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Zenless Zone Zero’s Bizarre Sci-Fi World May Be Its Biggest Selling Point

Home sweet home.

key art from Zenless Zone Zero

If you’re yearning for another gacha game to shove your paychecks into, you’re in luck. HoYoverse, developer of hit RPGs Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail, recently announced that its upcoming Zenless Zone Zero will launch on PC and consoles this summer.

Shortly after celebrating the first anniversary of Honkai: Star Rail on April 23, HoYoverse revealed that Zenless Zone Zero will be released on July 4. Unlike Honkai: Star Rail — which hit PC several months before coming to PlayStation 5 — Zenless Zone Zero will launch on PC, console, and mobile all at the same time. However, it will ignore Steam on PC, being available only through the Epic Games Store, just like its predecessors.

Zenless Zone Zero builds a whole new world for HoYoverse.

So what is Zenless Zone Zero about? Good question! I have no idea. Here’s how the game’s official website explains it:

In the near future, a mystery known as the "Hollows" has occurred. In this devastated world, a new kind of city has emerged — New Eridu. This last oasis has mastered the technology to coexist with the Hollows and is home to a variety of chaotic, boisterous, dangerous, and very active factions. As a professional Proxy, you play a vital role in connecting the city to the Hollows. Your story awaits.

There you have it. As far as I can tell, something has happened, and now you have to do something about it. In all fairness to Zenless Zone Zero, plenty of video games sound absurd if you just describe them in a short, internet-friendly blurb, especially high-concept sci-fi games that are more about gameplay than story. The idea of a train traveling through space with a crew of misfits collecting planet-destroying Macguffins also sounds silly if you say it like that, but it hasn’t stopped Honkai: Star Rail from being a success.

While the main plot of Honkai: Star Rail isn’t what keeps people playing, other elements of the game’s writing feel essential to its success. The game’s world is filled with clever jokes, engaging side quests, and — maybe most importantly — likable characters. Even with its absurd story, Zenless Zone Zero could still win fans over if it brings the same winning vibe as its predecessor, and it seems to be on the right track.

HoYoverse revealed that Zenless Zone Zero hits all platforms on July 4.


Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail are both far from typical fantasy RPGs. Between Genshin’s world filled with living gods and Star Rail’s aforementioned space train, they both have their own distinct settings filled with unique lore. HoYoverse is building yet another idiosyncratic, genre-mixing world for Zenless Zone Zero, this time veering more into cyberpunk sci-fi.

Despite its dimensional portals and roaming monsters, the city of New Eridu feels more instantly recognizable than HoYoverse’s other games. It feels in many ways like a modern city, boasting taxi cabs, ramen shops, and characters equipped with cellphones. Based on the game’s trailers, its vibes seem more in line with Square Enix’s The World Ends With You than Genshin Impact. The player character even runs a video store — which I guess places it more in the past than the present, but is still easier to relate to than anything in Genshin Impact or Honkai: Star Rail.

The stories of HoYoverse’s games tend to be dense and full of frustratingly unskippable cutscenes. With casts of characters in the dozens, just following the backstories of your favorites can be a challenge. That only becomes more of a problem for anyone playing more than one of the developer’s games and trying to keep one set of cute anime heroes apart from another, which may end up being Zenless Zone Zero’s biggest hurdle. Gacha games are big business, bringing in tons of money for their developers. And once you’ve dropped enough money on one, it can be harder to abandon it for yet another competitor. With three new gacha games released in the past few years, and a major revamp of its earlier Honkai Impact 3rd this year, HoYoverse is at risk of cannibalizing its own audience. Add in other recent gacha games like Wuthering Waves, and it can feel like there’s simply no more room for another.

Zenless Zone Zero’s sci-fi setting could help ground players in the world.


But a game set in a sci-fi version of the modern world could be more approachable to newcomers and stand out from the more fantastical crowd. Not only does its sci-fi city feel closer to home, but characters who work at the cyberpunk equivalent of Blockbuster and scarf down convenience store sandwiches on their lunch break feel instantly more relatable than the crew of interstellar explorers about Honkai: Star Rail’s Astral Express. If nothing else, it’s a gift to fan fiction writers who don’t even need to make up an alternate universe to have their favorite characters meet up for romantically charged conversations at a coffee shop.

Of course, Zenless Zone Zero likely won’t live up to HoYoverse’s other games regardless of setting if its gameplay doesn’t stack up. Previews have so far been divided over whether its fast-paced combat is engaging or just mindless button-mashing, and fans won’t be getting any more technical tests to try the game out before release. The game as a whole could still fall flat, but the funky take on city life may be enough for players looking for a bit more variety from their gacha games.

Zenless Zone Zero launches on PlayStation, PC, iOS, and Android on July 4.

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