Clash: Artifacts of Chaos review for PC, PlayStation, Xbox

Platform: PC
Also on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5
Publisher: Nacon
Developer: ACE Team
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

I?ve never played Zeno Clash. I feel like this is important to mention when writing about Clash: Artifacts of Chaos, since its takes place within the same universe as Zeno Clash, and ? notwithstanding the developer?s claim that ?Clash: Artifacts of Chaos takes place in the same universe as Zeno Clash and Zeno Clash II, but the game is entirely independent.? ? I spent huge chunks of time playing the game but having no idea what was going on. I assume if I?d ever played either of the first two Zeno Clash games, Clash may have been a little less confusing.

Of course, if I?m being less charitable, I might just say that Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is a confusing mess of a game that makes no effort to explain anything, ever. And seeing as the confusing bits relate to basic things like ?Where am I going?? and ?What am I supposed to do??, I feel like no amount of Zeno Clash would?ve made those things any more apparent.

Here?s how confusing the opening parts of the game are: I had to restart the tutorial because I felt like I was missing something important. I learned how to hit my opponents, then the game told me to dodge?and I dodged, and dodged, and dodged, and nothing ever came of it. After a restart or two, I did the same thing and then, suddenly, was able to advance, but I never exactly figured out what I?d done differently.

The same thing happened when I started the game. I found myself constantly reloading from prrevious last checkpoints, feeling like I?d missed some bit of explanation or direction. The game kind of tells you to search for something, assuming you trigger the correct cutscene (which, again, didn?t happen the first time I reached one of the opening areas), but then doesn?t give you any hint as to where you?re heading.

Eventually, through trial and error, you learn the basics of how to climb, how to find the map (tip: it?s in the pause menu), how to read the map (which is a challenge, since it?s very tiny and it?s not always clear which direction you?re facing), and a general idea of where the game wants you to go. Even then, you have to take your time and carefully observe the world around you, since you need to pick up supplies, and the colours here are so wild that it?s not usually readily apparent what?s an important item and what?s a rock.

I will say, though, that carefully observing the world of Clash: Artifacts of Chaos isn?t inherently a bad thing, since it?s a wonder to behold. On top of the game using seeming every shade of the colour wheel, the designs of pretty much everything are insane. The hero, Pseudo, looks like an artsy take on the Toxic Avenger, the creatures you encounter ? both human and monster ? look anatomically impossible, and the landscapes are breathtaking. I may not have known what I was doing most of the time, but I never wholly minded being able to see more of the world.

The other big annoyance here is that the combat feels both confusing and clunky. Confusing, because every combative encounter with another sentient being gives you the option of starting with a dice game ritual. Winning the game theoretically gives you an advantage in the subsequent fight, except the rules are so poorly explained that it almost all comes down to luck.

The clunky aspect of Clash?s combat is best explained by thinking of the PS2-era God of War games (or thinking of the many games influenced by God of War). If you?ve ever played them, you may remember that once Kratos started an attack in one direction, he continued on in that direction until that particular animation stopped. In Clash?s case, Pseudo basically punches and kicks in a straight line, and starting an attack commits you to moving in that direction, regardless of what your enemies do. The good news ? for lack of a better term ? is that your enemies also manoeuvre like clunky, slow-moving battleships, so they share in your lack of mobility, and it?s not hard to move out of the way of their attacks. In fact, opponents are so awkward, if you?re facing multiple enemies at once, it?s not hard to get them to wind up hitting each other.

As funny as setting enemies against each other is, however, it doesn?t make Clash: Artifacts of Chaos? combat any more enjoyable ? which makes it pretty similar to the rest of the game. It?s awkward, it?s clunky, it never fully explains itself, and I strongly suspect that that?s the case whether you?ve played older Zeno Clash games or not.

Nacon provided us with a Clash: Artifacts of Chaos PC code for review purposes.

Grade: C+