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Zeno Clash review

This is a quick translation of my original review in Finnish on the webpage of Uljas, Joensuu’s student magazine.

Zeno Clash is the first game of ACETeam, a small gamestudio situated in Chile. It’s a shoot-em-up melee combat game. What differentiates Zeno Clash from the masses is it’s unique visual style. The game takes place in a fantasyworld called Zenozoik. At the center of the world is a city called Hallsdom which is led by a creature called Father-Mother, who has an immense amount of children. The game begins with one of the children, called Ghat, killing Father-Mother.

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The games story revolves around this. Ghat is followed on his escape from Hallsdom. The other children want to revenge Father-Mothers death. As the game progresses the player is told trough a series of flashbacks how Ghat ended up killing Father-Mother, at the same time Ghat and his girlfriend called Daerdra proceed with their escape. On the journey you travel through forests and deserts to the very borders of Zenozoik. On the journey you meet the weirdest of creatures. In the desert you see enormous rodentlike creatures the size of dinosaurs. The enemies you fight against range from a two-legged elephant to a blind bountyhunter, who attacks you from atop the aforementioned creature with squirrels mounted with explosives.

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The game is visually stunning but the story and gameplay don’t quite meet up with the visual style. The storytelling is set on rails as almost all FPS:s so the players choices don’t have any effect on how the story unfolds. At times it felt like the story only existed to take you to the next fight. The creatures met on your travels make you forget this quickly. In the forests surrounding Hallsdom for example live the weird Corwids. All Corwids have a single principle by which they live their life. Oxameter walks in a straight line without letting anything change his path and Ellem wants to be invisible so he removes the eyes from anyone approachin him.

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The gameplay is melee combat spiced with weapons. Against one or two foes the melee combat, which basicly consists of a couple of hit choices and dodging enemy punches, works fine, but when in the end you face up to four enemies the first-person viewpoint made playing a bit too hard  for me atleast. Lowering the difficulty helped though. The weapons are beatifully modeled and fit in well with the character design.

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All in all Zeno Clash is a succesfull indie game. Even though it doesn’t live up to bigger titles in some ways, the character design and the game world are something never seen before in games. Instead of shooters set in the second world war or sci-fi surroundings it’s refreshing to see one set in a crazy fantasyworld. If you’re ready to forgive a few small qualms you’ll enjoy your stay in Zenozoik. I await with interest how ACETeam continues from this great beginning.

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Zeno Clash screenshot, Daerdra and Ghat in the woods

I’m playing the game Zeno Clash at the moment and will be reviewing it for Uljas, the student magazine of the universities of Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna, once I’ve finished, sometime next week I hope. As can be seen from a screenshot of the game the art direction in the game is something different. The game was made by a small Indie-studio called ACE-team, who, since they don’t have a large company backing them up, need all the money they can get. Now to that dealing with piracy part:

The picture is from the comments made about a torrent of Zeno Clash on Mininova. What Carlos Bordeu writes is:

“I’m one of the developers of Zeno Clash. I would appreciate you read this if you are about to download this file.

Zeno Clash is an independently funded game by a very small and sacrificed group of people. The only way in which we can continue making games like this (or a sequel) is to have good sales.

I am aware that at this moment there is still no demo of the game, but we are working on one which will be available soon.

We cannot do anything to stop piracy of the game (and honestly don’t intend to do so) but if you are downloading because you wish to try before you buy, I would ask that you purchase the game (and support the independent game development scene) if you enjoy it. We plan on updating Zeno Clash with DLC and continuing support for the game long after it’s release.

Thanks for taking the time to read this… hopefully it will make a difference.

Carlos Bordeu
ACE Team”

In my opinion this is a great way to deal with piracy. Any pirates who read this might, just might, have second thoughts about pirating the game. His comment got quite a few replies as you can see if you click the picture. Perhaps the movie and music industries could learn something from ACE Team’s approach. A band commenting on Mininova about a torrent of their album wouldn’t at least hurt.

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