Clash: Artifacts of Chaos PS5 review. You need only your eyes to tell you that ACE Team, the talented Chilean developer behind the wonderfully eccentric likes of Abyss Odyssey, Rock of Ages and The Eternal Cylinder, has a penchant for crafting worlds quite unlike anything you would see anywhere else. Happily, I can inform you that the boundlessly creative streak that has so well defined their previous efforts is very much intact with the studio’s latest offering, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos, an engaging third-person action RPG that while far from perfect, nonetheless boasts enough heart and compelling genre beats to keep players engaged.
Clash: Artifacts Of Chaos PS5 Review
ACE Team Delivers A Sophisticated Otherworldly Adventure Brawler With Heart
First things first, even though Clash: Artifacts of Chaos takes place in Zenozoik, the same world that is chronicled in the Zeno Clash games, those who are uninitiated in the lore of that world will be relieved to discover that you need not have played those earlier titles to hit the ground running with Clash: Artifacts of Chaos. Equally, those that have made prior visits to the realm of Zenozoik will surely get a kick from returning to this wonderfully bizarre world and the denizens that inhabit it, not least because the level of polish that has gone into these worlds and characters – complete with a gorgeous shaded look that makes the whole game look like it has plucked from the pages of an old illustration journal – underscores just how much work has gone into this from an art perspective.
In Clash: Artifacts of Chaos players take on the role of Pseudo, a toweringly muscular (and oddly hairy/spiny?) fella that just so happens to be a martial arts master that lives as a hermit in the world of Zenozoik. Pseudo’s quiet, if not quite idyllic life is disturbed when the Boy, an odd little creature with gleaming eyes that looks like a cross between an owl and the Sootlings from Spirited Away, almost literally drops into his lap unannounced. Well as it turns out, Boy actually possesses a range of mystical powers that have put him in the crosshairs of Gemini, Mistress of the Artifacts and one of the most powerful individuals in all of Zenozoik. Seemingly given new purpose in his life by this chance encounter, Pseudo dedicates himself to protecting Boy while dark and sinister forces marshal themselves to capture him.
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is roaming, third-person action adventure with a massive side order of fisticuffs. What this means in practice, is that you’ll venture throughout Zenozoik, putting fist (and foot) to face as you loot treasure, take on side quests and push the main story along. Traversal is a big part of any action RPG like this and luckily the setting that Clash: Artifacts of Chaos has wrought here is compelling to say the least.
A mixture of far Eastern zen, martial arts and the beautiful grotesqueness of a world teeming with all manner of twisted and hairy life, there’s no setting like it and ACE Team have long been overlooked as the creators of fresh and interesting worlds the likes of which you don’t really see. Put simply, travelling across the world of Zenozoik is a pleasure, because the wealth of imagination on display is such that you’ll never know what sights or sounds you’ll come across. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Clash: Artifacts of Chaos absolutely skates along at a smooth 60 frames per second.
From a design perspective, the world is reassuringly stuffed with things to do. While the various nooks and crannies contain all manner of hidden treasures and formidable foes, so too does Clash go a step further with its night time exploration. Essentially when Pseudo slumbers, you take control of his night-form which thanks to its more corporeal nature, allows Pseudo to phase through certain obstacles that would prevent his progression in the waking world. See a massive overgrowth of brambles that is preventing you from accessing the tantalising treasure that lay just beyond? Simple, just return there at night and phase on through. It’s a great little mechanic that helps to layer the exploration of Zenozoik substantially. Psuedo’s night form also represents a second chance to avenge yourself too, since if you die during the daytime, you immediately snap into your night-form, rather than being unceremoniously sent to the game over screen.
As engaging as the exploration and traversal in Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is, it sadly finds itself let down somewhat by a couple of baffling design decisions. Though you do have access to a map of the world, it’s pretty small and is devoid of any real detail – essentially rendering it useless as any kind of guide. Beyond that, the omission of fast travel also grates a fair amount, not least because while you can find your way around Zenozoik fairly easily once you’ve gotten used to each area, the distances you’ll traverse aren’t inconsequential and not being able to hop back and forth to areas that you were going to explore later on, seems like a missed opportunity indeed.
When you’re not stalking the myriad lands of Zenozoik, you’ll be taking on various enemies in blistering contests of hand-to-hand combat and it’s here that Clash: Artifacts of Chaos really begins to shine. Viewed from an over the shoulder perspective, Pseudo can mix up all manner of punches, front kicks, roundhouse kicks, spinning kicks and much more besides to provide players with a generous arsenal of martial arts strikes to choose from. Naturally, various combos can be strung together based on the strikes that are used, allowing you to deal a great deal of damage on your enemy en route to an eventual KO. Brilliantly, you can also cancel your combinations mid-flow as well, providing ample latitude to be agile and flexible during a fight so that you can react to incoming attacks easily.
A special mention should go to the sheer bizarreness of the various enemies that you’ll end up throwing down with as well. From towering Minotaur style bosses through to misshapen goblin creatures stuck in wooden barrels, lumbering giants made of wood and ivory and many such creatures that defy explanation, it’s fair to say that Clash: Artifacts of Chaos boasts a line-up of enemies quite unlike any other game out there – and is a tribute to the boundless creativity that developer ACE Team oozes from every pore.
There’s real sophistication to how Pseudos’ offensive arsenal can be used as well thanks to a stance system that accentuates certain aspects of those attacks, which needs to be adjusted on the fly to deal with the murder’s row of enemies that you come across. The Spear stance for example, offers a longer reach, while Lightning is better for chaining quick attacks, Mammoth is a lumbering but extremely powerful stance and boxing is the most well-rounded stance out of all of them. As you might expect these stances also play directly into the progression that sits at the heart of Clash: Artifacts of Chaos, since as you gain experience by completing quests and vanquishing foes, you can elect which of the stances you want to put experience points into, unlocking new moves in the process, on top of upgrading base stats such as power, endurance, constitution and aggressiveness.
Speaking of aggressiveness, when you land and block enough strikes in quick succession you’ll build up a rage meter which when maxed out, can be used to trigger a series of highly damaging berserk attacks that are unleashed from a first-person perspective (in a neat nod to the first-person perspective violence of the Zeno Clash games). Additionally, holding down the punch and kick buttons not only allow Pseudo to perform a charging attack, but so too does completing a combo unleash a finishing move that smashes the opposition even further still. To say that I was surprised by the depth on offer in the fistic pursuits of Clash: Artifacts of Chaos would be quite the understatement indeed.
When it comes to defence, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is far from some dunderheaded brawler, however. Akin to Soulslike offerings where you’re only as good (and as healthy) as you’re defensive capabilities allow, a similar requirement exists here too with being able to avoid enemy attacks – particularly when outnumbered or dealing with an overwhelmingly strong foe – proves absolutely essential to your survival. Keeping you on your toes yet further still is that you have a finite reserve of stamina which regulates how often you can attack, meaning that pacing your attacks soon proves to be the order of the dat. Thankfully, dodges and other such evasion moves aren’t tethered to the stamina bar, so while you’re waiting for it to recharge you can still avoid incoming attacks in the meantime.
Brilliantly, when you have these battles they can be affected by the world around them in real-time. I’ve lost count of the amount of times for example I’m being pummelled by a particularly strong opponent, only for a wandering creature in the local vicinity to get stuck in and pull some of his attention off Pseudo, allowing me to get back into the fight as a result. Again, it’s just one more example which shows how surprisingly well Clash: Artifacts of Chaos innovates with its combat systems.
Another neat twist to how combat unfurls in Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is the manner in which fights will start. Though you can encounter folks in the wild to scrap with spontaneously, Clash also has special duels which Pseudo can take part in. The difference between the regular battles and these duels is that special rituals can be invoked prior to the duels that can give Pseudo special buffs if he wins, while losing a ritual will inflict a debuff upon him – such as additional damage if he stands still and so on.
While the ritual itself is essentially a straightforward minigame, you can elect to have the Boy play the game for you, if you don’t have the requisite patience for it. Equally, it’s also worth noting that winning or losing these rituals doesn’t ensure an outcome in these duels – it just makes the battle slightly easier or more difficult to beat. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is a pleasingly chunky odyssey. With completion of the main campaign and all of the side quests clocking in at over 35 hours, coupled with a new game plus mode that introduces elite level enemies and new armour for Pseudo to equip, in addition to a range of cosmetic items for both him and the Boy, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos certainly gives you bang for your buck and then some.
If you’re looking for an action RPG with a sophisticated martial arts slant that unfolds in a fantastical alien world with a driving central narrative that invests you in the key protagonists with ease, then Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is absolutely deserving of your attention.
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is out now on PS4 and PS5.
Review code kindly provided by PR.