HoYoVerse is back with a new mobile game, Zenless Zone Zero, an action RPG set in the post-apocalyptic world of New Eridu. While it was one of 2023’s most anticipated releases, the game is unfortunately still in development. Its recent Equalization Test (beta test, in non-brand speak) was launched a few days ago on November 24, 2023.
And it is really good.
After a good few days of playing, we think we’ve spent enough time getting to know the game’s lead characters, Wise and Belle, and explored its Hollows. With that said, here are all the reasons why fans of HoYoVerse (and games in general) are going to have a great time (or not!) with Zenless Zone Zero.
Please note that these observations are entirely based on the Equalization Test and that the game will still undergo change for its official release version.
It’s a more contained experience
Zenless Zone Zero is a way more contained experience compared to Genshin Impact and even Honkai: Star Rail.
On one hand, Zenless Zone Zero doesn’t have empty stretches of sand and grass that no one really spends time outside of unlocking puzzles for primogems (looking at you, Genshin).
However, it also means that there really isn’t a lot of exploration to do. If you liked picking up clues about the worldbuilding of previous HoYoVerse games, you might find Zenless Zone Zero a little too limiting. Even Honkai: Star Rail allowed you to explore the city of Belobog. In contrast, you only have a few tiny blocks to walk around in in Zenless Zone Zero.
That said, it’s not like Zenless Zone Zero is an open-world adventure game. We’re just helping you set your expectations here. Give it some time and you’ll find that the constraints actually keep the gameplay experience tight because you’re made to focus on progressing in, say, getting a certain cast of characters out of a Hollow. You don’t get to stop, explore, and return to the story long after the tension dissipates. It all makes for a faster plot that keeps you more emotionally engaged with the characters because you’re not running off every time there’s a pause in the questline.
And speaking of quests…
The dialogue is shorter
Short is sweet and nowhere is that more true than with the dialogue in Zenless Zone Zero. Maybe it’s due to better resources, community feedback, or both, but this game’s dialogue and story are crisper than any of HoYoVerse’s previous games. The character conversations are more dynamic and the translation comes off as more native, though that may be partly due to the game being more contemporary in setting than previous HoYoVerse games.
The character design is way more diverse than other HoYoVerse games
We’re all fans of HoYoVerse in this house for their amazing character design, but it’s pretty clear that the designs in their previous games are quite limited. That’s not the case for Zenless Zone Zero where you can pull for a power-weapon-wielding bear and a cyberpunk cowboy robot.
A unique art direction
While the characters still have that recognizable “Hey, that’s a HoYoVerse game!” look to them, the way the Zenless Zone Zero team took the art direction for the game is entirely different from their sister games. Cut scenes are played out as if they’re comic book panels and dialogue doesn’t have you stare at just one character. Instead, you have all characters in the conversation facing the screen, towards the player.
Very satisfying combat mechanics
Zenless Zone Zero has the combat you would expect from an Action RPG. it’s the animations and implementation of those mechanics that make a big difference from other games. Switching between characters is smooth, almost like your characters are tagging each other in and out of combat vs. the blink-switch animation we get in Genshin Impact.
As for the combat itself, fights feel incredibly fluid and outside of them, the game’s TV system introduces something new that we haven’t seen in other mobile Action RPGs.
For context, the TV system we’re referring to is the parts of the game where you navigate Hollows (the battlefields) by charting a path through some TV displays. Think of it as a maze that you have to guide your characters through. This part of the game comes with a puzzle-like element that’s built into the combat. Every time your navigation hits a snag, you’re thrown into a fight inside the Hollow. The end result is an experience that’s still distinctly an Action RPG but somehow has the vibes of a dungeon crawler or roguelike (think Hades). It’s a strange combination, but by no means a bad or unwelcome one.
You get to spend time with both the siblings
Good news! You still have to pick between Belle and Wise, but both of them stay relevant in the story because the siblings together make up the mysterious Proxy known as Phaeton. The protagonists are also voiced from the get-go and have distinct personalities. No amnesiacs and voice-less characters here.
You’ll also enjoy it because of reasons
Want to learn more about Zenless Zone Zero and stay up to date with the game?
We’ll be playing the Equalization Test for Zenless Zone Zero for the rest of December. If you’d like to stay up to date with the game, sign up for our newsletter. We send out updates on what’s what in gaming, movies, and shows on Mondays and Fridays.
If you’d like to read more about Zenless Zone Zero now, check out our article on what Zenless Zone Zero is to get a better understanding of what the game is about, or check out our complete Zenless Zone Zero character list so you can plan your pulls.
Catch you later, Proxies!