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Zeno Clash 2 Review

Zeno Clash 2

Release: 30/04/2013
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: ACE Team
Genre: Action, Adventure


Worth a Play About Rating
8.0 - Gameplay
8.0 - Video
6.5 - Audio


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The first Zeno Clash game could be easily summed up as “A game where you get punched in the back of the head every ten seconds.”  That’s both a literal description of the gameplay, and the effect of the visual design and story.  It was a weird little indie game that focused on hand-to-hand combat from the first-person perspective, and put the Player inside a distorted fantasy world filled with bizarre creatures.  People who loved their brief journey through the first Zeno Clash will be happy to get a much larger adventure with Zeno Clash 2.  People new to the franchise are in for a particularly alienating experience.

The Story So Far

Zeno Clash 2 picks up the story right where the first game left off.  The hero Ghat, has brought his hermaphrodite Father-Mother to justice, but the beginning of Zeno Clash 2 reveals that this just made the world an even worse place for Ghat and his humanoid siblings. There is a very brief recap of the story from the first game, but people who never tried Zeno Clash will be utterly lost as to who is who and what’s what’s.  Even people who played the first game are likely to still be confused about what’s happening in the nearly incomprehensible story.However, the story was never the true focus of this series.  Zeno Clash 2 is about punching weird monsters in the face.  A lot.

First Person Fisticuffs

The first person perspective is a natural fit for shooting games. That viewpoint casts players as a predator hunting their prey.  Games that feature hand-to-hand combat typically use the third person perspective which provides better situational awareness when dealing with enemies that are close by.  On occasion game designers will still make first-person-melee games, but these rarely work out well.


The Zeno Clash games are among better of this style of game.  There’s a deep combo system with blocks, dodges, grabs, launches, and charge-up attacks, plus the occasional opportunity to use a gun.  Despite any flaws it has, the minute-by-minute gameplay is exciting and rewarding.  Who wouldn’t take joy from giving an anthropomorphic elephant a good punch in the trunk?

Yet there are still many flaws to the rest of the game, especially in terms of user interface and mission structure.  The designers made an (optional) tutorial to explain the basics of fighting and combos, but once the campaign starts there is virtually no help offered for players on how to use these techniques or how to read the interface.  There are also plenty of mechanics that don’t get mentioned at all in any of the tutorials, specifically a map system, the ability to level up, and a fast travel system.  Players will eventually figure all of this out for themselves, but the designers certainly don’t put much effort into helping new players learn how to play.

Punched in the back of the Head

Another sticky point is the use of firearms.  Zeno Clash 2 is set in a fantasy world where primitive humanoids live in a tribal society.  They have access to enough technology to build crude guns, but these only hold a few shots and don’t do much damage.  Players usually come across several enemies at once, and the guns are often more trouble than they’re worth; they’re slow to aim and leave the Player vulnerable to getting attacked from behind while aiming (which usually means dropping the gun).


Zeno Clash 2 does reduce the number of times that players will get punched in the back of the head, though.  It accomplishes this by adding in AI-controlled pals to help keep the bad guys from using pack tactics against the Player.  These AI buddies aren’t terribly adept at combat, but Zeno Clash has another feature that helps: online co-op!

At any point in the campaign, a second player can join in to take control of one of Ghat’s friends and players can team up to play through the campaign, covering each other’s backs and even using team tactics like one player grabbing an enemy while the other pummels the poor bastard.  This feature can be turned off for those who want, but it is enable by default, and definitely recommended.


Zeno Clash 2 seems to be made exclusively for people who loved the first game.  It definitely shouldn’t be a newbie’s first step into this franchise, and players who are curious should certainly try the original game first (it’s a short experience available at a budget price).  People who loved the first game and want more will find Zeno Clash 2 to be a satisfying continuation of the first.  It’s about three times as long as the original game, and the multiplayer features will let fans enjoy it together.

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Charles Battersby is a playwright, actor, theater critic and video game journalist. He founded the U.S. Department of Electronic Entertainment ( and also runs Learn more at:

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