Zeno Clash

I am the mighty polar bear! I will crush all of you with my mighty paws! So run in fear… strange chicken-human thing, living statues, creepy eye things… what the hell is a Corwid? … Father-Mother? I think you lost me somewhere.

Zeno Clash is a first person action game being primarily focused on melee combat. Most first person shooters have some elements of fighting up close as well as using guns, from the chainsaw of Doom to the knife of Call of Duty, but very few games use it as their core mechanic. It used to be considered a great challenge but in the past few years we have seen a number of first person games successful employ hand to hand fighting. The Condemned series and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare both gave us very gritty and hard hitting (har har!) looks at close quarters combat. Zeno Clash takes a slightly lighter route in terms of tone but then instantly sprints down the avenue of absolutely bizarre.

Says it all, really.

Zeno Clash is set in a strange fantasy world with bizarre hybrid creatures, most of whom are the children of Father-Mother, an odd bird-like humanoid creature that is both father and mother to its children. Or else the mysterious Corwids of the Free who have compulsions that they rigidly stick to, like Oxameter who only walks in a straight line, or Erminia who”Peed on herself and died anonymously”. You play Ghat, one of Father-Mother’s children who left the family and learned from Corwids. At the start of the game Ghat murders Father-Mother for unknown reasons. Aided by his companion Deadra, Ghat seeks to escape the wrath of Father-Mother’s children and along the way we learn more about Ghat and the secret purpose he had to murder Father-Mother.

As far as gameplay goes the game is a lot of fun. The fighting is well executed and simple enough to learn quickly and it gets very adrenaline pumping during the larger fights. The fact that the game tends to change to a first person shooter did throw me because the shooting mechanics are nowhere near as streamlined as the melee combat. It does provide an extra challenge while fighting hordes of enemies, you have to constantly keep an eye on that one bastard with the rifle, but in the end I found it more annoying than anything else.

Muahahaha! Let Father-Mother haunt your nightmares!

The game’s visual style is unique, I have never seen this vague tribal-punk-fantasy mashup before and it does create a world unlike any other in gaming. The problem, however, is that this world is never fleshed out enough for me to get involved in it. Occasionally you meet new and ever more bizarre creatures but we learn nothing about them or truly what most of them are. We get hints and impressions but they are few and far between. Clearly we’re just meant to go along with the characters who do know the world around them. While it is striking this does mean that the creepy imagery and little explanation makes Zeno Clash feel like a fever dream.

Another problem is that the voice acting is pretty damn awful. The characters that sound the best tend to be the ones with heavy alterations made to their dialogue: Golem, Father-Mother, and Metamoq. Ghat and Deadra, our protagonists, however are pretty dire with some genuinely cringey moments. It becomes slightly less noticeable as you go further into the game but that is mostly because you’re used to it and are too caught up in the fever dream to care.

Zeno Clash: The game about punching abominations of nature

Zeno Clash is the debut of developer ACE Team and so many things can be forgiven about it. It’s entertaining and the fist fighting is a lot of fun. But the number of problems with the gun fights, the voice acting, and the lack of any real knowledge about the world are very prominent. It only took me a few hours to complete and has been an interesting experience but I can’t say I would have bought it had it not been on a massive sale on Steam. I may well check out Zeno Clash II but it’s not very high on my list at the moment.

 

 

 

…YoU WEre mY SOn, GhAT!…

Alan Wake

The dark presence shifted before my eyes like a great swirling abyss, I could feel it gnawing at my mind like a rat on a scrap of bone. Then it turned out it just represented my father and I punched it to death whilst reciting the names of birds… What did you expect when this is heavily influenced by Stephen King?

My triumphant return! Yes I haven’t updated in a while, I’ve been working on a big project which may well appear within the next couple of weeks (at least I hope it does). But since it’s in the weekly Humble Bundle deal (Link at the bottom) I thought it would be fun to restart my regular features with a look at Remedy Entertainment’s Alan Wake.

Alan Wake is a third-person action psychological thriller where the player controls Alan Wake, a celebrity horror writer who, after a severe attack of writer’s block, takes a holiday with his wife Alice to Bright Falls, a small mountain town. It is meant to be a holiday but after a mysterious force drags his wife beneath a great lake, Alan is forced to battle against creatures composed of darkness to find his wife and rescue her. Along the way Alan find s a number of allies to help him but still has to contend with the great dark presence and its army of Taken.

Kill it with light!

While the game does have a few puzzles it is primarily an action game with a very heavy and, in some places, complex plot. As Alan you have two main weapons, guns and light. In order to even hurt the enemies with bullets you have to remove the shadowy shield around them with flash-lights, flares, and flash-bangs. The game mostly focuses around you following a linear path, holding off waves of enemies as Alan tries to make sense of what’s happening. It’s a simple style with some fun mechanics.

What it does very well, however, is the atmospheric experience it provides. While not the scariest game I have ever played it is certainly tense, frantically trying to get a generator working while enemies are only a few steps away from you makes for quite an experience. In fact the tone of the game is one of the best things about it, making for quite a cinematic experience. It has an interesting blend of horror, comedy, action, and drama that does make it feel like a film. But unlike other cinematic games the gameplay doesn’t take second place. The very streamlined and simple combat system is easy to learn but still challenging enough to be entertaining.

I wasn’t lying about the “Kill it with light!” thing.

The game is heavily influenced by the works of Stephen King and while King’s stories are iconic they tend to be prey to  a number of faults, at least in my opinion. Most of my experiences with King’s body of work has shown terrific build-up for the first half and then thorough disappointment in the second. Fortunately Alan Wake doesn’t suffer from this problem to the same extent but those who are looking for a satisfying ending may be annoyed at the number of questions left unanswered, and sometimes not even raised by the characters, as well as the rather annoying “The End…?” nature of the finale.

You’ve really got to get absorbed into the world to properly enjoy it, the Stephen King references, the Twilight Zone style television shows and this idea that anything could be happening and you don’t know who to trust. If you’re not the sort of person who likes to get absorbed in a game’s world then you may find you have some problems with Alan Wake, most likely due to cheesiness in some of the dialogue. There is also a strange disconnect when you start a new chapter in the game and it plays a Previously on Alan Wake as though you were actually watching a TV show. It’s a fun stylistic choice but sometimes odd.

He’s so intense and moody

So Alan Wake is good for those that like to get absorbed in a different universe, it’s got simple but often challenging combat systems and a very pretty art style. If you’re not the sort that enjoys heavy plot and a whole bucket o’ moodiness then you may find yourself a bit let down. But at the end of the day while it is on the Humble Bundle (for one week, link at the bottom) then you can pay whatever you like and get the collector’s edition, with a whole load of bonus features as well as the two DLC missions. You also get Alan Wake’s American Nightmare which I have yet to play but certainly seems worth giving it a shot.

 

Humble Weekly Bundle:

https://www.humblebundle.com/weekly