Zenless Zone Zero Review: Action Straight out of a Comic Book (2024)

Zenless Zone Zero brings back the impactful and fluid combat mechanics from Honkai Impact 3rd, simplifies it, and provides one the best combat experiences in gacha gaming, all packed together in a highly stylized environment straight out of a comic book strip. But that’s not all ZZZ has to offer, it also features one of the best early storylines out of all Hoyoverse games. The game features a lovable cast of characters, and the voice actors have been spot on delivering the comedic scenes, genuinely making me giggle like a kid during various scenes in the storyline.

The game may not be open world, but it still adds a ton of attention to the main hub areas where you can move freely, making most interactions fun and memorable. After slashing, smashing, and bashing my way through countless Hollows, and testing out early, mid, and end-game, here is my review of Zenless Zone Zero.

Slashing, Smashing and Bashing Has Never Been More Fun

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Let’s start with the highlight of Zenless Zone Zero, the stellar combat system. Hoyoverse has been marketing ZZZ as an Action RPG, and I truly understood what they meant after playing the game. The entire focus of the game is on combat, much more so than the other Hoyoverse games.

Each party has three characters, much like Wuthering Waves, and every character has a basic attack, skill, dodge attack, dodge counter, and ultimate, but it doesn’t stop there. Every character has special move sets that only trigger once you finish specific combos. Furthermore, the combat also features chain attacks and assists (swap skills), which make the combat unique and half the reason the combat feels so good.

Combo Attack Makes the Combat Come Alive

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Every agent in Zenless Zone Zero has different move sets with special combo attacks. Some require you to hit the Skill after two basic attacks, while others only trigger if you hold on to the basic attack button. These combo attacks are the bread and butter of each agent in ZZZ, and utilizing them correctly will bring out the best from their kit.

Adding to that, there is a Decibel meter for each agent, which fills up over time. Once the Decibel meter is past a certain threshold, the agent is able to do an Ex-Special attack, which is basically an enhanced version of their skill. The Ex-Special attack also have their separate combos, or are part of the same combo with additional effects, and pulling them off correctly for any character simply feels satisfying. But combos are not limited to basic attacks and skills, they also carry over to the newly added Chain attacks and Assist mechanic.

Character Swap Skills Revamped in ZZZ Style

Zenless Zone Zero introduces a slightly different approach to character-swapping skills in the form of assists. Every Agent in the game has three Assist skills – Perfect Assist, Follow-Up Assist, and Defensive Assist.

In ZZZ, players cannot swap to the exact character they want, like the other Hoyoverse games, instead they can only swap to the next character in the team position using the swap key.

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Now, when an enemy is attacking, instead of doing a dodge counter, players can use the swap key to perform a perfect assist, which swaps to the next character and allows them to deal significant damage in the process. Furthermore, if a character gets hit by an enemy or is thrown off balance, they can hit the swap to recover from the stun and directly attack using the next character, which is called a defensive assist.

Similarly, players can also do a follow-up assist after finishing up on a certain attack combo to deal even more damage. Generally, support characters allow Follow-up assists on their combo ends, allowing players to get the best out of them in a short period of time.

Now, assists are amazing and they make the core of the ZZZ combat system, however, they can only be used if the player has enough assist points. These assist points are earned after doing Chain Attacks.

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Chain attacks are the essence of the ZZZ combat system and much of the combat is based on it. Like most action games nowadays, ZZZ enemies also have a stagger bar, which builds up through hits (impact character types deal more stagger damage). Once the stagger bar is full, the enemies enter a state called Daze, where they cannot move for a certain period and take increased damage.

What’s different to this mechanic is that when an enemy enters Daze, the chain attack mechanic is triggered where players can swap to either of the two other off-field characters or the selected Bangboo to deal massive damage. Against Boss enemies, characters can do more than one chain attack, which can be further combo-ed into Follow-up Assists.

Dodge Counters Are Easy and Satisfying

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Alongside Assists, chain attacks, and normal combos, dodge counters also play a major role in making ZZZ’s combat feel good and satisfying. Evasion attacks have always been a thing in action-focused Hoyoverse games, but they have been upped a notch with Zenless Zone Zero.

Most enemies produce a clear identifiable golden light before their attacks, which marks the perfect dodge attack period. If the dodge is timed correctly, the agents enter an invulnerable state while attacking opponents seamlessly with their dodge counters. Compared to Perfect assists, these don’t require Assist points and neither do they swap characters.

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Certain kit elements of a few characters are completely dependent on dodge counters. The agent Nekomata increases her damage output after using a dodge-counter, making it much more valuable for her damage output. Other than that, many characters deal their elements damage during dodge counters, while only doing impact damage with basic attacks.

A Different Storytelling Approach Implemented Perfectly

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Hoyoverse games are known for their amazing storylines, and they have consistently become better at delivering complex plotlines with ease. The Penacony arc in Honkai Star Rail and the Fontaine arc in Genshin Impact were both executed extremely well and are not short of masterpieces.

However, I have always found the initial storylines in almost all Hoyoverse games to be boring and eventless, more so with Genshin Impact than Honkai Star Rail. Fortunately, this is not true for Zenless Zone Zero as the comedic timing and storytelling of the initial chapters are on-point. This has been made possible by a comic-style fast-paced approach to storytelling, paired with a great cast of vibrant characters and spot-on voice acting.

Sibling Banter Between the Proxies Is Adorable

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In Zenless Zone Zero, the players take the point of view of Phaethon, a legendary proxie who’s among the best when it comes to Hollow navigation. The two siblings, Belle and Wise who run a video store, are the main characters in the game and you will be playing from their point of view for most of the time.

The best part about the siblings is that they are not a silent protagonist. The dialogues you select during conversations are actually said by them, making the protagonists feel much more alive than in the other Hoyoverse games.

I, and many in the community, have been asking Hoyoverse to scrap the silent protagonist trope and Zenless Zone Zero finally delivers on it in style.

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Furthermore, we constantly see witty and adorable banter between the two siblings, and having an elder sister myself, I can tell you that the interactions are spot on. The witty banter also changes to a loving and caring relationship in certain scenarios, showcasing that they genuinely love and care about each other, which simply felt wholesome to play through.

The Comic-Strip Art Style is Different and Refreshing

Unlike the recent Hoyoverse games, Zenless Zone Zero has a different approach to storytelling. Most of the game’s storytelling is done through comic panels, almost making it feel like you are reading a fully voice-overed comic book.

Many of the comic panels, especially the ones with character interactions are slightly animated to make them feel alive. The interactions are fully voice-overed and the comic strip style doesn’t take away from comedic timing, rather it allows better delivery compared to the other Hoyoverse games in my opinion.

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One of my biggest complaints in other Hoyoverse games has been the bad animation and dialogue delivery during the normal conversation between characters. Zenless Zone Zero makes the normal story conversation fast-paced, and the comedic delivery is mostly spot-on with exaggerated comic panels. It almost makes me feel like reading an animated manga, paired with the anime voice-overs.

Well Thought Out End-Game Modes for Launch

Zenless Zone Zero has a surprising depth to its end-game content at the launch. There are three main end-game content in ZZZ on release — Hollow Zero, Notorious Hunt Hand, and Shiyu Defense. Other than the end-game modes, Zenless Zone Zero also features a Hard Mode where the normal Story Missions can be played at higher difficulty, and a Challenge Mode, which increases the difficulty of story missions.

Hollow Zero: Simulated Universe Revamped

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The end-game with the most content and the earliest to unlock is Hollow Zero, which is similar to Simulated Universe in Honkai Star Rail. In this game mode, you can play with three agents, but the level begins with the leading agent. You will have to explore the Hollow to find the rest of your agents and add them to your team.

After finishing each combat scenario, or reaching Resonia zones, you will be able to choose between three Resonia’s which are basically power-ups, similar to blessings. Other than that, you can also come across Bangboos and collect them in the Hollow Zero to improve your damage, like Curios.

Hollow Zero has a penalty mechanic to keep things challenging. Each movement in the Hollow Zero exploration increases corruption, which then adds negative effects on the agents at different thresholds. Overall, this is a solid end-game content and it has a weekly reset reward system.

Shiyu Defense: Combination of Spiral Abyss and Memory of Chaos

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Shiyu Defense is basically the combination of Spiral Abyss and Memory of Chaos. You will have to fight through a horde of enemies at each level and finish the fight before the time runs out to complete the challenge. Finishing the fight quickly will give more rewards.

Later levels will also require players to ready two times, similar to Memory of Chaos in HSR. This game mode has both a normal and weekly reset mode.

Notorious Hunt Hand: The Boss Fights

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These are the end-game main boss fights that you can play for a limited time every week to earn rewards. The boss fights become quite challenging at higher levels, while being extremely easy at lower levels.

The difficulty curve is very well-tuned, and by the time you reach Inter-Knot level 60, you need to get your builds correct otherwise it would be very hard to win fights against the bosses.

Exploration Is Meh in Zenless Zone Zero

Zenless Zone Zero is not an open-world game, and it has two major ways of exploration – City Side Exploration and Hollow Exploration.

City Exploration Is the Better half

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Cities are small-scale non-combat levels in New Eridu where players can roam freely as the Proxy, mostly Belle, and interact with other NPCs, get quests, and buy food and other items.

The cities are the comfort zones for players, where many small events happen and exploration is more bite-sized. I did stumble across some unique interactions in the Sixth Street during my playthrough, like finding a man living in a trash can, or a Bangboo robot taking a massive dump on the street. The cities are also where you can find the Loot Chests, reskinned into cargo boxes.

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Your Video Store is also part of Sixth Street, one of the city areas, and there is a complete gameplay loop of making it popular, increasing sales, and recommending customers videotapes based on their preferences.

Additionally, there is an Arcade place called God-Finger where you can play mini games, compete against others, and has a complete ranking system based on scores. The Arcade also offers separate mini-game achievements, which reward a ton of Polychromes.

Hollow Exploration Can Quickly Become a Chore

Zenless Zone Zero adds a new exploration mechanic called Hollow Exploration, where players have to go through a series of TVs to find the correct route to the destination. The game doesn’t allow players to simply run to the edge of the map, fight their way through, and move to the next location. Instead, you jump into combat when touching a Hollow node with an enemy.

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These fights take place in a small area where you fight the Ethereals or Hollow monsters. The level design for these combat arenas is very small and is mostly thirty percent of the entire Hollow Exploration.

For the rest of the seventy percent, you will find yourself making your way through countless TVs, solving puzzles along the way, and collecting important resources. This exploration loop quickly becomes stale, even with the different Hollow variations. In a game with such an amazing combat system, it almost feels wasted because you are spending most of the time running through TVs.

Some Concerning Features and A Lack of Important Ones

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My experience in Zenless Zone Zero has mostly been positive, but there are some features or a lack of certain features, which is quite concerning.

  • Content Level Lock: Firstly, most of the important game features take a much longer time to unlock than the other Hoyoverse games. For example, you need to reach account level 30 to unlock Disk Drive farming, which is the Artifact system of ZZZ. This felt very odd because normally it’s the story missions that are locked behind higher levels and not the ability to farm basic items for character leveling. Much of the end-game game modes are also locked behind high Inter-Knot levels, which is fair I guess, but they can make certain periods in the early and mid-game be boring.
  • No Team Lineups: Secondly, the game lacks a Team Lineup feature, which makes absolutely no sense to me. A game that is heavily dependent on team synergies and exploiting enemy weakness, should allow multiple pre-built team lineups. I had to constantly select characters before each commission based on the suggested element, which was extremely annoying to deal with. A simple team lineup feature is available in all Hoyoverse games, so I didn’t understand it missing in Zenless Zone Zero’s early preview.
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  • Not the Simplest UI: Next, the UI of the game does feel a bit cluttered and hard to get your head around. I thought it would get easier after I played for some time, but the UI still felt a bit mind-numbing even after reaching Inter-Knot level 30, which took quite a fair time.
  • Special Effects Are Too Overpowering: Finally, the special effects during combat need to be toned down quite a bit. The combat special effects can be very overpowering and take over the screen, making it hard to follow enemies or avoid attacks.

Zenless Zone Zero Performance Overview

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The performance of Zenless Zone Zero during the early preview was butter smooth. The game barely ever stuttered during combat, always running seamlessly at the highest graphics settings. I was very pleased with the performance, especially after the disappointing performance issues in Wuthering Waves’ recent release. Action games are awful to play if the performance is not butter smooth, and at least the early preview of Zenless Zone Zero provided that experience.

I was consistently getting 60 FPS during combat, which appears to be locked. Changing the FPS setting to Unlimited did not affect my combat FPS, but did increase the outside combat FPS to 90+. So, you can explore the cities and other non-combat areas at a higher frame rate, but the FPS is locked to 60 during combat.

My PC Setup:

CPU:Intel i3 8th Gen
GPU:NVIDIA RTX 4060
RAM:16×2 DDR4 RAM @ 2400MHz
SSD:WD SN570 500GB
Monitor:1080p and 144hz

During some intense gameplay, my GPU stayed around 30-35% usage while my CPU hovered around 60%. The only time I saw stutters were during certain cutscenes. These were slight annoyances because you don’t expect stutters during cutscenes, but I think it is quite fixable at the launch of the game.

Is Zenless Zone Zero Worth Playing?

Yes, I would recommend Zenless Zone Zero to all players who love action combat over exploration. However, this game is not for players who love to explore or like open-world maps. Zenless Zone Zero is not an open-world game, nor does it have big maps that give the feel of an open world like Honkai Star Rail.

But what it excels at is providing an excellent combat mechanic paired with a unique story-telling style with great comedic timings and a vibrant cast of characters. The game runs butter smooth, and hopefully, that will remain the same during the launch week. Furthermore, the end-game systems are well thought out for the launch of the game, and we can only hope that they follow the HSR devs in introducing more end-game content every few versions.

However, the game still lacks some essential features, like team lineups, and the locked content behind player level can be very annoying early on. The special effects also need to be toned down a bit during combat, and maps need to be a bit bigger to avoid getting loading screens all the time.

Zenless Zone Zero Review: Action Straight out of a Comic Book (2024)

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