After playing through the original Zeno Clash, I didn’t know what to expect from ACE Team this time around. What do you do after making a first person brawler set in a fantastical world where you sort out differences through a bout of fisticuffs? The answer is simple, continue the adventure and add a co-op partner so you have double the flying fists. Zeno Clash 2 does not diverge from the obscure, relying on those brave gamers who want to try something out of the ordinary. Zeno Clash 2 is no blockbuster, but it delights in just enough oddity you may want to put down your guns and stray from the path of first person shooters. It’s like Portland, Zeno Clash 2 wants to stay weird and live in a more primal time where everyone talked with their fists. So join hands with me on this perilous journey, through one of the weirdest games I have played since Zeno Clash.
I punched a ton of things in Zeno Clash 2, but sadly this is not the most satisfying aspect of the game. ACE Team created something special with their first game and people latched on to it. In this sequel, it almost feels as though they wanted to do too much and it sort of crumbled under the weight of itself. The game isn’t a train wreck, but it all seems forced; from the dialogue to the combat. I’ll admit the game is beautiful and the world they have created once again is mental to explore. I simply expected better. Zeno Clash 2 should be a game with tons of character, soul, and focus, but it lacks all three and made no connection with me like the first one.
Meet exciting animal people, and smash them.
Zeno Clash 2 retains its own brand of combat, the first person pugilism which is as gratifying as it is frustrating. First person isn’t the best point of view for brawling, especially when dealing with crowds. The targeting system isn’t built for crowds, and you will bounce from enemy to enemy when trying to focus your attacks. I quickly found myself resorting to punching whatever was in front of me until it fell down and then worried about the guy beside him. This is unfortunate because the majority of battles involve mobs of non-humans which make it almost impossible to target individuals. I find if you run away and then take out the dude most eager for an ass whooping at the front of the pack works wonders for group fights.
That being said, combat goes much smoother when you have a co-op buddy beside you. Thankfully Zeno Clash 2 has full drop in/drop out co-op and a partner makes things much smoother in the brawling department. There is the option to add an AI companion to select fights, and its act as a nice distraction while you catch your breath, but it is no replacement for a real human. I was able to play the entirety of the game with several lovely people who decided to hop into my session. Much like Journey, they sort of just appear in your game and you can do everything together. In fact, you have to almost do everything together because you cannot leave an area without your partner. Both must survive combat in order to proceed, so taking care of each other is paramount to success. Difficulty scales locally, which affects how much health you lose when you block a punch with your face.