Zenless Zone Zero Has a Pacing Problem
Screenshot by Siliconera

Zenless Zone Zero Has a Bad Pacing Problem

For a game about encouraging fighting and battle encounters, HoYoVerse spends a lot of time in Zenless Zone Zero keeping players away from or limiting their time with the combat that is the best part. The pacing in the tutorial and campaign feels flawed. Not to mention the movement methods to “explore” the Hollow detract from the experience, given the execution and only occasional opportunities to witness the space firsthand.

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I think it hits hardest because this is going on from the very start. While other HoYoVerse games like Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail wall off elements like multiplayer opportunities or certain events until you reach certain ranks or complete specific tutorial missions, neither feature the flawed and extended pacing of Zenless Zone Zero. The time it takes to finally meet our protagonists Wise and Belle, isn’t too bad. However, getting to a point when you can freely explore Sixth Street and access every facility involves actual hours of playtime. It’s quite a shock. 

Screenshot by Siliconera

This isn’t helped by the actual mission-based and Hollow-exploration experience. Whereas other HoYoVerse games like Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact involve exploration, unique environments, and opportunities to engage with the world, Zenless Zone Zero… doesn’t. Quests involve moving along a “map” of monitors, occasionally solving block-pushing puzzles, only to go into battle in the same sorts of bite-sized spaces repeatedly. While these enemy encounters eventually start to be a bit more varied after about five hours of play, early on it does feel like you’re spending most of your time moving along the screen grids or seeing comic panel cutscenes to take part in between two and five 2-3 minute battles. 

The way in which Zenless Zone Zero handles its characters also can result in awkward pacing, given each person controls differently. So unlike games like Genshin Impact or Honkai: Star Rail, where we have versatile protagonists that can adopt different roles in teams due to shifting their element or path, we don’t have a main character who can be a Jack of all trades to help us ease into it. This is a game where who you manage to own matters more than ones where having teams of certain paths or people with certain weapon types means you can generally be fine. If you don’t like how the first few free characters you get in Zenless Zone Zero work, you’re in trouble. 

Screenshot by Siliconera

Worse, the pacing means you’re forced into using initial free characters that aren’t exactly great or easy to use. The free pre-registration bonus character Corin is a slow DPS character very dependent on fellow Victoria Housekeeping allies and additional Mindscape unlocks to be viable. Of the free Cunning Hares characters, Nicole is the only potentially viable one due to her crowd-control abilities. It is very possible you won’t even find a character you like using until you unlock the ability to use the gacha and pull someone else, which can take a few hours based on your luck. I personally didn’t start to really enjoy combat until I got a random-luck Rina from Ellen’s focus banner within my first 10 pulls and got Nekomata from Star-Studded Cast guaranteed launch five-star. 

Zenless Zone Zero didn’t start clicking for me until I helped the Cunning Hares and Nekomata with their case. By that point, I’d already been playing for at least an hour each day for five days since the July 4, 2024 launch. If I hadn’t been doing so for work, I’m not sure I would have stuck with it. All the while, I kept thinking that there are elements of a good game here! The character design is fantastic. I like the bits of lore that come through. Once I started using a team made up of Nekomata, Rina, and Anton, I even really got into the combat. However, the pacing for the campaign got me every time, and I worry that it could affect the game’s success unless HoYoVerse makes some adjustments.

Zenless Zone Zero is available for the PS5, PC, and mobile devices. 

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Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.