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Review: Zeno Clash - PC - 8.1

09 maja, 2009

A fun and quirky experience that\'s well worth the budget price...

In an industry increasingly filled with safe sequels or spin-offs utilizing tried and true gameplay conventions, it is refreshing to see developers like ACE Team injecting some originality into the market with games like Zeno Clash. Its bright and artistic visuals will hook players in the beginning, while the simple but addicting gameplay will keep them playing till the end.

Although built on the Source engine, technology known for the excellent shooters that it has spawned, Zeno Clash is actually a first person game featuring a heavy emphasis on melee combat and combos. Some hardcore players might cringe at the memory of the last game that attempted to pull this off (Dark Messiah of Might and Magic) but Zeno Clash manages to be a blast to play.

For the most part, the punching and kicking in Zeno Clash is satisfying to pull off. There are a few sore spots however, mostly concerning the finesse moves which are often too difficult and more risky to pull off than a simple, but effective volley of punches. Due to some issues with the plot structure, you’ll also end up fighting the same enemies over and over again. The numbers you fight will get increasingly larger, adding some unfair difficulty curves that continually ramping up until the game’s nearly-impossible conclusion.

The game is paced well, spacing out encounters in short, intense chunks. This allows sections that are weaker to be over quickly. Overall, it’s not a long game, but that’s expected at the price point.

The weakest suit of the game is its story, regardless of how interesting and unique it is. I’ll try to explain the gist of it, but I understand if you’ll be left scratching your head: The protagonist, Ghat kills his Father-Mother, (spawner of human and animal children) and is subsequently pushed into exile, being chased by your vengeful brothers and sisters. You explore many strange varieties of wilderness, eventually joined by a women and a masked creature called Golem. From there, you decide to return and confront the village. It’s a serviceable plot, but its hurt by a feeling of oversimplicity and unimportance.

Visually, Zeno Clash is quite impressive. Running off of the proven Source engine, Zeno Clash displays some stunning and unique artistic vision. It’s extremely colorful and manages to avoid the waxed and shiny look that so many current-generation games suffer from. The voice acting is passable, but definitely won’t win any awards.

Overall, Zeno Clash is an interesting idea that can only be pulled off by small independent teams who don’t have to worry about the fears that bigger developers and publishers might have. It’s fun, aesthetically beautiful, and well-paced, which more than makes up for its weak story and voice acting. If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air, Zeno Clash is for you.

Score Breakdown:

Gameplay: 8.0 – The fighting is well-paced and doesn\'t get to repetitive due to a well-polished and great feeling combat system. That\'s pretty much all that Zeno Clash does, however.

Presentation: 8.5 – Beautiful and unique world that hits all of the right notes in creating a exceptional experience.

Graphics: 8.5 – Not a technical benchmark, but a wonderous artistic accomplishment.

Sound: 7.5 Unique sound effects and tribal music that fit the setting. Voice acting is passable.

Value: 8.0 – A fulfilling experience for a budget price.

Final Score: 8.1 – Zeno Clash is a game for those looking for something interesting and unique for a modest price.

Marcin Skok
"The Gaming Corner"