Zeno Clash is a PC only first person brawler, independently developed and produced by ACE Team. It is available through both Steam and Direct2Drive at the price tag of $19.95 (Around $30 SGD). Zeno Clash puts you into a world of fantasy, blending both the first person point of view with an engaging melee combat system. Visuals are out of this world (in terms of their concept and design) and is uniquely pleasing to the eye. Storyline wise is yet again weird mainly due to the atmosphere and setting it takes place in. All in all the combat system together with the splendid visuals make it one heck of a game, a game that is weirdly fantastic.
The game puts you into our protagonist’s, Ghat, shoes where you are supposedly the son of a not-man-nor-women creature called Father-Mother. I believe the term to describe such a creature is hermaphrodite. Basically Father-Mother have many many children that altogether forms the most powerful clan in the city of Halstedom (The place where you are born and the main city in the game I believe) You, playing as Ghat, would then start escaping from Halstedom due to you attacking (SPOILER SPOILER!) Father-Mother. From then on your adventures starts as you travel through many different environment richly filled with creatures, beings and stuff that we can hardly imagine. As you are leaving, or I would say escaping, from Halstedom, a female companion, Deadra, follows you and helps you along your journey. The story unfolds itself with flashbacks after flashbacks, allowing you to see Ghat’s past as you proceed with the game. Whether or not Ghat’s intentions were evil or holy, it all lies in the opinion of the gamer himself. It may seem to be a rather simple story but once you start playing the game, you’ll be stunt by the uniqueness and perhaps weird events that are about to take place.
Putting the story aside, I’ll now move on to the gameplay. As said earlier in the introduction, it is a first person brawler. That in other words meant something like a fighting engine but in a first person point of view. Think street fighter just that you’re playing in FPS mode. With that said, the fighting works something like Oblivion and perhaps Dark Messiah? You have two choices of killing, or rather beating the shit out of your opponent. One, by using your hands. Two, by using weapons whether is it melee or ranged. For most parts of the game, you’ll be using your hands to destroy and punch the hell out of your opponent. The melee combat system allows players to block, dodge, parry and lastly two types of melee attacks; weak and strong. The combat system is rich and deep but it isn’t used to its fullest abilities due to the fact that opponents often cheat; they gang up against you but hey, that is life yeah? When faced in a gangbang situation, you’ll often find yourself running around finding space before singling out one opponent at a time (beating him up of course). There is a combo system whereby you can perform different strings of attacks to trick and further humiliate your enemy. You can block and parry then returning with a counter attack. You can dodge as well before striking your enemy. Basically one might go on simply by button smashing but that isn’t the case when you proceed with a harder difficulty or try out the challenge mode.
The weapon combat system is rather basic. For ranged weapons, you can aim and shoot with a , yet again, bizarre gun, shotgun, crossballs (cross-bow) and stuff. For melee weapons, you can use a powerful or a weaker attack. They are used mainly to attack the bigger monsters/creatures/animals as they are immune to normal hand attacks. The weapons aren’t very powerful nor very weak, putting a balance and making the game remain its focus on the hand to hand combat. And lastly, you have skull bombs (bombs) that explodes. Pretty useful for their area damage. With a combination of both the weapons and your bare hands I’m sure that you are able to be on your way to destroy anything that comes into your way.
The fighting takes place in arenas (whether you know it or not but the developers would limit you to the space you can move) and proceeds in stages. These stages are often in-between your storytelling and mini-games (No idea what to call those mini-stages where you do other stuff rather than killing and attacking people). Enemies and opponents you fight with varies throughout the game, requiring you to adapt to the different situations at times. With all that said, with enough movement around the arena and striking at the right time, you won’t find no enemy too tough to defeat. There are boss fights in the game where it sometimes requires players to use a certain method to kill the boss. Boss fights aren’t very difficult nor are they epic encounters but they sure do add a variety to the gameplay.
The sound effects and music within the game is appropriately use and adequate to further enhance the rich and strange environments. The music especially helps during combat as it pumps the adrenaline in the gamer. Every time you punch an enemy in the face, body or where ever else the sound makes it sound as if they hurt a lot. Weapons sound good enough for the damage they inflict. Voice acting is above average but the lines definitely need some improving but is still of sufficient quality. Luckily for the background music it felt right, as in sensibly right and not weird again.
Visuals, visuals, visuals. Environments, atmosphere, characters and designs. Weird, strange, bizarre, but marvellous. When I first played the game, I was like “WOAH, what the bear is this?” Although it gives me the surprise factor, it felt right and pleasing. The concept and design behind all the artwork is special and for that, it is an eye-candy. Almost everything within the game were out of this human world, in terms of their looks and characteristics. Some looked like animals, others look like objects and of course some looked male-female. You’ll be amazed by how smart the characters were designed, making them one of their kind and never seen before. For a moment you might feel uncomfortable for seeing things your brain or memory has never recorded but after awhile of adjustment, you’ll smile throughout the whole game. If you hadn’t realised yet, it is build under the Source Engine. But the design concepts makes it extraordinary and exclusive, filled with a wholesome load of originality.
There are some minor problems with the game so far. Basically all of these problems that I’m about to list are directly based on my personal opinions and differs from people to people. Firstly, the targeting system frustrates me at times. Throughout the game the enemies you meet are often in packs rather than one alone. Therefore for the player to avoid getting attacked from all sides he has to move around often. For one to effective manoeuvre around the place you have to unlock your target than start running etc. However, because the switching target systems works in the way that if you look at another opponent and press the lock-on button (used to unlock as well_, you’ll switch your target to him. The problem is, you do not have to face that enemy directly but somewhere close enough would do. So there I am fighting to opponents side by side, I’m hitting the crap out of one but the other is being a bastard and not leaving me alone. I try to unlock my target and run, but instead I lock onto the other enemy. When a few punches landed on me, I panicked. I spam the lock on key, hoping to unlock and run as fast as I could. But I failed obviously as I have not yet moved my view out of either one of the enemy. With that, I kept switching targets and got punched in the face a few times. Not game breaking but still irritating at times. Secondly, I ain’t liking how they gave us so many weird stuff but not explain it to us. All the different characters and creatures within the game are hardly described and not much background information is given. There are so much things within the game that I would love the developers explain but perhaps the missing information and question marks within the game is done on purpose, the purpose to make players think hard. Nevertheless, the questions in my mind about the game didn’t bother me much, it is just that it fills up my brain with some questions with no answers.
The game is rather short, finished within 10 hours on the hardest difficulty at most. I spent around 5 hours on the medium difficulty. There is no multiplayer or anything accept a scoreboard for the challenge mode to compete with your friends statistically and that is about it. But for an indie game of such richness and uniqueness I believe that the amount spend on the game is well deserved. As always different people have different opinions. As for me, this is one game that would bring you out from that all so cliché environments and characters of other games, giving you an all new perspective and view of gaming environments. All I have to say now is to be prepared to be weirdly satisfied.