little to break up the monotony, and the truth is Clan of Champions is just a long grind of doing almost the same thing over and over again.
Normally, I have no problem with playing PC games with a controller. Certain titles (such as Dark Souls) are simply much more enjoyable with a pad, but the corollary to this is that the game needs to be at least playable with standard mouse and keyboard controls. Clan of Champions may be coming to PC before it makes its way to the PS3 early next year, but it’s obviously a direct port with very little thought given to the marketplace. The menu system has prompts to push L1 or R1 to cycle through the options. Navigating the menus was arduous and backing out of the menus has been resigned solely to the right mouse button, a mechanic that feels incredibly foreign. Again, these control issues can be fixed through the configuration menu, but I shouldn’t have to dig through menus to get a product that works in the format I bought it on.
Now that I’ve brought up the configuration menu, let’s mention another pet peeve of mine. Not being able to access the options from inside of the game is infuriating and, quite honestly, isn’t something I would expect to have to deal with in a modern game. I’m not a developer, so I can’t say for certain how much extra work it is to have the options accessible from in game, but I have to think that if indie developers are able to include this industry standard it’s not out of the question for Acquire to include it. Between the controls, the menu layout and the options, I can’t help but think this is a rushed port that somehow made it to marketplace before the actual console release.
The visuals are inoffensive, but they really don’t offer anything remarkable. The graphics look like they could have been from an early game from this console generation. As you do damage during fights, armor and weapons will clatter to the ground, leaving you and your opponents exposed. You can pick up certain pieces to re-arm yourself, so just because you dropped your sword (or first weapon) you’re not out of the fight.
The story is told from brief text prompts prior to each mission, all of which give you a quick look in on what’s going on, with a cut scene thrown in here and there for good measure. There’s really not a lot to say about the story overall, as it’s a fairly standard affair. It’s pretty forgettable on the whole, and even now I’m having a hard time bringing up specifics.
There is a multiplayer component where two teams of three can duke it out in the arena and what appears to be a three person co-op mode. I say apparently, because during my entire review process I wasn’t able to find players to join up with. This isn’t unheard of as the game wasn’t officially released until today, but I am unable to say anything about these modes or how well they play out.
Clan of Champions is destined to be buried this holiday season. When you’re releasing alongside AAA titles, you have to do something really great if you want to stand out. Unfortunately, throughout my play through I wasn’t able to find a single facet capable of doing that. At the best times, the game is an inoffensive way to pass twenty minutes, but more often than not it played out as a boring endeavor with sloppy controls and limited reasons for me to go further. It’s not the worst game I’ve played this year, as Amy will probably be taking that honor, but that really just cements the problem. Amy was bad enough to cause night terrors and alcoholism, but it was memorable in how horrible it was. Clan of Champions may be forgotten by the new year.
This review is based upon the PC version of the game, which was provided to us for review purposes.