NEED TO KNOW
What is it? A third-person brawling adventure from the makers of Zeno Clash and other oddities.
Expect to pay £25 / $30
Developer ACE Team
Reviewed on RTX 2070, i7-10750H, 16GB RAM
Steam Deck N/A
Link: Official site (opens in new tab)
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is like the anti-God of War. It bears a family resemblance to Sony’s franchise revival, enough to invite comparison, but its design philosophy could hardly be more different. In particular, if you ever thought God of War would benefit from a more hands-off approach to nudging you through its adventures, then rest assured Clash keeps its sweaty palms strictly to itself.
If that sounds heavenly for those who prefer their games not to be littered with symbols and NPC chatter telling them where to go and how to get there, however, beware the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.” Pushing through Clash’s lush world and sprinkled narrative is often a richer experience due to the absence of supervisory noise. Yet it swings the pendulum of player guidance so far to the opposite extreme you may find yourself crying out for a quest marker or eager companion to show the way.
(Image credit: ACE Team) (opens in new tab)
Even the map is utterly hopeless—a small square on an inventory screen that takes six button presses to view. Pseudo appears on it as a tiny circle rather than an arrow, surrounded by nothing more than a handful of place names and vaguely sketched landmarks. That could work if the landscape consistently enabled you to see your destination in the distance, but it doesn’t. Fairly early in the game, for instance, you’re advised to head to ‘the town’, and there’s nothing that looks like a town visible on the horizon. Nor does it help much when you do get your bearings, because the route is unlikely to be a straight line.
Clash is almost offensively obtuse next to games like God of War, then, while its challenge level oscillates between a breeze and a gale. It also fails to either drip feed small rewards or produce a sense of achievement when you come through tough spots, since success often comes from attritional stubbornness. Yet there’s something to be said for Clash’s refusal to explain its ideas, places and oddball creatures the way God of War would. It’s more efficient in its world building, characterisation and plotting, and thus more generously open to interpretation. Pseudo may be Kratos’ smaller, weaker (and poorer) sibling, but at least he’s got a deeper and more interesting soul.