Zeno Clash 2 Interview: Learning more about Zenozoik

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There’s no getting around it, Zeno Clash was a weird game. It was in a good way, of course, but strange none-the-less. Still, people accepted and enjoyed its unorthodox presentation and the result is Zeno Clash 2, a more far reaching sequel. Yes, this time around PS3, Xbox 360 and Windows gamers will be able to roam Zenozoik, controlling a man named Ghat as he solves mysteries brought up in the first place and people learn more about this strange world.

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until Zeno Clash 2 is released to find out more about what’s going on in Ghat’s life. GamerTell was able to ask Carlos Bordeu, Game Designer at ACE Team, a few questions about the sequel and the developer’s dreams. Forget about waiting, jump in and find out what’s going on with Ghat now.

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GamerTell: Both critics and fans were impressed with the original Zeno Clash. What are you doing with Zeno Clash 2 to make sure you meet their expectations and don’t let people down?

Carlos Bordeu: The length and constrained format of the original game was what people wished was improved for a sequel. In Zeno Clash we basically had cinematics and fights in a very linear progression with very little options to explore. It was done this way because we were just 7 people making a first-person adventure, quite a challenge for a debut title for our studio.

In Zeno Clash 2, the very first thing people will immediately notice is a big improvement in the size of levels and how the pacing of the game has changed to allow for exploration and discovery of the world. Levels can contain characters and quests which are completely optional. We even have a pretty large level which is a secret area of the game. But in terms of scale the whole game has grown a lot. Zeno Clash 2 has a more complex combat system as well.

GamerTell: How is Zeno Clash 2 connected to Zeno Clash? What has Ghat gotten up to now?

Bordeu: The story follows up shortly after the events of Zeno Clash, which ended in a bit of a cliffhanger. The story revolves heavily around the character Golem and talks a lot more about what Zenozoik really is. The beginning has Ghat teaming up with Rimat, his “sister,” to free Father-Mother from Halstedom’s first created institution: Jail. But this is just the tip of the iceberg and just the starting point of the many events that take place further through the game’s narrative.

GamerTell: The Zeno Clash series is lauded for its unique visuals. Will Zeno Clash 2 carry on that tradition and did you look to any other works to provide additional inspiration?

Bordeu: We still used primarily the same sources of inspiration: Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings, the 1980’s art of illustrator John Blanch, and others. But we’ve been very focused on creating unique and surreal environments which capture the imagination of players. In terms of variety and art design we’ve expanded upon what was done in Zeno Clash.

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GamerTell: Will Zeno Clash 2 feature post-game content and challenges?

Bordeu: We’re going to support to the game post release as we have done with all our titles. We have some ideas of things we’d like to add to the game, so I think it is pretty safe to say that people will get additional content after the game releases. Both Zeno Clash and Rock of Ages, our previous titles, got a lot of free new content after release, but right now our priority is in delivering a memorable adventure that can now be played cooperatively.

GamerTell: When talking about Zeno Clash 2 before, you said that you wanted to include role playing elements like the ones that would have been present in the abandoned Zenozoik RPG. Will this be happening and, if so, how will they work?

Bordeu: Zeno Clash 2 has some RPG elements, but they are on the light side. Think a little bit like a Zelda game in terms of how “RPG-ish” the game is. You can level up skills, which can improve stats, but the game is still heavily an action-brawler. An example of a new, interesting feature is the capacity to recruit allies during your adventure. In the game, we have a leadership skill, which allows you to recruit stronger allies as you progress in the game. Allies can be called upon specific battles and it can be really fun to fight with the support of a heavy-class enemy on your side. Recruiting characters can also be used to access areas that the player alone cannot reach.

GamerTell: Is Ghat going to be the only playable character in Zeno Clash 2? Will Deadra be playable?

Bordeu: Deadra is not playable, but she does appear in the story. However, Rimat is if you play in co-op. Ghat is “player 1” and Rimat is “player 2”. For some attacks, Rimat has her own move-set, but she plays mostly like Ghat.

GamerTell: What has it been like to work with Atlus and how has it helped you as a developer?

Bordeu: I think it’s no secret that we have an incredibly solid partnership with Atlus. They are amazing as publishers. Zeno Clash 2 is the third project in a row that we published with them and we’re really happy to continue working with Atlus. I still remember when we started working on Zeno Clash 2 and our producer told us to “Make it weird.” I think that was great – in Atlus they understand our games and our studio’s identity. We make pretty unconventional titles, so it is great to know that the people working with us aren’t trying to modify our games to make them more casual or to follow popular trends.

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GamerTell: So far, the ACE Team catalog includes first-person action games with the Zeno Clash series and Rock of Ages, which is best described as a tower defense labyrinth game. What makes the team shoot for unorthodox combinations when developing games?

Bordeu: In short: Creativity. We firmly believe in innovation and trying to push genres into new directions. I think this industry has become too risk-averse, so games aren’t exploring all the possibilities that this medium can allow. From a design perspective it is truly rewarding to take the challenge of blending completely different genres and coming up with something that is really unique. And I think our success has come mainly from our drive to create titles that cannot be compared to almost anything else.

We’re a studio with a team of 15 people making a first-person action adventure, so we’re not going to compete with the AAA companies in production values. But in terms of creativity, we can push more boundaries than most large established studios – so you could say that we’re “AAA” in imagination.

Bioshock Infinte is an amazing example of a game that innovates on all fronts and something we should be seeing more often. For every dozen military shooters we seldom get to see something completely original, and I think the market is too saturated with similar games, especially in the first-person genre.

GamerTell: If Atlus or some other publisher was willing to give you the funding to create any kind of game you wanted, what project would you want to do next?

Bordeu: At ACE we usually have more game projects in our mind than those we can actually develop. Currently, our programming and design teams are heavily invested in the final debugging Zeno Clash 2 for the launch of the game, but our art team is already starting work on our next project which is something new and that we’re very excited about. I cannot say what this new title is, definitely not this early, but it’s something in line with our studio’s unique style, so people can certainly expect it will be something that is visually bold and also creative. The only thing I can say right now is that our next game won’t be a sequel, it will be a completely new IP based on a new genre for our studio.

Zeno Clash 2 is coming to the PS3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC. You can pre-order the Windows version immediately from Steam, if you’d like, so you can start playing the moment it is released on April 30, 2013. It may be a good idea, if you’re excited, as it’s 10% off there at the moment. You could get Zeno Clash 2 for $17.99 instead of $19.99. There are also two special editions. One is a temporarily $26.99 special edition that includes Zeno Clash 2, Zeno Clash, an art book and a soundtrack, and the other is a $29.99 two pack that gives you two copies of Zeno Clash 2 and two copies of Zeno Clash. You’ve got plenty of options.

Site [Zeno Clash 2]

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