FIVE: Champions of Canaan Puts Up a Good Fight For Its Place, Though It Occasionally Struggles
It was late in 2015 that Kingdom Games came out with FIVE: Guardians of David, a Diablo-inspired hack n’ slash dungeon crawling RPG based off the greatest warriors of the biblical King David. FIVE: Guardians of David was a full-fledged adventure featuring a fleshed out story, extensive explorable areas, and mounds and mounds of loot. Now, Kingdom Games has returned with an addition to the FIVE universe in the form of FIVE: Champions of Canaan. Less of a massive undertaking than its predecessor, Champions of Canaan chooses to forgo the expansiveness of Guardians in favor of an extremely gameplay-focused experience. Although it doesn’t hit all the right beats all the time, Champions of Canaan is still a pretty enjoyable title if you’re looking for a lot of game for relatively little cash.
Six on one is hardly fair... They should have brought more.
Champions of Canaan takes place a few decades after the events of Guardians of David. Under the righteous might of David, the tribes of Israel have been conquered and unified, but not everyone is thrilled about it, specifically David’s most recent foes, the Ammonites. Forced to give up their former open rituals of human sacrifice to their bloodthirsty deity, Moloch, the Ammonites conspire to continue their worship in defiance of King David under the guise of arena battles and spectacles of combat. Sensing treachery afoot, but unwilling to commit to another bloody campaign, King David instead sends a single warrior to compete in these arenas and gain the respect of the Ammonites through combat prowess. The warrior is a son or daughter of one of his five mighty heroes and the character you’ll be creating and playing in the game.
When you start Champions of Canaan, you begin by picking your looks, style, and most importantly, your lineage. Which of the five heroes of Guardians of David you are descended from determines a few of your base stats and starting weapons, as well as a few perks you’ll get in relation to that hero. Where children of Benaiah are hearty, armed with a great two-handed axe, and feature more hit points and better stamina recovery, children of Jashobeam offer a more nimble approach, able to use their abilities more frequently and gaining a bonus to evasion of enemy attacks as they start with the quick striking spear. Champions of Canaan is a little lacking in terms of cosmetic character customization, but the lineages add a little extra something that makes playing different characters from each line of the original Five just a little different.
The passive perks of your lineage will play into every weapon you handle, some better than others.
When you start the game, you’ll quickly be treated to your first fights and the core experience of Champions of Canaan. Once you enter the arena, your task is to fight your way through oncoming waves of enemies. Each kill will fill a bar and once that bar is full, a champion of that round will come forth to challenge you, sort of like a boss battle. Defeating that boss clears the round and offers the player a chest full of weapons, gear, money, and other goodies. As you clear more rounds, story events open up and opportunities to enter into other more lucrative arenas arise. Of the three arenas available in the game right now, each has 100 rounds to go through, not including story battles aside.
As you go through the rounds of battle, they get escalatingly harder, forcing you to constantly consider what tactics work best as you go. The initial waves of swordsman and archers can easily be brute forced, but later, you’ll run into archers that launch area-of-effect hails of arrows, chemists that will throw fire pots at you, and giants that bring devastating hammers to the field. The further you go, the more varied the enemies and prioritizing targets quickly becomes a serious matter. Moreover, the terrain features various broken walls and obstacles that can be choice for distancing yourself from enemies or cutting off an archers shot as you dispatch melee foes. The whole thing provides a constant challenge that continues to grow as your character does.
Learning which abilities chain together best is paramount to success at every stage of the game.
And speaking of character growth, there is plenty to be had. Champions of Canaan’s level-up system is somewhat of a rudimentary system. Each level-up grants you points to be put into the three categories of zeal, vitality, and vigor, with various stats attached to each, but the real growth is in the weapons system, which is by far the star attraction of Champions of Canaan. In this game, there are various categories of weapons, such as spears, slings, bows, and two-handed and one-handed swords, axes, hammers. Each and every category of weapon features its own set of four abilities and you only gain access to these abilities by using them in combat. More importantly, you can equip any category on any character at any time in the game.
Each weapons abilities vary deeply. The two-handed sword features crushing swipes, rush-down combat, and heavy damage in its slow swings where the one-handed hammer favors quick strikes, stuns, and fast escapes for moderate hit-and-run combat. Eventually, you’ll certainly want to become skilled in each weapon, gaining its abilities and seeing which style ultimately fits you best, or just change it up for fun. Champions not only tolerates that kind of open experimentation. It encourages it.
Taking advantage of various factions in the city hub will net you some very helpful benefits.
In between battles, you can pass the time in a hub area of the game. This place allows you to sell loot you’ve collected from the arena, purchase new weapons, hear gossip, and generally move the story along when applicable. Perhaps most importantly, there are special vendors in the town aligned with various factions. Throughout your battles, you’ll collect special items that can be donated to these factions for special bonuses. For instance, donating sacks of grain and livestock to the Shepherd Network will eventually raise the quality of weapons and armor you can buy from the applicable merchant. Each is well-worth exploring for the various benefits you can earn off of them and adds another layer of progression to the overall game.
It’s a good thing there’s a lot of player progression too because Champions of Canaan isn’t without some repetitiveness in its nature. Though the waves escalate throughout the game, the escalation can be slow sometimes. You’ll easily go three to five rounds facing the same sort of enemies. Nowhere is this felt greater than in the enemy champions. For about twenty to thirty rounds, you can expect to see the same three bosses walk through the gates of any given arena to end out a round. Occasionally a special boss takes the field, but these are very few and far between in the early running. They get harder by means of scaling damage and the types of enemy minions that assist them, but if you know the way around their move set, it’s generally not as much of a challenge to get through most of them and with the common occurrence of their appearances, it’s almost impossible not to get to know them quickly.
Graphics and Performance
OS: Windows 7 Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz Memory: 4 GB RAM Graphics: DirectX 9.0c DirectX: Version 9.0c Storage: 2 GB available space
As you can see from the recommended specs above, FIVE: Champions of Canaan isn’t a game that will ask much out of your system and there’s a big reason for that. Up close, it’s not the prettiest thing to look at. It’s not that the textures look particularly awful, but some do look a little dated for a game in 2016. Fortunately, you’re most often at a sort of bird’s eye view from the gameplay and paying attention to that will be difficult in the midst of all the action, but when it takes the time to come in close, you can see the cracks in the visage.
Get used to this guy. You're going to beat him up a lot.
Even from a distance, sometimes these cracks make themselves apparent. You might see enemies perform a certain animation in reaction to an attack such as a knockdown sometimes and other times, they’ll just stand still. The effect still hits them, but they just stand there looking dumbfounded instead of falling on their backs like they should. Regardless, the game nearly always plays smooth. There’s a little bit of framerate drop in cutscenes, but when you’re on the field fighting, there’s practically no hiccups in action whatsoever.
FIVE: CHAMPIONS OF CANAAN VERDICT
When it comes down to it, FIVE: Champions of Canaan is mostly what it needs to be. It’s an arena brawler with numerous toys and a growing difficulty level to ensure you’re always looking out for the best tool for the job. The growth and management of gear and fighting styles is absolutely where the game shines best and discovering each weapon’s overall gameplay is a treat. While the game does a fairly good job of staying challenging, it can be repetitive in terms of the opposition. It’s simply an unfortunate circumstance of progression of the enemy threat doesn’t always keep up with the thrill of learning the weapons. Champions of Canaan isn’t necessarily the prettiest game in its execution either. That said, it plays generally well and will keep you going for hours as you learn each lineage and weapon’s nooks and crannies and in the end, it’s a game that certainly delivers a lot for a pretty low price.
Solid and enjoyable combat system
Numerous varied enemies escalate the challenge constantly
Various Perks outside of combat to unlock and explore
Tons of equipment to keep your character armed to the teeth