Clash: Artifacts Of Chaos

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: NACON
Developer: ACE Team
Release Date: March 9, 2023


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Clash: Artifacts of Chaos'

by Cody Medellin on Feb. 13, 2023 @ 5:00 a.m. PST

Welcome to the world of Zenozoik. Explore this strange land as Pseudo, a powerful warrior on a quest to obtain the Artifacts of Chaos.

If you look at its games, ACE Team is a strange outfit. From a parody of 1950s sci-fi movies to rolling a giant boulder against a Monty Python-style backdrop, the Chilean studio has not shied away from anything that's out of the ordinary. The game that put the studio on the map and established its vibe was Zeno Clash, a first-person adventure that became a cult classic due to its combat flow and general strangeness. The last Zeno Clash game came out over a decade ago, so fans have been clamoring for a sequel. We sort of have it now with Clash: Artifacts of Chaos.

The game isn't a direct sequel to the Zeno Clash duo of games but more like a spin-off set in the same world. You play the role of Pseudo, a hermit living in an unforgiving world of violence. One day, he stumbles upon an old, dying man who had been forced to duel. After killing the one responsible, he happens upon a small creature simply named Boy, who called the old man his grandfather. Pseudo's original intent was to hand off Boy to someone who can find him a new home, but he takes on the task himself after he learns that Boy possesses powers that make him the target of some very powerful people. From the outset, you'll be reminded of the likes of the Norse-themed God of War and "The Mandalorian" but with a much stranger cast and setting.

You don't need to have played the previous Zeno Clash games to get into this, since the only similarity is the world setting. If you are coming from those games, you'll notice the litany of gameplay changes. Instead of a first-person perspective, you're playing from a more traditional third-person perspective that's slightly offset, so the camera is over the shoulder. Some of the systems taken from modern adventure games are employed, like an XP system for buffing stats. Getting items from merchants doesn't require money but the necessary materials to craft, while paper dolls let you power up your special moves. You can use cooking to add buffs to healing potions. There's quite a bit of platforming, and it's different. Jumps have you crouching for a while before taking a leap, and jumping can only traverse gaps instead of move to higher elevations. It might seem like the game is being quirky for the sake of it, but that feeling dissipates quickly.

One of the more interesting parts about the gameplay is something lifted from Mortal Shell. Should you fall or simply sleep at camp and wake up at nightfall, you'll be in the game as your dream self. Your job is to return to your body so you can be resurrected and continue fighting without losing any items or progress, but unlike that aforementioned game, your dream self is a capable fighter, since you still possess the same stats as your living self. You can risk everything for a few more kills and items before coming back to life. Another interesting trait is that your dream self encounters a world slightly different from what your living self experiences, which has the potential to open up new methods of traversal.

As for the combat, while you may run across some weapons, you're mostly going to be a melee-focused fighter, just like the hero of the previous games. Your initial impression may be that the combat is like Dark Souls in that you'll throw a few blows before dodging, and you'd be slightly correct. The developers have stated that this is more like a fighting game, so the parry gives you an alternative to dodging blows and letting you throw in a quick counter. Despite there being a stamina meter, it only affects defense, so you can throw a ton of hits with reckless abandon. Landing successful hits allows you to build up a super meter, which hearkens back to the first two games by changing the perspective to a first-person view. Deliver enough damage, and you'll initiate a final killing move that differs depending on who you're fighting. It's a neat mix that makes for a good middle ground between Souls-like combat and pure button-mashing.

The most compelling thing coming from the combat system is The Ritual, an optional thing that can either be employed by you or an enemy. If it is initiated before a fight, you and your opponent roll out a mat and sit as if playing a game. Both parties choose an artifact that can alter things, such as having a clearly defined fighting area, fighting in a poisonous fog, or being called on as a backup fighter. You roll the dice and optionally play some modifiers to affect the rolls. Whoever wins the dice roll gets the artifact ability activated for the rest of the fight. Except for a few situations, this is optional but makes for more interesting battles.

The presentation at this point is just as eye-catching as the much older games in the series. Part of this has to do with the world, which oozes personality thanks to a mix of organic/punk/apocalyptic influences. Another reason this looks so good has to do with the pencil-sketched art style, which provides the appearance of a living illustration. It's less of a showcase title for how good your PC is and more of a showcase for how veering away from expected game styles can still produce excellent results.

While this isn't the final version, we tried Clash on the Steam Deck. The game uses cloud saves, so your progress between systems is constant, but that also means settings are carried over, so be prepared to fiddle with them if you are planning to play on more than one machine. At 720p with everything at Very High, prepare to barely reach 27fps with a good number of drops. Put everything at Low, and you'll hover around 50fps with some peaks around 60fps, but that can fluctuate wildly. Battery life fares the same; you can go from roughly 100 minutes on Very High to around 2h40m on Low. While the game looks rather fuzzy at that resolution, there's a trick with AMDs FSR2, the only upscaling protocol currently in the game. That doesn't affect battery life, but it makes the picture look miles better and it's easier to reach 60fps.

There's less than a month to go before Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is released, but the preview build has piqued our interest. The story is fascinating due to the universe, and the combat mechanics feel quite nice, even if it treads in familiar territory. The dice mechanic before some fights is perhaps the most interesting part of the game, as it adds some depth to the fighting. At this moment, it has the potential to please fans who've been waiting so long to return to this universe, and we won't have to wait much longer to see if the final game impresses beyond that fan base.

More articles about Clash: Artifacts Of Chaos
blog comments powered by Disqus