Digital downloads have quickly become one of the most popular ways for gamers to buy and for companies to publish. NIS America, known more for their anime-style imports like the Disgaea and Atelier series, has entered the virtual marketplace once again with the uncharacteristically serious Clan of Champions.
Clan of Champions was originally released as a PS3 exclusive and as such, this is a console-to-PC port. Unfortunately this means that the game features one of the clunkier user interfaces I’ve had the displeasure of handling with the venerable keyboard/mouse combo – switching over to a gamepad was a must for any sort of comfortable handling of the game’s menus, but not everyone has the same kind of luxuries provided by a USB controller. On another note, settings are unreasonably difficult to tweak for a PC game. There’s a separate program that you must launch before playing the game if you want to change hotkeys or window mode with no option to change resolution and in-game options are relegated to changing music and sound volume or camera controls – a paltry, not to mention inconvenient, amount considering the level of customization granted by most any other PC game on the market.
Alongside the awkward interface, presentation is not the game’s strong point. Character customization is abysmally short on choice, with inexplicably gender-locked races despite the appearance of each gender’s opposite as enemies, and a very old feeling skill point allocation system that I would have expected from a late 90s action RPG – not a game surrounded by triple-A heavy hitters like Skyrim and Dark Souls. Character models and environments are gritty but non-committal, and everything ends up looking a little too plastic to be legitimately attractive.Animations are robotic and repetitive, and while the sound is acceptable, grunting and yelling are just about all you’ll get from your characters. Story is equally minimal, with small blurbs concerning the people you will be reducing to a pile of meat in an upcoming mission, but no real tangible grasp on an overarching storyline. Presumably your character wants to start/be a part of a “clan of champions” but outside of some vague references to “you and your group,” and occasional name-dropping (I killed a guy named Zalkov along the way, supposedly), there isn’t much else to go on.
Combat and gameplay in Clan of Champions is one of the more redeeming features of the game. Once you get past the awkward mission selection screen, the game throws you into an arena and literally tells you to “Annihilate All Enemies,” which sounds bland on paper (or computer screen) but serves to give the combat itself a chance in the spotlight, combining 2D fighter-inspired 3D beat ‘em up action with RPG-style min-maxing in the form of spells and abilities, as well as weapons and armor, which actually aid in blocking hits – you can swing your weapons and fists high, mid, or low to break through enemy equipment and pummel their squishy insides and health bars into nonexistence. In addition, as you wade through piles of corpses, you may find yourself inundated with the spoils of war. Equipment drops can be sold for money to purchase equipment upgrades or be used to upgrade existing equipment, giving a good amount of replayability for those interested in watching numbers rise.
Clan of Champions, despite its less than stellar presentation, is a mindlessly fun brawler with complex enough RPG components to give spreadsheet aficionados a good enough time but fails to deliver on eye candy and overall polish.
Available on: PC, PS3; Publisher: NIS America; Developer: Acquire; Players: 1 – 6; Released: November 20, 2012 (PC); ESRB: Mature; MSRP: $39.99; Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.