There are some games that seem to have weirdness as its main strength, and Zeno Clash II has that in spades. Aside from its rather puzzling exterior, a significant part of the game is about letting you feel good about beating enemies up. That may be a novel combination, but it works pretty well. Of course, the final package has to be solid in order for that to be any good.
The setting is perhaps one of the big strengths of this game, which is a strange world that mixes a surreal menagerie with some intentionally bad dialogue. In this game, you play as the heavy-handed Ghat, and you are in the land of Zenozoik. For some reason, he wants to rescue FatherMother, the antagonist from the first game who may send some chills up your spine. Through the hamminess of the voice acting and the strangeness of the world itself and the characters in it, you are treated to a surprisingly entertaining narrative that opens up to the gameplay.
As for gameplay, it rewards you for simply beating enemies up. The combat system has been designed well, with its kinaesthetics and overall balance making for satisfying gameplay. Being able to hit those creatures in first person perspective the way you’re able to in this game makes for some good fun. The visuals are a bit like Path of Exile and Asura’s Wrath combined, but in cel-shaded graphics.
What makes the gameplay even better is the drop-in/drop-out co-op multiplayer that lets you and a friend duke it out against the creatures who stand in your way. If you don’t have anyone with you to play with at the moment, but still want a partner in the game, then you can add an AI companion to fight with you there.
Unfortunately, the environmental design does not reflect that as players will find themselves surprisingly not knowing where to go for significant periods of time. This makes for backtracking that only serves to waste time and not contribute anything else to the gameplay. Also, the amount of side quests that seem to have no rhyme or reason, as well as unsatisfying rewards, makes exploration a rather empty experience.
Another game that had this flaw was Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which was full of filler quests that didn’t really give much motivation and made it feel too much like an MMO. The thing about Zeno Clash II though is that both the main and side quests don’t really seem that different. The main quests are supposed to stand out as it pushes the narrative along. While they do that in this game, they somehow don’t feel that different from the side quests.
The singleplayer campaign plays for about 10 hours, a good percentage of which goes to combating technical issues. There are bugs, glitches, crashes, freezes, and so on that will get in the way of your playthrough like how the taxman likes to intrude on holiday plans. At this point, the more auspicious of gamers would then look out for patches and bug fixes across the horizon, but the fact that this game hasn’t gotten past QA without having its flaws fixed is already a downer for the most part.
The ambition put in this game is quite good, and it would have been great if everything else about it had been able to support what it’s good for. If you do like beat-em-up games, then this is actually a good one, but only when a patch does come out.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 5/10