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Review: Clash: Artifacts of Chaos Is a Blissful Beatdown

A memorable world alongside zany brawling makes Clash successor worth the 10 year wait.

Derek Swinhart

Mar 17, 2023

ACE Team have brought back Zenozoik, the weird and wonderful world initially featured in their 2009 source-based first-person brawler Zeno Clash. But, where Zeno Clash chose to show the world through Ghat’s eyes, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos goes full third person, with a large, interconnected world and a focus on challenging, third-person melee combat. You play as Pseudo, a martial arts master and begrudging caretaker of The Boy. This small bird-like creature needs your protection from all manner of enemies looking to capture him to make use of his unique abilities.

The Good

To put it upfront, I am a huge fan of Ace Team and their previous work; whether it is Zeno Clash, Rock of Ages, or the more recent, The Eternal Cylinder, ACE Team is always down to make interesting and creative games that put their unique art style and sensibility first. The Chilean studio has never failed to deliver singular experiences, but they tend to be on the janky side. Clash feels tighter than any of their previous work; the combat is responsive and satisfying, levels are vast and loop in on themselves like the original dark souls, and the visuals are beautiful and unique. Clash also emphasizes storytelling, with a stellar voice cast and some genuinely poignant writing, something the previous games have always struggled with.

The Bad

Clash is not without glitches. While it was generally a stable experience, at one point early on, I wandered for hours looking for an enemy that never spawned in. It wasn’t until I restarted my PS5 completely that the enemy arrived and let me lay down the pain to make some much-needed progress. Otherwise, minor glitches show occasionally, but nothing nearly as major. In terms of the level design, the layouts can get maze-like to the point of frustration, but I found myself still enjoying the lack of direction and I grew to learn each area as I scoured them for resources.

What Surprised Me

The story of Clash was a highlight, and the characterization of Pseudo and The Boy was affecting and emotional. Their plight and where they eventually ended up was a tale I followed with relish, and their interactions were a highlight, although I felt they could be too few and far between. If anything, I could have used more banter between the two and more characterization for Pseudo.

What Was Predictable

Clash pulls much inspiration from the 2018 God of War. The basic premise of protecting The Boy as Pseudo and some of the significant beats mirror Sony’s Epic, so some character progression and twists felt predictable. To Clash’s credit, I was still invested, and the world is so weird and the characters are so much fun that I quickly forgot the world of Kratos and got lost in Zenozoik all over again.    

Bottom Line

Visuals: A

Clash is a visual tour de force. The hatch line art style, the labyrinthian levels, and the fantastic character design create a cohesive and strange world unlike anything in games.  

Sound: B+

The soundtrack of Clash is, like many other ACE Team offerings, downright inspired. It deftly mixes epic orchestral pieces with synths, chanting, and indescribable sounds to make for a musical soundscape as bizarre and affecting as the world of Zenozoik. The voice acting is great too, with Pseudo being a particular highlight, but there are some issues with looping tracks and glitches in cutscenes with repeated lines.  

Playability: B

Clash can sometimes feel stiff, especially during exploration, but the combat feels responsive, and going from a basic warrior to a kung-fu master is satisfying. The game does a decent job describing its systems but never teaches players how to use them in fights clearly, and the learning curve can feel steep. But, once you overcome it, the game gets much easier, and the combat is as rewarding as it is customizable.  

Story: B+

Clash tells a simple story with a lot of inspiration from more recent titles, but it does so with typical ACE Team flair and aplomb. The characters are weird as hell but there is an emotional core that will leave you with a gut punch in the end. Clash never uses its weirdness as a crutch and is willing to tell a heartfelt and interesting story with grounded characters, despite their appearances.

Replay Value: C-

Clash has no content outside of exploration and some extra endgame bosses. No new game plus, no difficulties or anything. In fact, I was able to platinum the game in 15 hours, but to the game’s credit, it is half the price of other AAA titles and felt like the perfect length. I was left completely satisfied by the experience, but it won’t keep you around for a long time other than repeat playthroughs.

Overall Grade: B

Derek Swinhart

Derek has worked in games journalism and PC gaming hardware and has a depth and breadth of experience across many genres. He plays almost everything but has a particular fondness for challenging games like the -Souls series and real-time strategy titles.

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