• Satisfying fight with a low barrier to entry
  • Super interesting characters, NPCs and overall world
  • Annoying Hollow Deep Dive system, but at least it’s shortened 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, like you can actually resist its flashy visuals and laid-back lo-fi vibes. Marketing efforts for this long-awaited ARPG have been completely off the charts lately – it’s everywhere you look these days, and rightfully so.

People have been waiting for this feast for the eyes for ages. Now that it has officially launched, it is time to judge once and for all: is it really worth the hype?

Table of contents:

Zenless Zone Zero Story and Visuals

Okay, I know that last sentence was a bit dramatic, but if the review I gave this game is any indication, you already know how I feel about it (a bit of an anticlimax – sorry). Zenless Zone Zero wastes no time throwing you straight into the action, delivering on its promises of adrenaline-pumping combat and proving just how seriously it takes the “action” in “action RPG” right from the get-go.

character action pose with skills description in menu

What makes it all the more fun is the way the visuals are designed. Everything is just so damn cool that you can’t help but ooh and ahh at the cutscenes and comic book inspired storylines, especially given the colorful outfits and even more colorful personalities of the characters.

As Proxy, it’s your job to lead Agents through a post-apocalyptic world and into the dangerous Hollows – mysterious black hole-like realms that corrupt everything they touch. You might rescue stranded civilians or dispatch pesky villains for some loot, but whether your intentions are noble or not, one thing is for certain – corrupted Ethereals stalk every corner of the Hollows, so you’ll have to hone your combat skills if you want to escape unscathed.

Zenless Zone Zero gameplay

This is where the game’s biggest appeal comes from. The combat in Zenless Zone Zero is fast, stylish, and just incredibly satisfying. I can’t remember ever enjoying combat so much, because everything is just so damn fun.

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

You can quickly switch between agents and unleash a whole host of attacks with a single tap (I’ve also got a handy combat guide in case you’re lost), but strategy also plays a role here, as you’ll need to find the best move combinations to create better synergy between your team members.

The controls are deceptively simple and every fight you fight will make you feel like you have godlike skills because you’re the coolest kid on the block. No matter which Agent you choose, you’ll still feel the thrill of taking down each Ethereal with a flourish, all thanks to the multiple camera angles, zoom effects and plenty of slow-motion that all come together to make fighting the bad guys feel like a supercharged endorphin rush.

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

characters standing behind a reception desk

Doggos, mecha-armed chefs, tin robots and talking bins abound, and as you explore every nook and cranny of this beautifully chaotic street, you won’t run out of quests and new delights to discover. Elements change throughout the day too – what’s there in the morning isn’t necessarily there by the afternoon, while certain things can come to life in the evening if you look hard enough.

What’s so appealing about it?

Now, since all of this sounds absolutely fantastic so far, you might be wondering why I haven’t given Zenless Zone Zero a top score yet. Unfortunately, it’s because of that glaring issue I already talked about in my Closed Beta Test preview – the dreaded Hollow Deep Dive system (or HDD for short).

You must navigate a drab and gray TV landscape with your Bangboo (cute, rabbit-like mascots/sentient assistants), with a roguelike element in the form of puzzles and a board game mechanic.

It’s still dull, still boring, and it still takes away from the thrill of the combat and the colours bursting to life in the city itself – but in all fairness, the time you’ll spend in the HDD has been significantly reduced in this official build, with a special Accelerated Playback Mode that speeds up certain elements in TV-land. It doesn’t entirely solve the problem here, but it does alleviate the boredom, allowing you to either dive back into the fight or head back out into the city for more antics with its interesting inhabitants.

characters in battle performing a special move

The main story mission is also no longer as limited by the HDD as before. You can now explore other parts of the world with your trusty vehicle and leave the HDD tasks to side missions if you wish.

That small adjustment alone makes the game a lot more fun, especially since there is so much more to see and do outside of that boring TV world.

You can really see how much love, effort and attention the development team has put into even the smallest details of the ARPG. For example, you can now check out even more fun extras in the Inter-Knot before you go to sleep (you now have a bedroom!).

character flipping through phone in bedroom

There are also all sorts of strange characters on the streets, on top of the already strange NPCs in the shops. There’s Officer Mewmew who is the embodiment of public safety, a Sage in a Barrel who believes it’s a new lifeform despite it being a trash can, and a broken-hearted Bangboo in a torn toy box with a Sale sticker on it who thinks he can transform into a cardboard warrior (he can’t).

The dog that sells newspapers is still there, but if I woke him up at night he wouldn’t sleep anymore (I felt like the biggest creep in the world back then).

character crouching over a mascot resembling a rabbit on the sidewalk

It all adds to Zenless Zone Zero’s charm, and despite the flashy HoYoverse badge, the little details prove that everyone who worked on it created the game as a labor of love and not just a cash cow. I truly believe they wanted to give players something we can all genuinely enjoy – no predatory in-app purchases necessary.

That said, it’s still a gacha game, and the pricing is a little disappointing, given that in my experience you often end up getting gear instead of actual Agents in the summon pool. But with how good the starting roster already is – Billy still has my heart, of course – the gacha element takes a back seat here, in my opinion, and you can get away with it with flying colors even without all the S-rank characters in your lineup.

Overall, Zenless Zone Zero ticks all the boxes for me, and it’s the kind of mobile game where I don’t automatically want to battle through it (except maybe skip all the HDD missions if possible). The team is reportedly hard at work on expanding the board system into something you can actually do in the city, which I’m all for. It doesn’t have to be open world though – Zenless Zone Zero’s self-contained locations are interesting enough on their own.

characters pose for a group photo

I think it’s another one of those games where I think, “I can’t believe this is free.” And since you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, I don’t see why you shouldn’t try it and find out for yourself.