Zeno Clash is a 3D fighting game or brawler, with some elements of a first-person shooter video game. It is the debut game of developer ACE Team and uses Valve Corporation's Source engine. It was first released for download through Valve's content delivery service, Steam, on April 21, 2009.
The game is set in the fantasy world of Zenozoik, and follows Ghat, a young man who is on the run from his vengeful siblings, and Deadra, his female companion, as they travel through strange and exotic lands.
The game was favorably received by most critics, receiving an aggregate score of 77/100 on Metacritic and 77.5 percent on GameRankings. It was a finalist for "Excellence in Visual Art" at the 2009 Independent Games Festival, won Mod DB's "Best Upcoming Indie" award, and was named PC "Game of the Month" by IGN for April 2009.
In the main story mode, players assume the role of Ghat and progress through the world of Zenozoik, visiting various locations in a linear sequence. Gameplay is presented in first-person perspective, with occasional cutscenes in third-person perspective. When the player enters certain areas, it triggers a scripted sequence, initiating a battle in which the player must defeat all enemies to proceed. Ghat is proficient in martial arts, and can dodge or counter enemy attacks. While there is a strong focus on unarmed combat, Ghat can also obtain unconventional melee and ranged weapons by several means, such as disarming enemies. Intermittent segments of the game play similarly to a corridor-shooter.
In addition to the single-player story, Challenge Mode allows the player to defeat enemies while climbing a tower or descending into a pit. The results are ranked through Steam Friends every time the player beats a tower floor's final boss.
The story takes place in a fictional fantasy world called Zenozoik, and begins in a large town called Halstedom. The game commences with Ghat (the game's protagonist) regaining consciousness after setting off an explosion which kills Father-Mother, an ostensibly hermaphroditic creature which has raised a large and influential family. Ghat is one of Father-Mother's children, but has turned on him for yet undisclosed reasons. He is run out of town by his brothers and sisters seeking to kill him, and is banished from his family. He is accompanied by a female companion named Deadra.
During their travels away from Halstedom, Ghat explains through partially interactive flashbacks the events that led up to his attempt on Father-Mother's life. One of the first things that is mentioned is that he lived for a time with the Corwid of the Free, the insane residents of the forests of Zenozoik. While he has turned away from his past life as a Corwid, his brothers and sisters still consider him as one. Ghat still harbors a sense of admiration for the single-mindedness of Corwids. Regardless, when he encounters them a fight ensues.
Later on Deadra and Ghat reach a large desert area. When Ghat returns from hunting rabbit-like creatures, he discovers a blind mercenary known only as the Hunter, who points a rifle at Deadra's head while she sleeps. The Hunter reveals that he was sent after them by Ghat's family, and was instructed to kill both him and Deadra. Ghat pleads for her life, and the Hunter agrees to let her live if Ghat will come to a secluded area with him to fight. After a lengthy struggle Ghat manages to defeat the Hunter and then leaves with Deadra.
Ghat and Deadra eventually reach the end of the world. It is there that they meet Golem, an ancient being sent by an unknown group of people to wait there until he was needed. Golem claims to be omniscient, and has a complete knowledge of Ghat and Father-Mother's conflict, which he says he will end, along with all other conflicts.
Upon Ghat's return to the city, he is confronted by his angry brothers and sisters once more. After this confrontation, a heavily wounded Father-Mother reveals himself, showing that he is still alive. He declares another fight with Ghat to end the strife once and for all. A ferocious battle ensues, in which Ghat defeats Father-Mother once more. With Father-Mother at his mercy, he decides neither to kill him, nor reveal his secret. However, Golem discloses the secret anyway—that Father-Mother is actually a male creature that steals babies from their families and replaces them with other creatures (a pig in at least one instance). He then raises those babies as his own, which explains the varied species of his family. It is revealed that Ghat, upon inadvertently learning this, was chased out of town by Father-Mother in an attempt to protect his secret. The game ends after Golem makes several cryptic statements about their world and family.
While Zeno Clash was ACE Team's first original game, they have been developing game modifications since the 1990s. Their last project, Zenozoik, was far larger in scope than Zeno Clash, and attempted to incorporate the disparate elements of shooting, role-playing, melee combat and sandbox gameplay. ACE Team later realized that it was too ambitious for a small independent studio, and decided to make a more focused game. Zeno Clash is what emerged—player exploration is linear, and role-playing elements were excluded altogether. The game was initially conceived as a total conversion modification using the Source engine. ACE Team showed a demo version to Valve, the creators of the engine, who were impressed by the game's quality. The two companies then negotiated an engine licensing and distribution deal.
In an interview, the developers have stated that they consider the game to be a "First-Person Fighter (with some shooter elements)". They also likened it to "Dark Messiah meets Double Dragon", and stated that they have drawn a lot of inspiration from traditional fighting games—this includes "versus screens" sliding in before combat is initiated. Regarding the art style, they cited Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings and John Blanche's "punk fantasy" illustrations as visual inspirations. They stated that publishers were unsure if consumers could relate to the art direction, but nonetheless stuck to their vision, creating a game that looks unlike anything else on the market. To get their desired organic look, they used static props exported from 3D Studio Max with pre-rendered lighting instead of using brush-based geometry that Source was specialized for.
On October 2009, ACE Team announced that they partnered with Atlus to release a port of the game for Xbox Live Arcade. This version of the game dubbed Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition adds new game modes and features such as co-op for tower challenges for offline and online games, new attacks, new weapons, a new voice actress for Deadra, a character gallery and an awareness system. The Ultimate Edition was released on XBLA on the May 5th but it was less well received compared to the PC version and it has sold significantly worse.
It was first released for download through Valve's content delivery service, Steam, on April 21, 2009, and is available for purchase either directly through Steam or via Direct2Drive. It was published for retail by Noviy Disk in Russia, and by Iceberg Interactive in Europe. In October 2009, Tripwire Interactive announced that it planned to publish the game for retail in North America "soon". Atlus has announced that they will be bringing an "Ultimate Edition" of the game to the Xbox 360 as an Xbox Live Arcade download in March 2010.
ACE Team continued to provide support post-release, releasing character models for use with another Source engine game, Garry's Mod, several new Challenge levels as free downloadable content, and a software development kit.
Zeno Clash received some press for its developers' reaction to piracy. ACE Team member Carlos Bordeu left comments on many torrent sites saying that ACE Team did not intend to stop the piracy of Zeno Clash, but rather implored downloaders to purchase the game if they enjoyed it. ACE Team later claimed that their unique approach, while probably not changing the minds of potential pirates, accidentally generated press which helped to market the product.
On May 19, 2009 the developers announced that a sequel to Zeno Clash was in the works. Ghat will reprise his role as the protagonist, and several characters such as Father-Mother and Golem have been confirmed to return. ACE Team has expressed a desire to incorporate elements of role-playing games that were present in their previous abandoned project, Zenozoik.
The game received an aggregate score of 77/100 on Metacritic and 77.5 percent on GameRankings. The gaming website Rock, Paper, Shotgun reviewed the game two days before its release, giving it four out of four thumbs up and highly recommending the title. Dan Pearson of Eurogamer praised the visuals and combat, and stated "Despite its undeniable lack of polish, it's hard not to recommend Zeno Clash almost wholeheartedly." Jason Ocampo of IGN remarked in his review that "Zeno Clash wouldn't work as a big budget game from an established studio; it's far too different from convention, which would mean it's far too risky a project for them" and that "thanks to smart design and storytelling, it feels refreshingly original and completely compelling." Brett Todd of GameSpot was less favorable, calling it "simplistic" and "monotonous," citing its lack of variety in gameplay.
In January 2009, Zeno Clash was a nominated finalist in the Independent Games Festival yearly competition, in the category of "Excellence in Visual Art." Zeno Clash was one of five games to be selected for this award, from a total of 226 participating titles. In February 2009, Zeno Clash won the "Best Upcoming Indie" award by editor's choice at Mod DB. It was named PC "Game of the Month" by IGN for April 2009. It was praised for its originality and "satisfying sense of combat."
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Zeno Clash 50% off for 24 hours. Valve Corporation (2009-03-19). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Zeno Clash. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Zeno Clash. GameRankings. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 2009 Independent Games Festival Winners. Independent Games Festival. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 stenchy (2009-02-23). 2008 Mod of the Year Awards. Mod DB. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Staff (2009-04-30). Game of the Month: April 2009. IGN. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Kieron, Gillen; Meer, Alec; Rossignol, Jim; Walker, John (2009-04-19). World Exclusive: The Zeno Clash Review. Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Staff. Zeno Clash. IGN. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Bordeu, Andre (2009-02-25). Zeno Clash’s Survival Mode. ACE Team. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Unicorn (2009-04-23). Zeno Clash. Interview with Carlos Bordeu. PlayHard. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ C, David (2009-04-09). New Zeno Clash trailer. ACE Team. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ ACE Team. Zeno Clash. Level/area: The Corwid of the Free. (2009-04-21)
- ↑ ACE Team. Zeno Clash. Level/area: Hunter Hunter. (2009-04-21)
- ↑ ACE Team. Zeno Clash. Level/area: Throne. (2009-04-21)
- ↑ ACE Team. Zeno Clash. Level/area: Family Reunion. (2009-04-21)
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Bordeu, Edmundo (2009-04-30). Old ACE Team Games. ACE Team. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 ACE Team – Game development at World’s end. ZillionMonkey. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 18.2 Walker, John (2009-01-30). Unknown Pleasures 2009: Zeno Clash. Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 19.2 Bordeu, Carlos (2009-10-08). Postmortem: ACE Team's Zeno Clash. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ http://forums.aceteam.cl/index.php?s=1a5d1dcf4f9954fd980b21008bcc295e&autocom=blog&blogid=2&showentry=38
- ↑ http://forums.aceteam.cl/index.php?s=1a5d1dcf4f9954fd980b21008bcc295e&autocom=blog&blogid=2&showentry=42
- ↑ http://forums.aceteam.cl/index.php?s=1a5d1dcf4f9954fd980b21008bcc295e&autocom=blog&blogid=2&showentry=41
- ↑ http://forums.aceteam.cl/index.php?s=1a5d1dcf4f9954fd980b21008bcc295e&autocom=blog&blogid=2&showentry=43
- ↑ http://forums.aceteam.cl/index.php?s=&showtopic=1159&view=findpost&p=8693
- ↑ http://forums.aceteam.cl/index.php?s=1a5d1dcf4f9954fd980b21008bcc295e&autocom=blog&blogid=2&showentry=44
- ↑ http://forums.aceteam.cl/index.php?s=1a5d1dcf4f9954fd980b21008bcc295e&autocom=blog&blogid=2&showentry=46
- ↑ http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/xbox360/zenoclashultimateedition
- ↑ http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/zenoclash
- ↑ http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/pc-crowd-more-open-to-weird-games
- ↑ Zeno Clash. Giant Bomb. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Iceberg Interactive announces 2009 UK Q4 Line-Up. Iceberg Interactive (2009-09-10). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Fahey, Mike (2009-10-05). Tripwire Brings Zeno Clash To Retail. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Good, Owen (2009-09-30). Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition Coming to Xbox Live. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Meer, Alec (2009-05-12). The Zeno-Garry Collective. Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Plunkett, Luke (2009-06-24). Zeno Clash Gets New DLC, Goes On Sale To Celebrate. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Walker, John (2009-06-29). Punch! Biff! Zeno Clash SDK Released. Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Good, Owen (2009-05-02). Zeno Clash Dev Tries Reasoning with Torrenters. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ enigmax (2009-04-27). Game Developer Flirts With Pirates on BitTorrent Sites. TorrentFreak. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Walker, John (2009-05-19). Punch! Kick! Zeno Clash 2!. Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ Bordeu, Carlos (2009-05-19). New Trailer & news about the sequel.... ACE Team. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
- ↑ 41.0 41.1 Pearson, Dan (2009-04-22). Zeno Clash Review. Eurogamer. Retrieved on 2009-04-23.
- ↑ 42.0 42.1 Todd, Brett (2009-05-22). Zeno Clash Review. Gamespot. Retrieved on 2009-05-06.
- ↑ 43.0 43.1 Ocampo, Jason (2009-04-24). Zeno Clash Review. IGN. Retrieved on 2009-09-11.