lmost four years after the release of the first person brawler Zeno Clash, we return to the eccentric world of Zenozoik and its bizarre inhabitants. In Zeno Clash 2, players explore much more of the landscape, while completing quests and finding allies along the way. While combat has been improved along with new weapons, the overall gameplay still has the same issues as the original. ACE attempts to flesh out the experience within the nine or ten hour campaign, however punching and kicking will only carry this abnormal adventure so far.
The main character Ghat, after discovering the truth about his “family” and the kidnapping of their surrogate parent named FatherMother, decides to fight back against an alien race of Golems sent to impose their own version of law and order. As crazy as that description may seem, the story and setting continues to grow even more outlandish as it progresses. Ghat will team up with his sibling Rimat to find their remaining clan members as they take back their home and liberate the inhabitants.
The weapons of the first title make a return: Makeshift explosives and firearms that seem very out of place in the actual game play. However, unlike the original game, ammunition is scarce and players will often depend only on the various combinations of strikes and throws to dispose of their enemies. Later in the game, Ghat will acquire new weapons based off of Golem technology that will be instrumental in puzzle solving and combat later in the game. The developer implemented huge boss battles throughout the campaign, even with limited combat mechanics by utilizing these Golem weapons. One weapon is able to link the boss to smaller enemies on the ground, so that when damage is inflicted on the ground forces, the damage is registered to the larger boss. These makeshift puzzles during combat and other game play are interesting, but ultimately seem like they were thrown together to make grand moments in the story work.
The exploration is on a larger scale than the original title, where collecting items for other inhabitants of Ghat’s hometown of Halstedom will yield power ups and level upgrades. The player can upgrade Ghat’s health, stamina and leadership abilities throughout the game. The last ability will be important to level early on in the game, since recruiting allies for battle will be dependent on the main character’s leadership. It was frustrating at times when attempting to recruit a new ally, just to discover that the leadership required was far from what would be required. Allies in battle can be very important, since multiple enemies will attempt to flank at different sides, making the fighting seem at times very one sided. Another flaw of the allies is that once they have been in battle long enough, they will need to rest, and may not be able to fight alongside you in battle. Since only Rimat and one other ally are available at any time, this made the fighting difficult and resulted in more than a few checkpoints being reloaded.
The first half of the game seemed dull and repetitive, and honestly was difficult to continue playing. However, once Ghat topples one of the golems, the story and gameplay seem to open up. The aforementioned exploration became more fruitful, being able to use Golem weapons to open up new areas that were previously off limits. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find many hidden areas that would result in additional points to level up. For some players this can seem like too much of a chore, but I embraced it and thought it made the game more enjoyable. The only downside is that sometimes the backtracking would be hindered by a terrible map and a fast track system that was very poorly designed.
The story also has some holes, and relies heavily on assuming the player has originally completed the original game. The narrative should have been better explained or at least had more hand holding for players new to the series. For me, however, it was an interesting tale with sometimes flawed game play but still a different experience than many other downloadable titles. For anyone that has played the original, Zeno Clash 2 is a larger and at times better designed experience than the original, but it may require a play through of the first title to really make any sense, if that’s really possible.