Zeno Clash II
Developer: ACE Team
Platform: PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: April 30th, 2013
Price: $19.99 USD – Available Here for PC
The hero of the first game Ghat has returned, continuing his lonesome path to defeat The Golem. After waking The Golem from its slumber and learning the truth about FatherMother in the first game, Ghat’s adoptive brothers and sisters abandon their family to seek out their biological parents. Only Rimat has remained, owing her loyalty to FatherMother. The Golem has imprisoned FatherMother for kidnapping children and provided information to the children about their biological parents. In the beginning of the game, Rimat convinces Ghat to join her in freeing FatherMother and joins Ghat on his quest to take down The Golem.
It is highly recommended for those who are new to Zeno Clash II to play the Prologue/Tutorial and simply sit and listen to Ghat recap the events of the first game. I attempted to learn the mechanics of the game while listening to the prologue and ended up tuning out most of it because I was focused on learning how to beat the tar out of my enemies. Playing Zeno Clash II without a solid grasp of the plot events of the first game can get extremely confusing at some points. I ended up pausing part way to read the Wikipedia summary so I could better understand the developing story.
The plot itself was well written. The twists in the story was interesting and explored themes of morality versus law and the meaning of civilization. Though a few lines could get a little corny, at times, Zeno Clash II managed to keep me interested in the story.
First Person Melee games is a difficult sub-genre to execute correctly. Unlike throwing punches in real life, judging distance on a 2d screen is a challenge. The original Zeno Clash earned praise for its melee combat system and Zeno Clash II continues the tradition. Players are able to perform a variety of combination moves to inflict damage while having access to a variety of defensive abilities to minimize incoming damage. High quality melee combat is the heart and soul of Zeno Clash II. There are a variety of ranged firearms and tools to assist Ghat and Rimat in their adventures, but firearms tended to become a rare accessory to help whittle down enemies before engaging in melee combat. The ranged tools on the other hand proved to be more helpful and often took starring roles in boss battles. These boss encounters encourage players to think a little more creatively with their tools than simply wading into the thick of a battle and pummeling the closest target’s face in with the fists. Boss battles have proved to be a hit or miss spot with many FPS games, but I feel Zeno Clash II did an excellent job to balance its core melee combat with some a little variety.
The game is a little linear, with a handful of chances to branch out from the main storyline and experience side quests. There are plenty of collectibles to hunt for, as skill points are accrued by finding special totems and there are plenty of other collectibles to find. I was able to get through the main story line and one or two side quests on normal difficulty in about ten hours of game time. Online leaderboards are available to encourage players to replay the campaign for a higher score by increasing damage output and reducing incoming damage.
Zeno Clash II introduces co-op support in the campaign. Although the first game supported co-op in its survival mode when it was released on Xbox, players will be able to bring a friend into their game to take on the role of Rimat. The game seems easier with two players. Each player’s difficulty level modifies their own health and the health of the enemy they fight, so one player can play on easy difficulty while their partner plays on hard difficulty. I appreciate this acknowledgement that not everyone’s skill level is the same and that there is no one difficulty challenges all. Players can easily drop in and drop out of games. The matching system seems to work well, providing players many opportunities to be matched up with random players.
For those who play co-op, one ally can be called into major brawls from time to time. Allies that are more powerful can be called upon with a higher leadership score. Solo players will have the option to call in Rimat and the ally separately for fights instead of having Rimat there all the time. I found this made combat in Zeno Clash II more challenging as random fights meant I would have to go at it alone while major fights would only allow Rimat to fight for a limited period of time. Thankfully, I did not find the normal difficulty to be too tough. I could get away with rolling with the punches, barely using the blocks and doges in favour of simply pummeling enemies to death.
Zeno Clash II’s controls were extremely intuitive. The player is provided with two attack buttons, one for each fist, a special ability button, a block/dodge key, a sprint key, and an enemy lock toggle for combat. From these keys, special combos and attacks can be triggered. Attacking and dodging felt extremely naturally and with a little practice I was executing special combos with a high degree of consistency.
I tried playing the game with my Xbox 360 controller and with the keyboard and mouse. I found the controls were slightly better suited for the keyboard and mouse. The dodge key is one of the most important buttons as the difficulty rises. All of the possible controller layouts bound dodge to a face key, forcing me to take my thumb off the right thumb stick to dodge. I would have preferred to see the dodge key replace the sprint function on the shoulder buttons.
Zeno Clash II may be one of the most visually distinct games in a long time. Although the art style itself seems to lean towards realistic, the world Ace Team has designed is unique. The beings that populate Zenozoik draw inspiration from animals we see every day. The character and environmental design is distinctive. Ace Team demonstrates some imagination in designing Zenozoik.
Graphically, Zeno Clash II looks sharp and runs well. Ace Team passed over Zeno Clash’s Source Engine in favour of the Unreal Engine for Zeno Clash II. I ran the game on max settings with a GTX 670 and a Phenom II X4 965+ at 1920×1080 with no strange visual behaviour or slowdowns.
Zeno Clash II provides a good soundtrack and extremely satisfying sound effects. Being a melee game, the sound of fists being pounded into flesh is a large part of the experience. ACE Team provides an excellent variety of thumps, crunches, and smacks. The weakest sound effects I found were the firearms. They often sounded weak and underpowered.
There is a fair amount of voice acting in Zeno Clash II. For the most part, the actors delivered their lines well, though I found some minor characters were a little more wooden in their delivery than others. I did notice the volume of the voices at some points were significantly lower than the rest of the game. Ghat and Rimat’s lines were the worst offenders. I often found myself raising the volume temporarily during cut scenes and relying on subtitles to understand what was going on. I would have liked to see a separate volume slider to increase the volume of the voices.
Zeno Clash II is a fine example of a first person melee game. ACE Team combines a visually distinct world, an interesting story line, co-op multiplayer, and incredibly satisfying melee combat into one slick package.
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