Better Late than Never: Zeno Clash

You were raised in Halstedom with your brothers and sisters under Father-Mother’s guidance. A crow-like creature, Father-Mother unites the family which is as closely nit as it is hostile to outsiders. They, the family, do not want you any more, you lived with Corwid’s, you became one of them, and for that Father-Mother Banishes you. The Corwids, are a simplistic and misunderstood people. They are believed to be mad by some yet Ghat somehow envies their simplistic lives. They are not slaves to their reality, they do not have the burdens that life bring. Oxameter, he just walks in a straight line, he cannot be moved from this course because “that’s what Oxameter does”. Erminia, “she peed on her self and then starved to death anonymously”. Gabel eats people, it’s his thing, Ghat discovers this the hard way. Helim, Helim had to be invisible to everyone who saw him. How did he accomplish this? He removed the eyes of everyone who saw him, sounds strange, but to a Corwid the question “Why not?” appears more of a pertinent question than “why”.

Gabel eats people, it's his thing.

There is something wonderful in these austere descriptions of the Corwid, something which exposes them as mad, yet within the bizarre and violent world of Zenozoik there is a certain purity which can be found in their singular purpose; their choice to ignore all other facets of life, even if that means ignoring their own bodily functions. Whilst the Corwid may appear to be the strangest element within the game, the whole host of characters are visually or mentally eccentric in unique ways. Father-Mother is perhaps Zeno Clash’s most intriguing concept, her appearance is disturbing to most who encounter the game for the first time, they assume it is not raising, but rather eating the babies he carries around. Father-Mother appears to be asexual as a creature, her name hints at this and his appearance lends no real clues either way. She is addressed as female, yet as male also, her gender is amorphous it seems, he is feminine, maternal in nature, yet paternal, fearful and monstrous at times. It is not until the revelations at the close of the game do we realise her true nature.

“Every place you leave is worse than the last. You must go back to the real world and face the problems you were running from.”

Golem, on Ghat and Daedra’s journey

If obscurity is the visual syntax of this world, then violence is it’s grammar. This is hardly unique to Zeno Clash’s world however, being a brawler means that brutal fights should ultimately be it’s staple by nature. Zeno Clash sadly is a game where it’s abstract and provocative ideas are actually prohibited by its chosen method of story telling. Many would argue that Half Life was a display storytelling excellence and considering Zeno Clash is built on the same engine, recreating that same level of storytelling wouldn’t be too difficult. There are two things to note here though, for everyone who lauds Half Life’s narrative techniques, there is at least one person who’d disagree, making it’s prowess a more contentious claim. Zeno Clash in addition employs more traditional cutscenes where the storytelling is done in third person as well as the standard “exposition on the go” affair. The sum of this is sadly is a jarring disconnect between ludic and narrative elements which feels considerably outdated. Ghat is a sufficient narrator and protagonist for this tale, however, there is no connection between Ghat, the truth seeker, and you the brawler. Deadra is an acceptable travelling partner and potential love interest yet her purpose within the game is often little more than damsel in distress.

“In the land of Zeno Clash there are no kings, states or law enforcers, so the only forms of organized groups you find are gangs and families. Since Father-Mother has so many children he/she is the head of the most powerful group around.”

Edmundo Bordeu, Interview taken from RPS

This state without law, founded on a lie, based on false truths and propagated by a violent system could have become any dystopian game. Instead ACE Team tried to make something different, and that has certainly been achieved. It is certainly a shame though, that the freshness of the visuals and inhabitants of Zenozoik, which, I am sure we have only seen a tiny proportion of, do not seem to connect with style of game which they have tried to produce.

I laugh at inappropriate moments, why? Ask yourself why not?

Chr15 6r33n (Follow me on Twitter at chrisgreen87 and for Chronoludic updates click here)

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