The success of FromSoftware’s many Souls games has seen developers try to replicate the Japanese studio’s trademark game design. However, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos from Zeno Clash maker ACE Team is one of the more vibrant and inspired takes on the FromSoft formula, thanks to the developer taking aspects from a number of different games and genres and merging them into something that feels really fresh.
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is a third-person action RPG where you traverse a linear, interconnected environment full of deadly creatures, secret treasures, and hidden secrets. However, instead of wielding swords or hammers, the player-controlled main character, Pseudo, uses a variety of fighting styles to batter their opponents with their bare hands.
These styles work in a similar vein to how characters in fighting games all have different strengths. Fighting styles include a combination of large overhead pounds, wide-sweeping attacks to catch multiple enemies, fast flurries of hits, and longer-range pushes that can keep enemies at a distance.
As you explore, you can switch between these fighting styles to tailor your combat to the type of enemy you are fighting, even switching styles in the middle of a fight if you need to.
By imbuing Pseudo with all of these different types of attacks naturally over the course of the game, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos removes some of the frustrations that can come from the more hardcore RPG Souls-likes. Whether it be Bloodborne or other games like Nioh, once you begin levelling up a weapon you feel locked into that build, as you have already invested a significant amount of resources into it.
But, because Clash gives you the freedom to switch styles when you want, it means that you are able to experiment more with the game’s combat than in other titles.
It opens the door to spending more time diversifying your arsenal, rather than pouring all your upgrades and experience into a single weapon, which is quite the departure from the norm.
Each fight felt like a duel as the creature in front of me and I squared off against one another, and I began to understand which attacks were suited to each enemy type. Fast flurries failed against fierce foes that were bulky and strong, so I switched to one of the fighting styles that focused on heavy attacks.
And then, while facing off against more than one enemy, I found myself at a significant disadvantage. So, wide sweeps that can hit multiple enemies and keep them at a distance allowed me to readjust myself and space the enemies out from one another. From there I could move in to attack one and quickly dodge out of the way of the other or the same enemy’s follow-up blow.
The gameplay loop I experienced during my 40-minute playthrough of an early level, was gripping, and while the combat initially felt a little bit rickety, once I got to grips with Clash I began to really enjoy exploring the mysterious world that ACE Team has created and learning how its take on this style of combat functions.
I’m already looking forward to returning to this world, which is packed with secrets and strange creatures, all portrayed with a unique, sketchbook-like art style.
We are now at the point where unique and novel takes on the Souls formula is what really helps games in the genre stand out and Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is unlike any other game in that genre. Its unique art style, otherworldly environments, and the blend of fighting games, tactical combat, and the FromSoftware approach to level design have me excited to see more.
If you aren’t already paying attention to Clash: Artifacts of Chaos, you should be. It is shaping up to be one of the more unique spins on the Dark Souls-style of action RPGs. It stands out because it draws so much from so many different genres and styles and I can’t wait to see what else the team has hidden in the strange world of Clash: Artifacts of Chaos when it releases in November 2022 on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.