If you’ve ever delved into the weird and wonderful world of Zeno Clash, you’re in for a treat with Clash: Artifacts of Chaos. It’s like returning to Zenozoik, where everything is alien and bizarre, yet the inhabitants act like it’s just another day in the neighbourhood. It’s not a direct sequel to Zeno Clash, so they’ve given it a slightly different title, but fear not, it’s a fresh and exciting new story with new characters and elements.
A Surreal Adventure into Zenozoik
You play as Pseudo, a badass fighter and expert in martial arts. But he never expected to get caught up in an adventure like this. Along the way, he crosses paths with Boy, which turns them into an unexpected duo; thankfully, their relationship is enticing. They don’t chatter incessantly or become close from the start. Pseudo, with his intimidating voice, doesn’t seem like the social type, and Boy knows his limitations and doesn’t try to act stronger than he is.
Their bond grows gradually throughout the 20 hours of gameplay, and the challenges they face together strengthen their connection. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Pseudo also makes a few enemies, getting entangled with the wrong crowd. So, battles are bound to happen – against enemies who prey on them or wild creatures that don’t appreciate passersby.
In this surreal and captivating adventure, you’ll uncover secrets, build friendships, and face off against foes as you journey through Zenozoik. Get ready to immerse yourself in a world like no other, where the strange and fantastic collide, and surprises lurk around every corner.
If you’re up for a wild ride, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is waiting to whisk you away to a realm of unforgettable experiences. Strap in and get ready to explore the enigmatic world of Zenozoik like never before.
Many may remember the strange quality that the Zeno Clash series offered. A world so surreal, where everything seems alien and odd to the player, yet the inhabitants of Zenozoik deal with it in an unsusceptible manner. In the same vein, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos takes players back to Zenozoik, but it’s not a direct sequel to Zeno Clash. Instead, it tells a new story with new protagonists and elements.
It’s not the most original story, but the relationship between the two protagonists is well-represented. They don’t have constant dialogue every step of the way, nor terrible chemistry from the first encounter. Pseudo, described as fearsome, doesn’t seem like the type who appreciates the company, let alone a young child who can neither fight nor subsidize. On the other hand, the kid knows his limitations and doesn’t play it off as being more muscular than he is, even though he’s more important than he initially appears. Likewise, Pseudo has a few secrets he doesn’t reveal until the time comes. How could the two of them be connected, and on what level? The relationship between the two builds gradually over the 15 or so hours of the game, and some difficulties Pseudo faces early on help strengthen their relationship. At the same time, Pseudo also gains a few enemies after messing with the wrong people. Because of this, battles are far from rare in the game, either against enemies that prey on the two protagonists or against wild animals that don’t want company.
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos Is Filled With Beauty
For Zeno Clash veterans, here’s a chance you’ll be split. Battles are played in a third-person perspective, like the game in general, instead of first-person. However, the core remains more or less the same, emphasizing hand-to-hand combat without weapons that strike from a distance. Pseudo’s fists and feet are the best weapons, as the player chooses one of three fighting stances upon starting the game and is taught even more throughout the game. Each stance has an everyday basis, but in practice, they differ significantly. For example, the Boxer Stance does what the name implies; it allows Pseudo to punch like a boxer with quick punches and limited-range kicks. Spear Stance, on the other hand, uses slower but surgically precise, powerful punches. The common ground is a reliance on dodge and parry, as Pseudo is finely tuned enough to defend against attacks from giant monsters but has plenty of technique to elude them. Every encounter with an enemy is like entering the ring and focusing on each other and nothing else, so every move in space must be planned, every parry timed right, and every attack measured because a counterattack is very likely.
To the combo of simple attacks, three special attacks execute with a single button and a combination of the joystick. The game also incorporates a cancel system often found in fighting games, which essentially means that the moment contact hits with a simple attack, if the combo of a particular attack connects, then the special attack is executed in place of the simple attack. Combining these, with parry and dodge, and the ability to switch between two stances that the player acquires relatively early on, the fighting systems have extraordinary depth that may not be apparent at first glance. Added to this is the super attack, in which the perspective becomes first person, and Pseudo makes the same attacks, but now from a different view. What changes? Suppose he scores enough hits without taking too many. In that case, a finisher occurs, which does massive damage if it doesn’t directly kill the enemy (in any case, the animation is impressive). The super bar gradually fills up as Pseudo attacks, dodge or parry, so its use is not too rare, but it would be good to save it for moments when it’s needed.
The problems with combat come not from the mechanisms but from strange design choices. The game is made for one-on-one combat, one-on-two at most. But it’s not uncommon for battles between one and three or even four to create chaos. Aiming becomes more complex and dangerous since players lose everything around them if they lock on to one enemy. The camera is close to Pseudo, so any sense of space is lost. This mechanic creates moments of unfairness, where kicks and punches come out of nowhere, interrupt combos, cause significant damage, or both. There are the same problems with two opponents, but not to the same degree, and the type of enemy always plays a role. Pseudo will encounter creatures his size, but also much larger ones. Regardless of size, some are very fast, some are tanks, and some fly. How to lock on to the slow-moving creature, for example, when non-stop attacks from the immediate enemy are coming from the sides? And if you lock on to him, there might be a punch from the other enemy, which cuts the HP in half. At the very least, the variety of enemies, both in appearance and fighting style, is far from short and stays fresh.
One Law to Rule Them All
Every battle has Pseudo can invoke the One Law that governs all of Zenozoik — the Ritual game. The opponent must obey and play with the player before the battle begins. In Ritual, each player rolls a few dice and adds the result. Using some tools that change the numbers of each die, they have three rounds each to reduce the opponent’s total, and the player with the highest total wins. The tools can reduce the result of several dice by one unit, halve the number of dice in a straight line, and many more – there are many tools with different properties. But what is the benefit of Ritual? When the game starts, both players bet one amulet each, providing an advantage or disadvantage in the battle. The player can take the first hit or cover the arena in dense fog, poison opponents, recruit an opponent and use their amulet to secure help from which there are many amulets to choose from.
Outside the battles, players explore a section of Zenozoik that includes cities, snow-covered mountains, caves, forests and other areas. It’s not a fully open world, but there are various locations that players freely visit and unlock paths to cut through, though the tracks are rigorous, and there’s no total freedom of movement. There is a hint of platforming, but it’s a jump that covers horizontal distances and can’t be used to give Pseudo height and climb somewhere. It’s not necessarily a negative but limiting, for better or worse. Every so often, the player will come across the remains of a bonfire where he can pitch his tent and spend the night. There is no actual day-night cycle, though the player will play both day and night, even with several differences. When Pseudo sleeps, he can either get up the following day (to replenish HP and save progress) or wake up at night and wander around, taking a wooden form. The wooden Pseudo can traverse paths that the normal one cannot, namely through dense thorns.
The two Pseudo have different armour but identical powers. Other enemies appear at night, and it is easier for the player to be rushed, while at night, it is impossible to play Ritual. However, any piece of equipment, money, etc., found as a night Pseudo is kept in its standard form. In practice, the world has two sides, and the player is invited to explore them, sometimes necessarily and sometimes purely if he wishes. One part of the necessity is related to death since if the daytime Pseudo dies, the player can pick up his corpse and regenerate on the spot if he reaches it as a night-time Pseudo. Of course, if enemies are around, he won’t be able to collect it, so he must first defeat them in battle. If he also loses as a Night Pseudo, it’s game over, and he starts at the last checkpoint. Checkpoints are few and far between, so it is recommended to stop when you can.
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is fueled by a gorgeous art direction that drives the obscure world of Zenozoik. It does enough to differentiate from the Zeno Clash games and does some interesting things to keep players on their toes. There are some highs and lows, but Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is bizarre in all the right ways.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is fueled by a gorgeous art direction that drives the obscure world of Zenozoik