Zeno Clash is a unique game with its one-two punch combat, original story and imaginatively realized world. It’s like entering the dream world of Tim Burton, with a melee heavy combat system that’s reminiscent, but much deeper than games like Condemned. But is this ultimate edition worth your hard-earned cash? Find out in my review of Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition.
Prior to jumping in I hadn’t heard anything of this game, other than it was a strange, story-driven arcade brawler. And in a way, that pretty much sums it up. It is strange, especially when it comes to the game’s world and the inhabitants that occupy it. The locales are vibrant and dream-like, and the creatures are different from anything you’ve encountered before. One of the game’s strongest features is definitely its story, especially the abundance of detail invested into the world and its characters. In no time you will genuinely care about the game’s protagonists (Ghat, the character you control, and Deadra, your female sidekick), and if you don’t end up caring then you must be dead…or a Nazi…maybe both.
The combat system is great, and reveals itself as a competent and moderately deep system as you progress along the story. You can block, unleash weak and strong attacks, throw grenades and weapons, grapple, and there’s a myriad of combos whose sole purpose is to make you feel like a total badass. If you find yourself getting bored of punching and kicking you can always pick up a melee weapon like spears and clubs, or even get yourself a ranged weapon like the crossbow or dual fishy guns. The best thing about this is that while most foes can be dispatched quickly with any of the above methods, certain ones, namely bosses, require specific strategies for you to defeat them (like melee weapons only).
For ACE Team’s first foray into mainstream gaming, Zeno Clash is written extraordinarily well. The characters feel and act real (minus some awkward animation that’s almost expected from a low-budget indie title) and they develop very well, especially the relationship between the two protagonists. The story is paced well so it ensures you never get bored, environments don’t overstay their welcome, and it’s never predictable. The decent variety in the enemies and locations also assists in keeping the game from ever feeling too repetitive (though you will be fighting many waves of increasingly difficult enemies; this is an arcade brawler after all).
The visuals and animations are probably the game’s main weakness, and that can be attributed to this being the debut game from a promising indie developer. The animations are usually well done and believable, but they can get a little over-the-top at times when certain characters float a bit, and very minor issues like that. Obviously, the environments don’t have the same level of detail bigger games have, and this is made up for by the very imaginative execution of the worlds. And without a doubt one of the biggest surprises was how good the voice acting is; I’ve played recent $60 games that have done much worse.
Outside of the main adventure, that lasts roughly seven hours, there are a few other features, like the Challenge Mode that pits you against waves of enemies as you ascend a tower, to keep you busy long after you beat the game. So for a small amount of cash you get about ten hours of entertainment; something most next-gen console titles still fail to deliver.
I’ll admit I was a little surprised at just how much I enjoyed this game, having never heard of it before and it being an arcade-style brawler. But Zeno Clash is actually an immensely fun and polished gaming experience with a deep combat system, great story, bizarrely beautiful worlds, and interesting characters. It’s not the best looking game and the extras are a little shallow but there’s really very little wrong with it. If you like to punch, kick, and explore gorgeous worlds, this is the game for you.