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Zenless Zone Zero’s Small, Bite-Sized Nature Is Perfect for Me

Getting into a HoYoverse game has always been a bit of a struggle for me. Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail are fantastic games in their own right, featuring large worlds and zones for players to explore. But for the lazy gamer who wants to not have to look around and just chill in a small space from time to time? That sounds like a nightmare.

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With Zenless Zone Zero, however, it looks like HoYoverse has finally found a way to capture the attention of that smaller subset of players. Unlike its predecessors, ZZZ doesn’t feature any sort of open world. Instead, the game is broken down into smaller, bite-sized zones with activities to do and NPCs to talk to.

The main hub — Sixth Street — is small and cozy, and getting a coffee or a bowl of noodles for your daily buffs is only a few seconds away from the protagonists’ videotape store. It doesn’t take too long before you’ve become completely familiar with everything Sixth Street has to offer. And, in fact, I’d argue that the coziness it evokes also helps to bring about a sense of familiarity and connection to Zenless Zone Zero‘s world — a feeling I was never quite able to experience in Genshin Impact or Star Rail just because of how vast those games are.

the noodle shop in zenless zone zero

Zenless Zone Zero is also structured like a more conventional gacha game. You’ve got a list of missions to choose from, and each one comes with star ratings that will yield more rewards if you’re able to nab them. The much-maligned TV mode also helps to break things up, as its structure makes for very clear starting and stopping points, allowing you to quickly jump in and out of a stage without feeling like there’s so much more to see and do after finishing a mission.

This is especially crucial for players who generally enjoy being more casual with their mobile games, as there isn’t any pressure to continue playing for hours on end when everything has been broken up into neat little chapters for you.

This isn’t to say that ZZZ isn’t a game you can binge, either. If I’m making this game sound simple and far too easy, rest assured that there are way harder challenges waiting for you as you make your way to the endgame portion. Reckless Challenges and Hard Mode missions help elevate the game and bring the combat to the next level. While you could largely get through the early stages just by spamming buttons, Zenless Zone Zero offers much more challenging game modes later on for players who really want to learn the intricacies of the combat system and get good at it.

There’s plenty to grind for in the endgame too, with weekly boss runs to do, as well as the classic HoYoverse resin mechanic (it’s called Battery Charge in this one), time-gating you slightly so you can’t just power level all your characters in one sitting.

With Zenless Zone Zero, it’s clear that HoYoverse wanted to focus on creating an immersive environment with top-notch character designs rather than creating yet another massive open world for players to explore. While it’s obviously been scaled down quite a bit, it’s safe to say that I’ve never felt more connected with a pair of HoYoverse protagonists than I have with Belle and Wise. Their casual sibling bickering and rivalry are endearing, and it’s heartening to see that each character has so much time to shine in the story.

the coffee shop in zenless zone zero

The vibes of ZZZ are immaculate as well, with the soundtrack being one of the main highlights here. Everything about New Eridu, from the coffee-making robot to the retro videotape store, just screams style, resulting in one of the most well-realized worlds HoYoverse has ever created.

Not everything needs to be a huge open world that takes hundreds upon hundreds of hours to explore. Sometimes there’s satisfaction to be had in just being static, chilling with a cup of coffee as you bask in the comfort of familiarity, and that’s what Zenless Zone Zero does.

Zenless Zone Zero is available now.

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Zhiqing Wan
Zhiqing is a History undergrad from the National University of Singapore. She started playing video games in 1996 when her dad introduced her to Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil -- and the rest, as they say, is history. When she's not obsessing over Elden Ring and Dark Souls lore theories, you can find her singing along loudly and badly to Taylor Swift's latest bops. Formerly the Reviews Editor at Twinfinite, she joined the Escapist team in 2024. You can reach her at [email protected].