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An exclusive interview with the lead game designer of Clash: Artifacts of Chaos, a Zeno Clash sequel

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Back on the Xbox 360, we had our asses handed to us repeatedly by the Zeno Clash series, brawlers set in the distinct alien world of Zenozoik. But while we were lying in pools of our own bodily organs, we couldn’t help but admire the worldbuilding, and wonder if we would ever get to return. 

That opportunity has arrived, some ten years after Zeno Clash 2 with the upcoming release of Clash: Artifacts of Chaos, and we couldn’t be happier. But we had questions: why so long? Why now? And would we get killed repeatedly again? These are important, so we brought them to Carlos Bordeu, founder of ACE Team, to find out more. 


clash artifacts of chaos keyart

Hi, could you please introduce yourself and your role on Clash: Artifacts of Chaos?

I am Carlos Bordeu, one of the studio co-founders and lead game designers of Clash.

Could you give us a quick rundown of the game?

Clash is an Action Adventure RPG that happens in a surreal punk-fantasy world. There is a strong emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, but it is also a narrative driven game with a strong emphasis on story and character development.

It took us far too long to realise that Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is set in the Zeno Clash universe, two games that we loved when they first came out on the Xbox 360. What made you want to return to Zenozoik? 

We always wanted to do so, but we needed to mature as a studio and find the right partner in order to be able to do another “Clash” game. These titles are the most complex we’ve done (and certainly a great challenge for an indie studio). With all these years in game development we finally felt we had the experience necessary to take on the project.

Does a player need to have played Zeno Clash 1 or 2 to get the most from Clash: Artifacts of Chaos? Is this a true sequel in that sense? 

No. I will not discuss the timeline of when this game happens (that would be a spoiler) – but no previous knowledge is needed to play this one. We understood both Zeno Clash 1 and 2 are more than a decade old, so we needed to make sure the story stood on its own. However people who did play the previous games will certainly get some surprises and have a unique experience playing this one.

The art style is astonishing. It’s the first time in a while that we have been floored by a very definite stylistic direction. What led you to this approach? 

We wanted to do the pencil / hatching rendering technique in Zeno Clash 2, but we felt we couldn’t realise it well enough. It might have been technical limitations or just not nailing it well enough back then, but we always felt that pairing the visual artistic design of our universe with a unique rendering style would be the combo that would truly bring the art of the game to its full potential. And this is something we are achieving with Clash: Artifacts of Chaos for the first time.

clash artifacts of chaos screenshot 1

It feels like the AAA industry is moving more to safe bets: IP and worlds that are proven. Clash: Artifacts of Chaos feels AAA, yet also doesn’t feel conventional or safe in any way. Do you see Clash as AAA, or bucking that trend? Do you feel like it’s a risk?

We’re honoured to have our game compared in any capacity with a AAA one – especially  from a production values point of view. We’re a much smaller studio than probably every AAA studio out there. I would say the game is certainly risky (as almost all our titles have been in the past). We could have easily just gone for something much safer in terms of game mechanics and visuals… but then it wouldn’t be a Zeno Clash game. 

When we did Zeno Clash we wanted to be disruptive with many ideas, and I think that with Clash we’re trying to do that again. And this is always a difficult challenge as you have to explore new ideas that have not been done before.

The Zeno Clash games weren’t known for their character progression and customisation, but Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is embracing it. What challenges were there in nailing those elements?

We’ve definitely been influenced by the success of From Software’s Souls games (which we love very much at the studio), so we’ve taken some aspects of those games and incorporated them in the design. I also think this allows us to cater to that audience which has grown significantly in the past few years.

We’re fascinated by the ‘Game of Dice’ that a player can play before battles, unlocking combat benefits for the subsequent fight if they win. Where does that come from? And how do you ensure that it doesn’t feel obstructive?

Balancing this feature is something that we’re going to be doing until the end of development. It is tricky getting something like this done well, but we’ve also made it mostly optional and not too punishing in order to make the Ritual more inviting rather than punishing. The idea came from classic “choose your own adventure” books that you played with dice and would have to resolve fights by following specific rules laid out in these game-books. There were several of these like for example “The Crown of the Kings” from the 1980s.

What is the secret to great-feeling combat in a 3D space?

A lot of it is making animations sync up properly with actions. But there is a ton of unique elements that have to come together… and if any ingredient is “weak”, that can affect the whole experience. For instance, combat sound effects are a huge part of how combat feels in the game.

clash artifacts of chaos screenshot 2

Are you embracing difficulty? So many games make a virtue of their challenge, while others are moving towards accessibility. Where does Clash: Artifacts of Chaos sit?

We’re not doing difficulty levels, but instead working on internal systems that balance difficulty in a more seamless way. The game won’t be as hard as Souls titles, but we are hoping that the challenge will generate community around the discovery of the best way to approach fights or the places where the best stuff can be found. 

We have some accessibility options regarding colours / controls / subtitles and audio.

The story trailers make it clear that narrative is important to Clash: Artifacts of Chaos. You brought on Jonas Kyratzes, who worked with you on The Eternal Cylinder, and also made The Talos Principle. What has he brought to the game?

Jonas is a very talented writer and having him on board has helped us make all the writing, dialogue and story more professional. Back in the old Zeno Clash days we had a smaller team where we would tackle everything, so it is clear that as the team has expanded, we have been able to make certain areas of our game much better than before. 

Jonas was also in charge of directing the Voice Over of most of the characters in the game and that has also been a noticeable improvement when looking back at our older games.

Music seems to play a big part in Clash: Artifacts of Chaos. What is the vision for the audio in the game?

Patricio Meneses (who has made all the soundtracks for all our games) worked very closely with us because we wanted him to capture the same kind of magic that Nier Automata did for the soundtrack of that game. This is the first time a significant portion of our music tracks are songs with vocals, and this was a pretty big challenge as we had to get singers and talent we hadn’t needed before when producing the music for our games. I think this is among the best work Patricio has ever made.

How do you go about creating a character in the Clash universe?

That’s a hard question. I think we just have a weirder sense of aesthetics than most people these days. Maybe it is just because we’re stuck in the 1980s when fantasy and science fiction was so much more creative and diverse than it is today.

clash artifacts of chaos screenshot 4

Clash: Artifacts of Chaos was originally meant to launch in June 2022. What was the story behind the delay?

It is a big project, and it just required more work than we expected. I think some people will be very impressed with the number of enemies, characters and locations that exist in the game. It is quite common for games to be delayed… I suppose we’re similar to most studios in that sense.

Clash: Artifacts of Chaos is unusual, as it was preceded by a free demo, something that few games do nowadays. Would you advocate creating a demo? What did you gain from it?

In our case it helped us enormously to get player feedback and will allow us to polish some game mechanics before launching the game. These demos are usually done more for marketing purposes, but I value them more from a QA point of view. Not because I want players to report bugs (though that is obviously valuable), but because we get important feedback on how people feel about some game mechanics and the general balance of the game. I would definitely advocate doing demos as long as you have a clear goal for that demo.

And finally, how long will we last in Zenozoik?

I think it will depend enormously on how people play the game, how good they are at mastering the combat and how much they want to explore. 

I think 15-25 hours is a reasonable range for people who will want to go in-depth with the combat mechanics / explore the game more fully and will want to play around with the many combat arts hidden in the game. 


While Clash: Artifacts of Chaos has been gestating for some time, we finally have a confirmed, definitely-not-going-to-be-delayed release date. It is coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (the Xbox Store page will let you pre-order), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC on March 9th 2023, so make sure Hogwarts Legacy is complete before this one lands. 

We will see you in Zenozoik.

Huge thanks go out to ACE team and Carlos for giving us some time.

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