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Pugnacious Pleasure- Zeno Clash Reviewed

Zeno Clash for the PC. Developer: ACE Team, Publisher: ACE Team

I’ve
always had a enchantment with the edges of reality, the parts of our
existence that we can’t quite figure out. Our egotism tends to allow us
to think we’ve got it all figured out and that anything we don’t
understand is of little necessity. I’m a definite believer in Socrate’s
words, “The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.” There’s
much more out there than we will ever come close to comprehending or
even being aware of. However, curiosity is one of humanity’s strongest
qualities. Though we may never know it all, our attempts are nowhere
near in vain. Zeno Clash is a game that tells a strange tale that seems to wonder what reality is and how we perceive it.


Zeno Clash is a first person beat-em-up for the PC from new developer ACE Team. While it’s built on Half-Life 2‘s
Source engine, it has a unique “punk fantasy” visual style that makes
it look like little else. The peoples, creatures and environments all
seem to be inspired by the cultures of biblical times, yet with bizarre
tinges of alien sci-fi and punk lifestyle. Zeno Clash is very
much driven by its complex narrative but, at its core, the gameplay
remains rather simple and visceral. Conflicts in Zenozoik, the world of
Zeno Clash, seem to be solved almost entirely by close range
combat. When the game begins, the main character Ghat has done the
unthinkable and has killed Father-Mother. Father-Mother is a large
half-human-like, half-bird-like creature that seems to somehow be a
hermaphroditic parent to several species of humanoid creatures. We
start off not knowing why Ghat has killed Father-Mother, and neither
does his love-interest, Deidre, but she bravely chooses to follow and
help protect him anyway. However, Zenozoik is a strange and violent
world. Escaping will not be easy and little is known about where they
are headed, except that no one ever returns.

Almost everyone
along the way, will decide they want to hurt the protagonists. I wasn’t
so sure I could blame them at first but, as Ghat, the player is forced
to fight for his life. Zeno Clash is almost purely a
beat-em-up. There’s very little exploration, platforming or
puzzle-solving. Guns are available but weak and/or cumbersome, which
makes sense in such a primative society. Luckily, the combat system is
well done and fairly complex. The situations in which the player must
fight are varied enough to keep things fresh. Anyone who’s familiar
with the melee and gun combat of Breakdown or Mirror’s Edge
should know that while this is similar, it’s more fleshed-out and
forgiving. Even on hard mode (which is actually of normal difficulty
according to the description?), the game was rarely frustrating. The
game is guilty as sin when it comes to throwing the same enemies at you
multiple times, and enemies are a little under-varied in fighting
styles to begin with. Still, the enviroments are quite varied, causing
you to change your strategies, and there are a few memorable boss
fights. The game is also on the short side (though it’s only $19.99
USD) at about 4 hours of gameplay (not including the extra Challenge
mode), so the game doesn’t have time to get stale. The Challenge mode
(with online scoreboards) adds some replay by having you climb a tower,
facing a new and different fight on each floor.

This game is
strongest in its story and visuals. At first, the story came off almost
as weird-for-the-sake-of-weird but, in time it reveals itself to not
only be deep, meaningful and even touching, while still remaining
extremely mysterious. The characters, while often gruesome and odd, are
diverse in design and personality. A surprising number of these
characters are even endearing, especially Deidre. The environments in
the game are colorful, unique, and beautifully designed and rendered.
The voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag but for the most part it’s
quite impressive for a low-budget game. The sound effects are a bit
uninspired at times and I recognized some sounds from in the Half-Life 2 but the excellent driving tribal orchestral soundtrack made up for this slight deficiency.

Zeno Clash trips up slightly with some of the repetition that
tends to plague beat-em-ups, but manages to keep things fairly fresh
and quite fun. This is a great game with a great story and setting.
Although the game has some flaws, they seem to be the type that often
appear in the first game created by any developer.  A sequel could be
absolutely amazing with some more depth to the gameplay. While the game
has a satisfying conclusion, it is also obviously left wide open for a
sequel and I greatly welcome the idea. I’m already sold.

About TideGear

Game Producer for Degica Games and indie-game developer, Adam loves retro, obscure, and indies. Check out @RZWgame!

33 comments

  1. Wow, quite the kickass review. Can I just saw that you guys on on a roll these days.

  2. Great character design, I like the way it doesn’t recall any other game.

  3. Socrates, Marx and some other guys I’ve never heard of. Man, you should get credits just for reading this site.

    You guys seem smarter than my dumbass English teacher who can teach to save her life.

  4. Can you ride the dinosaur looking things?

  5. WTF is up the first picture? Did you knock a girl out Tide? You need to change to screename to ChrisBrown

  6. Character Models look really good on this.

  7. Do you think for PC games you could included the specs of the machine you used, and recommended specs? That would be very helpful. thanks.

  8. That what I thought when I saw that second pic.

  9. I wish my PC was up to snuff. What’s the minimum graphics card that is needed?

  10. Nice Review, Tide. Sounds like you got a bit of DE’s help on this one for some reason.

  11. How the animation, HF2 stuff always moves a little weird to me.

  12. Very nice texturing!

  13. I’ve been hearing nothing but praise for this game.

  14. I heard there were some problems with the release, have these been fixed? Did you experience any bugs?

  15. Just like life, everything gets solved by Close-Quarter Combat. LOL.

  16. Head bob?

  17. Whatcha talking about? Voice acting is great!!!!

  18. Wow, this one caught me by surprise, I never heard of it. $19.99 is the sweet spot for me.

  19. Yep, cool hair.

  20. Just bought it, thanks for the tip on this game.

  21. Does it feel like Condemned? That’s how I imagine a first person beat-em-up to be.

  22. What else has this developer done?

  23. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    Thanks! And, your username rocks.

  24. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    Nope. Maybe in the sequel?

  25. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    I’m not sure on the specs exactly. My PC is a bit old and it handled this on fairly high settings just fine.

  26. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    Haha, thanks. Nope, we’re just both well educated, I guess.

  27. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    I don’t recall any bugs! Pretty solid, it seems.

  28. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    Most of it is great, but I could tell there’s a few amateurs in the mix.

  29. Zeno Clash get! Played for about 45 minutes and I love it so far.

  30. Any plans for this to be ported to consoles? Looks like a great DLC title.

  31. Great review. I love hearing about the stuff that doesn’t get covered to death everywhere else on the interwebz.

  32. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    Not that I know of. Try emailing ACE Team and let them know you want it!

  33. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    There’s a demo on Steam now!