Release Date: 4/21/2009
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These indie games just keep getting better and better and more like full-budget titles. Zeno Clash is no exception with an original wonderful art style, fun gameplay mechanics, and a very intriguing story. ZC puts you in the mind of Ghat a runaway man who is hunting his “Father-Mother” and to release his/her secret.
During your meet, a few interesting characters and you play through flashbacks occasionally. The game is an FPS/melee game with some pretty deep combat mechanics. You use your fists by using the left mouse button and right mouse button (for strong attacks) you can lock on by using E and using space as block. While you’re blocking you can dodge attacks by hitting D or A, and if you time it right you’ll get a slow-mo queue to punch. You can create combos and then when the enemy is stunned you can knee bash them or throw them around. I found the best tactic was to charge your strong attack while you backstepping and then let it go. This is a bit repetitive (just like the whole game), but it’s effective and works when you are up against four-plus enemies. All enemies have a health gauge and so do you; thus having to eat orange flowers will give you health.
Sometimes you’ll get weapons to use and these are neat little things that can be used to shoot the enemies creating massive damage. Most guns have no more than a few shots in them (this game has a tribal theme to it) so you’ll have to aim very well since reloading can take longer than you want (sorry this isn’t Call of Duty). While most of the game consists of this pattern: Run, fight a batch of enemies, cutscene, rinse and repeat, thanks to the short length (about 5-6 hours) you won’t get too bored. One level, however, is a lot different from the rest: You are running through a foggy plain (the fog will kill you since it bites!) and you have a crystal torch and you must keep it lit with candles littered throughout the level and use it to shoot fireballs as shadows that come after you.
Zeno Clash has a wonderful premise to all of its gameplay, but ultimately it’s all the same and can actually be really frustrating towards the end. If there are too many enemies you can get boxed in and beaten to death, and I found the most frustrating part about the game is that if you get hit while you have a weapon in your hand you drop it. This usually happens during a reload and can piss you off a lot. There aren’t too many weapons, but you have a single-shot rifle, a dual-shot crossbow, a sledgehammer, a bone bat, and a grenade launcher, but these are tribal-looking weapons so everything is made from what you see around you which is pretty slick.
The game uses the Source engine (the updated one not the old one) and the graphics are just bizarre and way out there. The creatures are something straight out of nightmares and some of the speech is pretty odd too. Nonetheless, it makes the game even better and the visual splendor is probably what saves this game. If you think there’s something to come back to (there isn’t) you can play challenges and there are a bunch of Steam achievements to unlock. I highly recommend Zeno Clash to any FPS or indie game fan.