Clashing & Bashing
NIS likely couldn’t have picked a worse week to release this game for the PS3. Launched stateside on November 20th, Clan of Champions is the third installment of a series of gladiatorial combat simulators. Following the PS2’s Colosseum: Road to Freedom and Gladiator Begins on the PSP, the game is known for its visceral combat and… well, that’s about it. CoC features a samey single player campaign, but its main draw is meant to be the online multiplayer.
Clan’s single player narrative is told through the use of text blurbs at the start of missions. The backstory paints a picture of a trying time for three warring nations, due to a faction called the Al-Waav Urban Forces. Despite the rapid-fire text bombs detailing a large-scale struggle, each of the nations are apparently in dire need of actual armies, as all battles seem to involve a few mercenaries in various gladiatorial arenas.
Each mission places you in a match against waves of enemy NPCs to battle to the death. When alone, you’re accompanied by two NPCs, but another player can replace each of those NPCs, which makes the game significantly easier and far more entertaining. Attacks are segmented by body region, with three buttons being assigned to high/mid/low. Attacking armored areas will damage enemy armor until it is dropped or completely shattered. Causing an enemy to drop their weapon will allow the player to grab said weapon and use it against their disarmed enemy.
There are three weapon styles you can master: Sword and Shield, Dual Wield, and Hand-to-Hand. Leveling up a certain style will unlock new skills with which to dispatch your enemies. If you pick up a different set of weapons mid-battle, your skills change as is appropriate for your current style, so there’s some real depth to the battle system.
Defense comes in the form of blocking and rolling, which will feel very reminiscent of Dark Souls. Blocking an enemy’s attack will consume the equivalent of magic power or stamina, so a combination of blocking and evading will work best to keep you alive. Magic is available as well, both for attacking and for defensive purposes. You can use your mystical powers to increase health, shoot elemental damage, or even slow enemies down. You can do things like freeze your enemy temporarily, and then use another skill to do extra damage to frozen enemies, only for them to be frozen again.
You are also able to upgrade your gear with gems that can be found from the loot you obtain in battle. If you want to just make use of the gem, you can break the piece of gear it is embedded in to apply it to the piece of gear that you prefer. The gems give stat and skill bonuses to help further customize your character. Finding the right gems can lead to repeating missions, dragging through the same battles over and over in hopes of getting what you need.
Visually, the game is far from gripping. As mentioned before, there’s a general level of sameness to the entire game that applies to the aesthetics as well as the gameplay. I guess it’s appropriate; the game isn’t exactly trying to be fanciful in its depiction. Unfortunately, it can all sort of blur together when grinding for gear that you can only buy after you’ve broken an enemy’s version of the same item in battle.
Luckily, that grind feeling goes down with others, but as I mentioned before, the unfortunate timing of release makes finding other players a chore in and of itself. I can’t fault a game for having a lack of players, but the depth to the combat system is much more enjoyable in a group. Overall, I can see this being a game I’d enjoy playing through again if I had a few others by my side consistently. The strong combat mechanics, while impressive, do little to keep me tied to the title beyond the first playthrough. It just wasn’t an entertaining experience, overall.