Zeno Clash 2 is a perfect example of what happens when an imaginative group of talented developers find a publisher and can make a game the way the always wanted. Granted, it is fucking bizarre as pink dancing hamsters in tutus tearing apart two cows having a threesome with a Scottish midget, but there is just as much fun and blood involved as the above description. This game is fun. It is a ton of fucking fun heaped into a bizarre surrealist world and topped off with guns. Not to mention, the storyline is interesting as fuck.
So Ghat makes his comeback in this sequel by doing the opposite of what he did in the first one. Literally, the fucking opposite. Where before he was trying to kill father-mother and break up the family in order to avenge FM’s baby-thieving, now he is trying to save FM from a much-deserved ass-kicking and reuniting the family. I honestly think this guy just likes to fucking beat shit up and kill motherfuckers. I mean, that is what he did as a Corwid, and he hasn’t changed anything but the fact that now he no longer wears a mask. I would hypothesize that this shows that Ghat is willing to face who he is and give into his dark, true self, but that would almost be too fucking involved. I think he just likes to fuck shit up.
Halstedom has been taken over by the North Golem, Kax-Teh. You know, the guy you brought to Halstedom to deal with Father-Mother? The North Golem, the guy with the Rubick’s cube from ZC, has built a jail, the colonnade-adorned head building, to incarcerate criminals in the town. Makes sense, guy’s a natural fucking philanthropist. Except one thing. These people have no idea what this concept of “law” is. It is literal anarchy. Whoever wants to rule can, if they can get enough support from other thugs and people in the area. So he is literally forcing these foreign concepts of law and order onto a city of people that have trouble with the concepts associated with a can-opener. They are children, and he is ruling them with an iron fist from his head-palace using concepts none of them can understand. Very little about any of this makes much sense.
With FM behind bars, you would assume that everything should be alright in the world, but Ghat is a more motiveless malignancy than Iago, so he gets tired of starting bar-fights all the time. Luckily, Rimat, a woman wearing a rice paddy hat from FM’s family, decides to start some shit. See, after everyone found out about FM’s treachery and baby-stealing, the North Golem told them who their real parents are and where they could be found. Many went to him, but a few did not. Rimat was one of those who didn’t. Her opinion was that you cannot change the past, so she cannot change the fact that she was raised by a giant, hooded man-bird. And, honestly, she has a compelling point. This is something that many adoptees have to come to terms with, but Rimat, given the chance to go back to them, prefers to stay with the familiar. She chooses to stay with those that she grew up with. Very interesting. So together with Rimat, Ghat helps to break FM out of jail and seek out the various members of the family.
After they’ve found all their brothers and sisters, they then turn their goals against the golems. As it turns out, the golems are just the servants of some infinitely wiser entities, and they were put in place to keep the Zenos from leaving their land of Zenozoic. The term “zenos” is used to describe anyone from this place, too. I would want to keep these guys out of my backyard too. I mean fucking look at them!
Above is one of my favorite features of this game. Normally, the gameplay is something like a free-roaming RPG, but there will be these areas where you’ll be pitted against a ton of enemies. Unlike other games such as Half-Life 2 or any FPS by Flying Wild Hog, these arenas are not resolved with a sword or by gutting people with a machine-gun. These battles are most often resolved with combo attacks and flying double-fist strikes. Massive battles like this are resolved like street thugs would back in the 1920’s: Everyone has a nasty brawl and the victors are the ones who are right. Sometimes you will have some assholes sitting back, picking people off with a rifle or a grenade launcher, but hit them hard enough and they will drop it. Of course, if there are weapons like rifles and grenade launchers, why even get into pitch brawls like that? Simple, the guns in this game are few and far between and there isn’t oodles of ammo laying around. It’s actually somewhat realistic in this way. Of course, why not grab a club? Those are around too! This game forces you to deal with someone via fisticuffs. Weapons that you have to strike someone with, including guns without ammo, will break and shatter. The most reliable way to deal with your issues is to beat them to a bloody pulp with your bare hands, as God intended.
The landscapes in this game are absolutely magnificent and always always always have elements that make you curious, intrigued and outright confused. As you wander these landscapes, you might be wondering if you are on Mars. Actually, the game gives you ample reason to believe that it might be Earth, but the game has numerous regions. Each region can be explored and explored freely. Some are more open than others, but each area has its own unique look and feel, and each area has its secrets and stashes.
Two features adding to this are stashes and skill points. Stashes are places where you can find items (food to heal, totems to fill the special attacks meter, weapons etc) which fulfill a variety of uses, mostly combat-oriented. These stashes look like giant, horned clamshells and function much the same way as chests. The art director for this game should be drug-tested hourly.
The other feature are the skill point totems. These appear as skulls hanging from a crude stand and can be found nearly everywhere. A couple time I revisited regions only to find a new skill totem that wasn’t accessible without equipment I found elsewhere. These totems are well-hidden too, almost as if they hired someone from Flying Wild Hog to put in the secrets. When you interact with these totems, half the present skulls disappear and you get points equal to the number of skulls obtained. Once you have the points, you can go ahead and start pouring them into the various skills: health, stamina, strength, leadership. Health is health, stamina dictates how many punches you can throw before getting weak, strength is how hard you hit. Leadership is the most interesting skill, though. Throughout the game, you will switch out between various characters that will help Ghat and Rimat on their journey. The higher your leadership, the more powerful the allies that you can recruit to your quest with you. These guys are useful, too, especially when you find yourself suddenly confronted with a massive mosaic of faces as seen above. You will be fighting ALL those fuckers, often in close-quarters. With little space to run and twenty mother-fuckers trying to kick your ass, you will need some friends to mix up the melee. I poured nearly all of my points into leadership.
The skills are accessible from the map screen, where you can also find some collections. There are a variety of things to collect, all of which are random and make little sense. They are a ton of fun, and when you play, you’ll likely see how they add their own pieces of flavor to this game.
Do not play this game thinking you will not be saying “What the fuck” every five seconds. This game is just as whacky, if not moreso, than the first, but its gameplay is memorable and awesome. I honestly hope they take this formula and apply to a remake of Double-Dragon or Final Fight. Can you imagine what it would be like to have a fighting-style free-roaming first-person RPG like this one in a vast post-apocalyptic, future cityscape where gangs tear eachother apart? You could have some guns in there, but they might be so rare that they are almost a form of currency, so battles are largely solved with blades and fists. Just food for thought to give Ace Team. This game itself is a hell of a thing though. It feels like the greater narrative of morality and law being waged by the golems is the true story, and the rest of the world is made to be ridiculous so a seeking mind is almost forced to latch onto the golems and interpret their story. Then Ghat comes in and fucks shit up, believing, I guess, that true freedom requires the death of law. Whatever you glean from this game, it is likely to be memorable. And the best part is that its Special Edition currently on sale for 2.99$ on Steam, although it is deserving of every cent of the 24.99$ usual asking price. Go get it now! Seriously! It’s fucking awesome!