Ace Team has carved out a niche for itself, both as a South American developer and as a company not afraid to see an idea through to its conclusion. Zeno Clash II, the sequel to its first release, is no exception. With the industry often choosing to play it safe and follow established genres, it’s nice to play a game that isn’t scared to make those crazy ideas that pop up during brainstorming sessions become reality.
The game plays much like the first, with combat feeling almost like a first-person fighting game. The game relies on timing and intuition to know when to block, when to strike and when to dodge or go for a weapon. I did run into the same criticism I have with the first game: these battles can feel a bit monotonous at points.
The biggest change to the gameplay comes in the form of summonable allies. Characters can join you and fight by your side, based on your actions during the single-player story. In practice, I found these allies more useful as distractions, to help me line up a heavy hit or give me a good opportunity to use a weapon. Thankfully, they don’t need to be protected constantly, appearing when called for instead of fighting with you full time. It’s a shame they didn’t play a bigger part; I would have loved to be able to try this game in co-op.
The game really doesn’t offer many recovery options during a fight, other than simply losing and appearing at the last checkpoint. There’s no real penalty for losing, and you have all of your health and allies restored. Much of my progress has been simply fighting until I lose, then returning at full strength to keep pressing ahead.
A welcome change: the tutorial being presented separately as a prologue chapter, instead of forcing the player through for every new game. For those who have not played Zeno Clash, this will also cover the story events of the first game.
Like the original game, the art and character designs are the defining features. Zeno Clash II continues what the first game started, with incredibly distinctive designs for both friend and foe, all happening in a world that feels like it’s out of some kind of dream. Above all, the characters and the world fit together seamlessly.
Graphically, the game isn’t much different from the original Zeno Clash. Which is a bit understandable, seeing as the sequel still has to run on the same platforms. While the graphics aren’t higher resolution, they are by no means a simple copy-paste from the first. The game is familiar enough to be the same world, yet different enough to feel new.
The PC version’s visuals are a bit sharper, of course, though not a huge step ahead of the console iteration. The game does offer a decent array of standard PC settings: field of view, multiple resolutions and all the usual options you might expect.
Zeno Clash II doesn’t really take the formula too far past the original, but it remains one of the most original first-person games out there. It stands as proof that, despite what we might hear, the genre has plenty of room for originality. Zeno Clash II offers what so many games have forgotten in the rush to photorealistic HD graphics: that feeling of immersion into a crazy reality nothing like our own.
Pros: Allies add more choices to combat
Cons: Not many big changes from the original