If there was an award for the game with the ugliest protagonist, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos would surely win it.
Pseudo is his name, though while he isn’t a looker, you wouldn’t say so to his face. You see, he may not be graced with beauty, but he packs a mean punch. And you’ll be glad of that as you jump into Clash: Artifacts of Choas, a (mostly) third-person action adventure from the makers of the Rock of Ages series that hits consoles and PC next month.
Going hands-on with a PC preview build of Clash: Artifacts of Chaos, we’ve been able to play though the game’s opening hours. Already we can tell it’s going to be something rather unique. It’s a game that surprises you right from the start, with you taking control of a rocky humanoid that you presume to be the central character – but no. Rescuing a more fleshy Pseudo who’s been trapped under a rock, you’re suddenly in control of him instead. Confusingly, they both appear to be Pseudo, but you’ll only take control of the rocky version when the fleshy one comes to harm, giving you one more chance to overcome his attackers and carry on your adventure.
Think of Clash: Artifacts of Chaos of a surreal take on God of War and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. After getting to grips with the game’s controls, the story begins when you come across a young creature called Boy travelling with his grandfather. Set upon by a ruffian, the grandfather unfortunately dies. Pseudo isn’t about to let Boy be harmed, though, and steps in to defend him. After that, he agrees to help him get to somewhere safe. It’s a task that requires more work than he anticipated, what with Boy possessing special powers that are sought after by those with evil intent.
And so, a journey begins where a gruff, short-tempered warrior is offset by a spunky and somewhat naïve child. And to draw even more comparisons to God of War, there’s a semi-open world to explore as well an over-the-shoulder camera and brutal combat. You’re given a choice of three combat styles at the start of the game – Lightning, Boxing and Spear – and your choice will determine your basic fighting moveset. This can be developed over time, however, and you’ll even acquire skill points that you can spend to make Pseudo more powerful on the whole.
Combat seems a little scrappy, but there is some time for polish before launch. In any case, players can put together stings of combos, and work special attacks into them to do additional damage. To really succeed though, players need to master dodging and parrying enemy attacks. Dodging can even be used to employ directional attacks, opening up your arsenal even further. Adding a bit of flair is a meter that allows you to enter a first-person combat mode for a short period when full. Unleash a flurry of attacks, and when it ends you’ll perform a powerful finisher that truly sends enemies reeling.
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos has numerous Soulslike elements, including healing being limited to a number of flasks. What’s unique here, though, is that you can concoct your own brews, using everything from harvested plants to animals to add a wide range of effects. Other items you can collect have uses, too. Some can be used to barter with merchants, allowing you to obtain useful gear. And then there are figures, which are used to bolster your skills.
Perhaps the most stand-out thing about Clash: Artifacts of Chaos, however, aside from its glorious art style that makes every frame look like a work of pencil art, is a unique dice game called Ritual. Every time you encounter an intelligent enemy, you can challenge them to a game of Ritual if you wish. And they can challenge you, too.
When a game of Ritual begins, both players have to lay down an artifact from those they have at hand: whoever wins, the handicap described on their artifact will be applied to the loser, putting them at a disadvantage in the following fight. It might be that they’re constantly hounded by bees if they stand still, for example, or surrounded in a dense fog that limits their vision. With artifacts settled, both players then roll a pot of dice and begin placing tacks, which affects the numerical values of the dice in various ways. Once tacks are placed, the player whose dice have the highest overall numerical value is declared the winner.
It’s clear from short a short amount of time with Clash: Artifacts of Chaos that it’s going to be a wild and interesting ride, full of challenging encounters and strategic games of Ritual. In fact, our only real concern so far is that it’s easy to feel a little lost at times, with very little direction being offered. Some will no doubt appreciate this though, leaving them to feel their way around its unusual world. In any case, if you’re a fan of action adventure games, you’d be very wise to keep this on your radar.
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos launches 9th March on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.