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Review: Zeno Clash 2 for PC

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Title: Zeno Clash 2
Price: $19.99
System(s): PC (Also available for Xbox 360, PS3)
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Atlus (Ace Team)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Violence, Blood, Partial Nudity, Mild Language, and Use of Alcohol

I usually like the games Atlus publishes. They’ve got a great catalog of games that is continually growing in all regards of games. However, Zeno Clash 2 is not one of those games. Don’t get me wrong. It was full of potential, as the quirky styling of the original Zeno Clash was a part of its appeal. While being far from a great game, the original was not bad. However, for the most part, there actually was something that could be latched onto if you looked for it.

With Zeno Clash 2, we have a bigger game. But rather than fixing the flaws and keeping the quirks, everything including the flaws feels bigger, which is bad. And the result is a pretty underwhelming and uninspired showing of what’s possible within the art of games.

Zeno Clash 2 screen1

Once more into the breach

The story and its portrayal is one of the few things that is consistently workable and believable in Zeno Clash 2. It’s partially because of the fact that it does bridge the slight gap between the two games. Even people who haven’t played the original Zeno Clash will be able to understand rather quickly what the world is and what kind of conflict you’re dealing with. The game starts off almost exactly where the previous one ended.

You and a former foe are thrust into a larger conflict. The previous game dealt with Ghat defying his clan’s leader and accidentally revealing a secret that led to the imprisonment of FatherMother (yes, seriously. That’s the name). Ghat and Rimat join forces for different reasons. Ghat works to fight for the protection of his home against an outsider known only as “Golem.” Rimat wants to reunite the family, which can be used to the same end.

Zeno Clash 2 screen2

Bigger is not better

OK. As said earlier, the development for Zeno Clash 2 went along with the “bigger is better” mentality. And that can actually be true, if it’s done right. However, many of the things with this game fall short. I will say this bit of good about the game. The story is interesting and pretty compelling. And if it had been a book, it would be fine, completely retaining and improving on the style, mood and quirky humor of the original. The world is also incredibly imaginative, when there isn’t texture-popping and shifts in quality, and beautiful. It’s just everything else that things start to go weird. At least that’s the case for.

Since Zeno Clash 2 is a first-person RPG-like brawler, it would be good to cover the combat – especially since the improved fighting system is also noted as one of its main features to be pointed out and celebrated. Use a gamepad because of the combos don’t work all that great with a keyboard and mouse. Then there’s the hit and block detection systems. When the combat, the hit detection and block detection works, the system is great. Again, that’s when it works and it does have a tendency to go wrong.

The use of the Unreal III Engine is cool and creates a lot of possibilities for Zeno Clash 2. But it feels like a half-hearted implementation in both the graphics and physics side of the game. We’ve seen better utilizations of the engine in games since 2007. Textures occasionally pop. Animation quality shifts, sometimes in a single shot. Physics occasionally go crazy, especially when the hit or block detection starts acting up.

Composition of shots in Zeno Clash 2‘s cutscenes and acting are both also pretty poor. They’re stiffly done. They’re dominantly just standing in one place or side-by-side or face-to-face without any real movement when discussions are happening. The voice acting is just as stiff and wooden as the composition of the shots are. It’s feels more like a bad rehearsal where blocking is just being started rather than an actual performance.

One last flaw is that Zeno Clash 2 does go for more of an open world experience. That can work beautifully, if there is the content to support it coupled with a strong map feature and better checkpoints. There really isn’t that much though to justify just how much they expanded the world. There was a lot of potential and it could just use more content. The map function is also a total mess that doesn’t help indicate where you are. The checkpoints are obscure and far.

zeno clash 2

Patches will prove Zeno Clash II‘s potential

Zeno Clash 2 still has a lot of potential, provided there will be patches and expansions. There’s a lot of room to grow into being a good game, possibly even a remarkable one. However, as it was released, at least for the PC version, it’s a sloppy use of the Unreal III Engine. While it is visually impressive, it’s uninspired in design. It’s inconsistent in execution. And it just doesn’t have the content necessary to really stand and remain entertaining with an open world design. It feels like there’s a good game in it, but just not yet. The only way that I’d be able to recommend this game is if you are a hardcore fan of the original Zeno Clash or if there is heavy patching and multiple expansions to give the world more depth.

Product Page [Steam]

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