modeps's Zeno Clash (digital release) (PC) review

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  • modeps has written a total of 15 reviews. The last one was for Kirby's Epic Yarn
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Zeno Clash Review

Ghat has a problem. He is in the very unique situation of having committed both matricide, and patricide, by killing one person. This forces him to take flight in a prehistorically fever-dream of a landscape, along with a scantily clad antlered woman, Deadra, from several of his brothers and sisters who seek his head. The story in Zeno Clash is told by jumping between present day and a series of flashbacks, leading up to the murder of Father-Mother.

Built upon the famed Source engine by Valve, Zeno Clash's main draw is not necessarily its combat, which is a mixed bag of first person melee and strange gun play, but instead it's cast of characters and landscape. Drawing from all points East of obscure and strange, each character seems to be lovingly crafted from the depths of insanity, complete with their own quirks. One of my favorite characters is certainly the antagonist, Father-Mother, who is a bird-like creature who has given birth to the protagonist as well as dozens of others. Hearing it talk and seeing it move, has granted me with a very uneasy, haunting feeling that is not easily matched and rarely seen in games.

The combat throughout, as mentioned, is a combination of first person melee combat and gun play. The fisticuffs present work better than most titles who have attempted it, and is a shining example of how to do it right. Presented in standard fighting game style, before each 'bout' you are given a versus screen, outlining the combatants about to face off. Basic punching and kicking works great, is well implemented and feels visceral and primal. Connecting with a solid elbow or uppercut results in some resounding bass tones that really heighten the experience and the occasional melee weapon allow for some nice bone crushing blows.

Ranged weapons however, feels forced, uninspired, and a bit overused. They generally seem like they are odd for the sake of being odd, one particularly egregious example is the akimbo fish guns. With such a great melee system, the only reason I can think of to include them is an attempt to break up the combat to avoid monotony. While the goal is sound, I can't help but think that it would have been best to stick with the very satisfying hand to hand stuff, and skip the guns altogether. Nothing stinks more than getting into a sniper duel, with a rifle that, by design, doesn't have a scope.

After the main story is complete which will take you all of about 4 or 5 hours, ACE Team has forgone any sort of multiplayer. Instead they've opted for a challenge mode in which you can face off in a series of melee matches in which you fight your way up a large tower. While it may be nice to see some multiplayer added in the future, this mode is complete with online leaderboards for the competitor in all of us.

In general, I feel it is a bit difficult to convey the tone and experience of Zeno Clash in words. It is something best experienced for yourself. Being an independent developer often allows for much more freedom in game development due to not having to constantly answer to a higher, and often more powerful publisher. Sometimes taking chances doesn't exactly pay off, sometimes it pays off in spades, and more often than not, it hits somewhere in between. Zeno Clash is one of the few games that lands in the upper tier of the indy scene. It isn't the longest game in the world, and it certainly isn't perfect, but at $20, it is a fresh step outside the normal comfort zone.

The Good
  • Satisfying and entertaining melee combat system
  • Superb art design and direction
  • Well written and well execute plot

The Bad
  • Could use an extra coat of polish
  • Guns aren't great at all

The Ugly
  • Fish Guns
Posted by dogbox

Very well-written. I can't wait to play this game and your review fuels my hype even more!

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