Game Reviews

Zenless Zone Zero review - "High octane combat for a high-profile game - but still with a lot of heart"

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Zenless Zone Zero review - "High octane combat for a high-profile game - but still with a lot of heart"
  • Satisfying combat with a low barrier to entry
  • Super interesting characters, NPCs, and overall world
  • Tedious Hollow Deep Dive system, but at least it's been reduced now

HoYoverse is back with a vengeance, and what a comeback it is - Zenless Zone Zero almost feels like it's daring you NOT to play it as if you can actually resist its flashy visuals and chill Lofi vibes. Marketing efforts for this highly anticipated ARPG have been totally off the charts lately - you can see it practically everywhere you turn these days, and rightly so. 

People have been waiting forever for this eye candy to come out, and now that it's officially launched, it's time to pass judgment once and for all - is it actually worth the hype?

Table of contents:

Zenless Zone Zero Story and Visuals

Okay so, I know that last line was a tad dramatic, but if the rating I gave for this game is any indication, then you already know just how I feel about it (a bit anti-climactic - sorry). Zenless Zone Zero wastes no time in thrusting you right into the action, fulfilling its promises of adrenaline-pumping combat and proving to you just how much it takes the "action" in action RPG" seriously right off the bat. 

character action pose with skills description in menu

What makes it all even sweeter is the way the visuals are laid out - everything is just so darn cool that you won't be able to resist ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the cutscenes and the comic book-inspired story panels, especially given the characters' colourful outfits and even more colourful personalities.

As a Proxy, you're tasked with guiding Agents across a post-apocalyptic world into the dangerous Hollows - mysterious black hole-esque spheres that corrupt everything they touch. You might be rescuing stranded citizens or getting rid of pesky hoodlums for some loot, but whether or not your intentions are noble, one thing's for sure - corrupted Ethereals prowl every corner of the Hollows, so you'd best hone your combat skills if you want to come out unscathed.

Zenless Zone Zero Gameplay

This is where the main appeal of the game comes in. Combat in Zenless Zone Zero is fast-paced, stylish, and just so incredibly satisfying - I can't remember a time when I actually enjoyed combat with exhilarating giddiness because everything is just so darn fun. 

chain attack quick time event in the middle of a character move

But while you can switch between Agents on the fly and unleash hella cool chain attacks with a single tap (I've got a handy combat guide too in case you're confused), strategy also comes into play here, as you'll need to find the best combinations of moves that will build a better synergy between the members of your party.

Controls are deceptively simple, and each battle you come out of will make you feel like you've got god-tier abilities because you're the coolest kid on the block. Regardless of the Agents you pick, you'll still feel the rush as you take down each Ethereal with a flourish, all thanks to the different camera angles, zoom effects, and lots and lots of slow-motion that all come together to make fighting the bad guys feel very much like a supercharged endorphin boost.

Outside of combat, you can of course explore the lush world of New Eridu, beginning with the sights and sounds of the bustling Sixth Street.

characters standing behind a reception desk

Doggos, mecha-armed chefs, tin robots and talking trash cans abound, and as you explore every nook and cranny of this beautifully chaotic street, you won't run out of quests to take on and new goodies to discover. Elements change throughout the day too - what's there in the morning won't necessarily still be there in the afternoon, while certain things can come alive at night if you look hard enough.

What's the appeal?

Now, since all that sounds absolutely fab so far, you might be wondering why I haven't given Zenless Zone Zero top marks just yet. This, unfortunately, is thanks to that glaring issue that I already talked about in my Closed Beta Test preview - the dreaded Hollow Deep Dive system (or HDD for short).

It's this totally dull and grey TV land you'll have to navigate with your Bangboo (cute bunny-like mascots-slash-sentient assistants) that has a bit of a roguelike element thrown into some puzzle gameplay and a board game mechanic. 

It's still tedious, still boring, and still takes away from the thrill of combat and the colours that come alive in the city itself - but in all fairness, in this official build, the time spent inside the HDD has been significantly reduced, with a special Accelerated Playback Mode that speeds up certain elements inside the TV land. It doesn't entirely solve the problem here, but it does alleviate the boredom so you can get back into the fight or jump back out into the city for more shenanigans with its interesting residents.

characters in battle unleashing a special move

The main Story quest also isn't as bogged down by the HDD as it was before, as you can now explore other parts of the world with your trusty vehicle and leave the HDD commissions for side-quests should you so wish.

That tiny tweak alone makes the game heaps and heaps more enjoyable - especially since there's just so much to see and do outside that dull TV world.

And you can really tell how much love, effort, and thought the dev team put into even the tiniest detail within the ARPG, given how you can now see more fun extras in the Inter-Knot before you sleep (you have a bedroom now!). 

character browsing through phone in bedroom

There are also all sorts of quirky characters out in the streets on top of the already quirky NPCs in the shops. There's Officer Mewmew who's the embodiment of public security, a Sage in a Barrel who believes it's a new form of life despite it being a trash can, and a totally heartbroken-looking Bangboo in a ripped toy box slapped on with a Sale sticker who thinks it can transform into a carton warrior (it cannot). 

The doggo who sells newspapers is still there, but when I woke him up at night, he didn't go back to sleep after (it made me feel like the worst scumbag in the world).

character crouching over a rabbit-looking mascot on the sidewalk

All these add to the charm of Zenless Zone Zero, and despite its high-profile HoYoverse badge, the little details prove that each person who worked on it crafted the game as a labour of love and not just another cash cow. I do believe they honestly want to give players something we can all truly enjoy - no predatory in-app purchases needed.

That said, it's still a gacha game, and the rates are a little disappointing given how you'll often get gear rather than actual Agents in the summons pool in my experience. But with just how good the starting roster already is - Billy, of course, still has my heart - the gacha element here takes a backseat, in my opinion, and you can get by with flying colours even without all the S-rank characters in your lineup.

Overall, Zenless Zone Zero ticks all the right boxes for me, and it's the kind of mobile game I don't want to auto-battle through (save for maybe skipping all HDD missions altogether if possible). The team is supposedly hard at work trying to flesh out the board system into something that you can actually do out in the city, which I'm all for. It doesn't have to be an open world - Zenless Zone Zero's self-contained locations are already interesting enough as they are. 

characters posing for a group photo

I suppose it's another one of those games that make me go, "I can't believe this is free-to-play", and with nothing to lose and everything to gain, I don't see why you shouldn't give it a go and see for yourself too.

Zenless Zone Zero icon
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Zenless Zone Zero review - "High octane combat for a high-profile game - but still with a lot of heart"

Zenless Zone Zero is a stunning work of art that boasts stylish visuals, lofi vibes, and insanely satisfying combat. Dull HDD woes aside, what makes it shine even more in my opinion are the little details - much like that Bangboo that tried (by god, it tried) to transform into a warrior but couldn't. This just goes to show that while this highly anticipated ARPG might just be the next big thing, it also hasn't lost its heart - and that alone makes it worth the wait.
Catherine Dellosa
Catherine Dellosa
Catherine plays video games for a living and writes because she’s in love with words. Her Young Adult contemporary novel, For The Win: The Not-So-Epic Quest Of A Non-Playable Character, is her third book published by Penguin Random House SEA - a poignant love letter to gamer geeks, mythological creatures, teenage heartbreak, and everything in between. She one day hopes to soar the skies as a superhero, but for now, she strongly believes in saving lives through her works in fiction. Check out her books at, or follow her on FB/IG/Twitter at @thenoobwife.