Zenless Zone Zero Hands-On Preview – Deep Diving Into Anime Combat

Zenless Zone Zero Hands-On Preview

Zenless Zone Zero, often stylized as ZZZ, is one of HoYoverse’s upcoming projects, a game that both instills familiarity and freshness in equal doses. This is the maker of Genshin Impact and the Honkai series trying to immerse us in a world where anime fantasy and sci-fi co-exist, drawing inspiration from past games while putting an interesting tech spin to dungeon crawling. Combat and puzzle gameplay alternate frequently, as you collect new agents and explore the city of New Eridu, what’s in front of you but also the Hollows, as you explore the network and face various types of events.

A Comic Come to Life

Zenless Zone Zero shows HoYoverse at its finest with the artwork. From the many animated cutscenes to the immersive comic panels, there’s a surprising harmony to all these elements that carry the story forward and introduce you to the main characters. It’s refreshingly different from the previous games of the same studio, and gives it an identity that can still be traced down to its creators.

The game does ooze style in many aspects, and while the first steps in New Eridu may show a limited hub area, there’s hopefully more to it in the future. Some features could have been summed up into a few menus for convenience, but this choice is equally understandable as there are other incentives for you to explore the area, including anecdotes. Unfortunately, these seem to be signposted when they should instead leave you to do your own bidding and test your wits.

You start by choosing between a male and female avatar, a choice that will be controlled in third-person as you explore the city, and also as the overseer when you indulge in Hollow exploration, but they play no part in combat.

There’s an inevitable hero collector theme in the game, a staple of the studio and many other developers who see this as a way to encourage collecting and rotating banners, ultimately one of the main sources of revenue for any free-to-play game of the ilk. Called agents, these fighters are obtained through story progression or the predictable gacha. Featuring a template not unlike the ones in previous HoYoverse games, they come with distinguishable visual identities, unique skill and ultimate, and can be customized through the use of one W-Engine and six Disk Drives, comparable to artifacts from Genshin Impact. Naturally, you need a bit of luck and many rolls to get the best ones, but experimentation plays a big role here.

Zenless Zone Zero Hands-On Preview – Deep Diving Into Anime Combat

Combat is vital in Zenless Zone Zero and while on the surface it seems similar to Honkai Impact 3rd (mostly) and Genshin Impact, there are some peculiarities to it. There’s the three characters at play here as well, with a few basic techniques to give the best results. Action is fast and frantic, a bit on the chaotic side before you learn the mechanics by heart, with things like chain attacks and perfect assists maximizing damage on top of the specific builds of each agent.

With all the speed and flashy visuals, it’s not always easy to follow up on the hints to trigger the special moves, but with practice it gets better. New players will have a challenge that seems to scale decently, while setting up hardcore players for the tougher battles. The tutorial is deceivingly simple and it will take some practice to master perfect assists and other advanced moves. The difference between button spam – which can still take you through many battles – and pondered, skillful play is significant, and time will show you just by how much.

Into the Hollow

Instead of using something such as open world exploration, Zenless Zone Zero brings these odd and exciting Hollow deep dive stages as the other side of the coin to combat. Missions are executed in this dungeon crawler type of gameplay, as you venture into a grid-like map comprised of television sets, each one acting as a square in some sort of board game. It’s easier to understand in action, as you move around the grid and discover a series of events, from trivia to switches, crates to push around, elevators to other levels, countless resources, the inevitable combat stages, and more.

Some of these dives can take quite a bit of time to clear, completing all the goals and discovering all the observation data, so there’s a certain risk of boredom after a succession of these challenges. For players who are lured into Zenless Zone Zero for its anime combat gameplay, this may come up as a surprise as it takes quite a large chunk of the overall progress; if it turns out to be a positive or a negative, it’s up to each one’s tastes, although there’s no denying it makes for something very different from what many players would expect to see from a HoYoverse game.

You’ll go into the Hollow to do main and side commissions, the former for progression on the story while the latter gives you more insight into the world’s lore, not to mention additional rewards. Later on you will also find other modes including agent stories, a welcome look into the background of each character that perfectly complements their personalities – as usual, each one comes with a very pronounced identity and many players are bound to quickly find a few favorites.

Zenless Zone Zero Hands-On Preview – Deep Diving Into Anime Combat

There’s a stamina system called battery charge here, the equivalent to Genshin Impact’s resin, meaning that commissions take some varying amount of it to enter. This halts your progress if you decide to grind commissions every day, with the current regeneration rate being of around one unit per six minutes. This gated progression is expected, but hopefully there will be enough items to overcome the limitations on the long run (such as the Coffee Shop) and get an additional progress boost.

As mentioned, New Eridu has many facilities to help you out or entertain you. From arcade games that you can actually play to shops of various types (materials, W-Engine, foods that give you buffs, Bangboo enhancers, and more), these ask you to move around but the design isn’t going to be consensual. It’s not a place of regular discovery and wonder as early reveals would lead you to believe, but more of a restricted area where to purchase or sell materials, interact with some NPCs, and do the odd straightforward quest.

Bangboos are your combat sidekicks. You can collect several and upgrade them, but overall their job is one of supporting you in battle with their added statistics. They are something of the game’s mascot and can also be found in the gacha system, another feature to pull for that may end up giving you a great boost in combat.

As of now, Zenless Zone Zero has this air of another huge game that will keep players busy for months, eventually years on end. Combat is familiar and fun but still adds some interesting twists, the agent roster is exciting for the most, and the Hollow gameplay entirely breaks the norm of what one expects from a HoYoverse game. This may turn into the most divisive aspect in the entire game, despite being extremely well made and featuring intelligent, intricate gameplay that neatly ties with combat. New Eridu could be a more expansive, open-world place providing additional quests and ways for us to get lost in this city, but who knows what the developers have in store for the official launch and post-release content – knowing them and their catalog, Zenless Zone Zero is bound to grow into a beast of a game, and we have barely even scratched the surface.

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