Ace Team’s Zeno Clash was a remarkably confident indie project that got noticed thanks to its well designed combat system. Despite The success of the PC original and subsequent console release, Zeno Clash II snuck out with relatively little attention, and its subsequent console release has suffered the same fate. This, it would seem, is symbolic of the way in which the development team has handled their sequel, as Zeno Clash II is much the same experience as its predecessor.
The videogame throws the player into a world very different from our own. Creation has taken a very different turn and the most human like creations are the outcasts. This is a primeval world in which creatures rule with violence in favour reason, where mysticism and incitement of fear bring more rewards than justice. Despite the player’s quest for the latter, it’s the former that will offer the most advantages for your journey.
Aggression is the key to playing Zeno Clash II successfully. As you roam through the largely empty world you’ll frequently encounter bandits and other characters that simply want to take you down. The basis of Zeno Clash II’s gameplay is melee combat: using the left and right triggers you can punch, kick and grapple with enemies on a surprisingly generous number of ways. There’s a great deal of tactics in the system that will take time to learn, especially given that specific enemies have different strengths and weaknesses.
There are guns and other weapons available, but these are readily disposable thanks to ammunition limitations and breakable close combat armaments. Players can throw items at enemies, use grenades and access other weapons, but all if this is simply a compliment to the melee combat, not a replacement.
While the combat is undoubtedly progressive, other areas of Zeno Clash II leave plenty to be desired. As wonderful as the world Ace Team have crafted is, it’s largely empty. Furthermore, the mission structure is mostly a simple journey from point-to-point punctuated by cutscenes and regular bouts of combat. It’s a shame that the pacing has delivered in a fashion that opts for plot development over gameplay, as this simply hinders your enjoyment of the finest parts of the videogame.
Zeno Clash II is far from being a bad videogame, but it simply doesn’t feel as though much progress has been made since the first title from Ace Team. This is disappointing, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that Zeno Clash II still features some of the best first-person melee combat ever seen in a videogame. A mixed bag then, undoubtedly, but that which Zeno Clash II champions will surely become standard in time.