Zenless Zone Zero's first beta shows off its roguelike city

Zenless Zone Zero -
(Image credit: HoYoverse)

Hoyoverse's free-to-play action follow up to Genshin Impact is a game whose combat looks nearly identical but is set in a vastly different structure and world. Zenless Zone Zero is an anime action game where you collect characters (presumably with gacha systems to be revealed at a later date), but instead of an open world game, it's a room-based roguelike.

The first closed beta for Zenless Zone Zero started today, and we're already starting to see lots of actual gameplay crop up online from players who Hoyoverse invited to participate.

The game is set in a modern urban city named New Eridu, where your trio of anime protagonists hop into Hollows, or corrupted holes in the world, to defeat monsters. It's a fairly simple premise to set up the game's roguelike structure where you take on missions and explore a grid of television screens. Each screen offers randomized buffs and decisions to make as you light up more and more and eventually dive into an arena to fight off enemies. As you progress, the difficulty increases, but if you fail, you get to keep some specific upgrades to your crew for the next run.

Zenless Zone Zero's combat, like most Hoyoverse games, requires you to swap between your three characters while performing combo attacks and special abilities. Unlike in Genshin, they can perform attacks together as you shift back and forth, something Genshin leaves solely to passive ability interactions. The battles look a lot more flashy with dynamic, close-up shots of the action and the ability to dodge attacks and trigger a slow-mo mode.

In between the fights, you'll progress through a story filled with visual novel style dialogue. It's a bit of a shame there aren't actual cutscenes, at least not that we've seen so far. You play as a Proxy that guides all the characters around, which might mean there's more opportunity for its main characters to actually speak more than Lumine or Aether in Genshin.

The game's Tuning Test, or closed beta, is out now on PC and mobile. Hoyoverse hasn't given it an end date, but will probably let more people in as time goes on.

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Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.