ACE Team, creators of outlandish first-person brawler Zeno Clash, have finally delivered a sequel. Players of the original will be pleased to know that questions will be answered, and people that haven’t yet done so should definitely go experience the original Zeno Clash. Aside from its predecessor, of course, the real question is that of how well Zeno Clash II measures up.
The story follows our former-corwid (insane forest-dweller) Ghat and his psuedo-sister Rimat though the bizarre world of Zenozoik as they attempt to uncover the truth behind the demented patriarch responsible for their unusual upbringing and the gravelly-voiced golem, who has brought unwelcome changes to Ghat and Rimat’s society. Thankfully, an overwhelming majority of Ghat’s problems can be solved by smashing their faces in, an art in which the man is an utter specialist.
While Zeno Clash II is playable in a co-op mode (in which if one player goes down, both fail), it is readily enjoyed as a solo experience. Traversing Zenozoik is one part exploration, two parts fighting. Unlike the original, ZCII provides large, open areas instead of limited, linear paths to which you are bound. For the curious adventurer, this means a huge plethora of collectibles, secrets, pickups, and weapons. Among the various findings are also skill totems, which give you skill points to spend on better stats in combat and the ability to bring stronger allies into battle with you.
The two parts combat are where things turn from “interesting” to “fascinating.” As you may have guessed, a majority of fighting is performed with your bare hands and feet. Ghat has a huge arsenal of combos and special moves at his disposal this time around, and unless you experiment a lot or attempt to find the most efficient ways to destroy enemies, the system can be a tad confusing. To make things more complex, heavy melee weapons such as hammers and ranged weapons like shotguns and pistols get thrown into the mix, whether found in caches or held by enemies. Lastly, Ghat acquires a few special tools through his journey that have the ability to drastically alter combat.
We are beyond fascinating at this point.
While I could spend hours analyzing the four special weapons Ghat earns, the final in particular strikes me as game making/breaking. A gauntlet that glows an eerie green, the link weapon allows you to select two objects, enemies, or a mix of both. As long as the two entities are linked, each will suffer everything that happens to the first.
This opens up a lot of possibilities. Say, for instance, that you link two enemies, then kick one of them off a cliff this-is-sparta style. The linked enemy will drop dead. Say you link a powerup totem and an enemy, then use the totem as a punching bag. The linked enemy will receive equal damage and knockback from every blow. Attacks that strike multiple targets hit linked enemies/objects twice – and no enemies are immune. At the same time, it’s not overpowered. There is still plenty of challenge to be had (in the absence of cliffs).
Zeno Clash II’s only downside is its unfortunate length. I spent a great deal of time exploring and seeking out hidden rewards, and still completed the campaign in under eight hours. Fortunately, between co-op functionality, a competitive campaign leaderboard, higher difficulties and a small array of side quests, this first-person brawler presents a decent amount of replayability, especially considering its somewhat meager price tag of $20.
As the exploration of a greatly expanded Zenozoik and the unique action Zeno Clash II presents are an iconic example of the potential of developers unhindered by demanding publishers, and as much overall fun as the game presents, Zeno Clash II is a must-have for adventurers and hardcore gamers alike. Highly recommend.