Zeno Clash Review
Independent Developers and the Changing Game Landscape
The world of gaming seems to be so inundated lately with countless sequels, remakes, and knock-offs, that a really original game can easily get lost in the shuffle. Unfortunately, the rising production costs per game means most big name developers are less likely to create a property that lacks name recognition within the industry. The cost to produce and publish a game to store shelves is astronomically high, especially considering the limited shelving space most retail outlets grant PC games.
Thankfully, distribution systems such as Steam, Impulse, and Direct2Drive reduce overall game production costs significantly, while also allowing independent developers an impressive reach to consumers.
This revolution in digital distribution has granted small development houses the means to produce games that are more focused on creativity and their original vision, without interference from outside publishers who may only be interested in seeing a return on investment. Zeno Clash falls into this category from the small development house ACE Team. Zeno Clash is the first retail release from ACE, although the team has released a few mods for older games like Quake 3 and even Doom 2.
ACE, based in Santiago, Chile, has developed and presented a game with some of the most creative backdrops and gameplay mechanics we’ve seen in quite a while. And priced at $19.99 on Direct2Drive and Steam, we’ll find out why it is one of the most refreshing gaming experiences we’ve seen so far this year.
Story and World
Zeno Clash puts you in the shoes of Ghat, a human of indeterminate origin, as he finds himself banished from his family for the explosive murder of his father-mother. Escaping from the relatively safety of the city of Hastledom, Ghat explores the beautiful, yet deadly world as he explains his actions to his female companion over the course of a few days. During this time, Ghat must fend off various creatures, assassins, and even his own brothers and sisters sent to seek revenge for his vicious attack.
The world in Zeno Clash is incredibly strange and exotic, from its foreign plants to its sometimes hilarious creatures that attack the player as he ventures from place to place. It’s never really made clear what made the world the way it is, all you know is that it’s a dangerous place to reside, so one must keep moving to stay alive. Everything from world to character design stands out as original in Zeno Clash. Enemy characters appear as amalgamations between humans and animals, from the Corwid of the Free with their freaky headdresses, to Father-Mother him/herself, a hermaphroditic anthropomorphic being responsible for your creation.
The story in Zeno Clash unfolds from Ghat’s perspective via flashback as he escapes his pursuers over the course of a few days. Zeno Clash’s plot is interesting and well written, and works extremely well to pull the player into the crazy world of Zenozoik. It’s somewhat of a shame we aren’t given a reason for how the world ended up the way it did, however, being thrown into the middle of the strange place gave us purpose to try to uncover as many of the worlds secrets as possible.