If 2000’s Gladiator was based in a fantasy setting, pitting Russell Crowe against Orcs, Elves and skeletons three at a time; you would have the general outline for Clan of Champions. Assuming the role of one of three different generic gladiators, you are set forth into a castle to destroy the evil that has corrupted the land. Missions consist of multiple interconnected arenas or rooms, finding you and two AI combatants battling against the same mundane enemies throughout the entire game.
While the majority of the game provides a mundane experience, the combat system allows for different parts of the body to be targeted using various low blows, torso strikes or headshots. Add a pinch of strategy, as you try to recognize weaknesses in your opponents, before unleashing a flurry of strikes. There are different approaches to the combat from a sword and shield approach, to focusing on heavy and powerful two-handed weapons or swift and agile hand-to-hand weapons. Adding magic into the mix provides the only ranged attack that you will be able to use in the game. Experience is gained depending on the different skills that are used. Want to improve your magic? Use it.
Before venturing forth into a mission, it is best to upgrade your current equipment; in fact I encourage it. Equipment plays an important role as each piece of armor comes with a full set of stats, along with a set amount of durability. Once depleted however, the armor piece will break and literally fall to the ground. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t recommend competing in fights to the death with nothing but a loincloth. If you do find yourself with exposed flesh in the heat of battle, scouring the ground will usually turn up pieces of armor that have fallen from various combatants. Having your helmet fracture for example leaves your head open to devastating attacks, forcing you to focus on defense and blocking. Without armor things can take a turn for the worse, but of course everything that works against you, also works against enemies as well.
Replaying previous missions because a common theme in order to gain additional experience and armor pieces. Boss battles break up the monotony of the missions with larger, tougher foes, but even then, the core combat mechanics rarely change. The environments barely vary between missions, with each mission taken place in similar looking rooms.
The loot, while plentiful in nature, rarely provides anything worthy of replacing previous acquired gear, but instead becomes closely tied to the equipment enhancing system. Combining these “trash” pieces of equipment with other weapons and armor, you are able to increase their attack damage, raise armor defense values and more. Essentially you will be using the same equipment throughout much of the game, and using all of the acquired loot to enhance those pieces. The feeling of finding a brand new item with a unique look is nowhere to be found in Clan of Champions. In a loot-based game, this is quite disappointing.
Deciding to jump online for some competitive multiplayer, I was quick to discover that armor plays a major role when compared to the single-player campaign. As expected, matches consisted of teams of three – when you are able to find people to play with – with AI filing in any empty spots. The AI opponents are over powered and teams with AI generally win the matches. Teaming up online for cooperative gameplay, only missions completed in single-player can be chosen, forcing you to play the alone first in order to open up new missions for online.
Nothing about Clan of Champions will keep you engaged for long whether you are playing alone or with others. Missions tend to blur together, and the entire experience feels underwhelming. Fights are predictable and nothing about the story feels interesting. The game lacks a single reason for anyone to keep playing past the first five missions.Note: Clan of Champions was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.