Disclaimer: This post is not supposed to appear angry or passive-aggressive at Riot for Zoe. This is also not me stating my personal opinions on Zoe. For the record, I actually like Zoe's character, kit, art, and overall thematic for the most part. This is simply my attempt to theorize why the Boards have a general dislike of Zoe.
Something that I've noticed on the Boards is that, while response to Zoe's kit, story, and art separately have been well-received, her overall thematic and mostly personality have been getting much criticism. It's never a question of her quality; her voice lines, kit, bio, art, and especially animations are all on par with more recent champions, if not better. The only thing that is questionable about the quality is a few plot holes in her lore, but she has been said to bend the rules. Instead of a quality issue, I believe that there's just something about Zoe that irks players hugely, which mostly has to do with the Boards' general outlook, as well as Riot's. If you want a TL;DR, look at the bottom of the page, because this post is going to be a bit of a wild ride.
The following reasons of why Zoe as a character has been ill-received are mere conjecture. Some or all may not be true.
1. **Zoe represents a universally hated stereotype in League: "the Cool Kids".**
We all know who I'm talking about. The people who act obnoxious in-game and believe that they are the center of the universe. The teenagers that show off their skins that they probably bought with their parents' credit card and don't deserve. They use cringey lingo that they think is cool, like "noob", "lit", "boosted", etc. out of context. They whine and swear and claim that their rank deserves to be higher than what it is. They go on the Player Behavior section of the boards and claim that they were "unfairly banned" for saying a zero-tolerance policy word as its exact meaning. They talk down to people who are above them, whether it be in rank, maturity, or just common sense.
To be frank, this is definitely an exaggeration. But it is a well-known and widely-hated stereotype.
So what does this have to do with Zoe? Well, if you look at what I stated, she's similar to these people in a lot of ASPECTS (hehe). She's irritating, petulant, and childish. Those skins that the kid bought without earning it? Well, Zoe never had to go through the long struggle that the other aspects did. The Aspect of Twilight just swooped down and said "here ya go, kiddo." Whining? She certainly hates Lux's guts, and doesn't even try to hide it. Zoe's also far too innocent of her actions; she didn't seem to give a second thought to the village she nuked in her short story. As for my last point, and this one is most clearly represented with her; she teases and taunts Aurelion Sol. She looked at the not-so-friendy space dragon who created if not all, a large portion of the stars in the universe, and she decided to treat him like a puppy dog.
The bad timing and irony of this is increased by Riot's "Go Noobs" advertising campaign, which is honestly probably hated more than Zoe.
To be fair, she does have some redeeming qualities; her innocence and whimsical curiosity is certainly endearing, as is her complicated relationship with Aurelion. She's also lonely, wants friends, and looks up to every human female champ in the game (besides Lux), proving she does have standards. Her obsessive crush on Ezreal isn't necessarily healthy, but it proves that she can focus on one thing for at least a while.
Speaking of which, guess who is the closest to this stereotype other than Zoe? That's right, Ezreal. Not Lux; she's proven to be far more mature and has a pretty troubled past. Also, not Annie, who's more of a little kid and seems more up-front than whiny. Ezreal, however, is cocky and brash. He's not the most mature and is rather full of himself. He does have respect for others, and is ultimately a good guy, making him pretty likable in the way that Han Solo and Indiana Jones are. That might be the reason why Zoe has a crush on him, but it doesn't excuse her.
In other words, the community dislikes her over-childishness and attitude. I'm not saying that Riot shouldn't make a character like this; I'm just saying that they should expect her character to be poorly received. Her spontaneity certainly doesn't appeal either. And speaking of spontaneity...
2. **Zoe is a herald of change. Guess what a good chunk of the Boards hates most?**
You guessed it, change. You can hardly come on here after a major patch without seeing an angry thread demanding that Riot revert something on the Hot page. Regardless of whether these threads are warranted or not, a lot of the community here doesn't like changing things. "If it isn't broken, don't fix it" has been quoted many a time on the Boards (never mind some of those things are broken). In particular, the Boards don't like change for the sake of change, something which the Boards call Riot out on quite often.
Well, in her color story, Zoe wanders along a village with a particular goal. After some excitement, she basically nukes it, and realized her "goal" was completed. Then she off-handedly mentions the World Rune she uncovered there...
Wait a sec, a WORLD RUNE? WHY? Well, if you remember, the Aspect of Twilight (and by extension Zoe) are supposed to bring change. And we know how much change World Runes can bring. Either A) Ryze will find it (best case scenario) B) Some idiot will find it, and destroy a city not knowing what it is C) someone who knows what it is will find it and abuse its power or keep it locked away or D) Brand will find it, and... (worst case scenario). In any of the above cases, there are massive consequences for Runeterra, good or bad. But still, it is change for the sake of change.
This is completely ignoring her kit, which introduces a new CC, a summoner-spell stealing mechanic, and a short CD hop. Oh, and tons of damage.
She also warps reality around her. For people who don't like change, her messing with the laws of time and reality aren't going to appeal to many of the community. Time for my last point, which is much less important than the above two. It still deserves a mention, though.
3. **Everyone hates the space parasites.**
For those of you who don't frequent the SA&S boards often, it's somewhat an agreement among a decent chunk of the posters that Mount Targon's update was the worst post-retcon. Mostly people are annoyed about one of two things. The first is how it changed the Targonian champions' personalities and morals. For example, Leona went from being mostly a pacifist to more a zealot, and Diana went from insane and vengeful to being more sympathetic. The second is, well, the aspects. Mostly disappointment over Pantheon taking over Atreus's body, but also the fact that they enslaved Aurelion Sol, seem to not care about Runeterra, and are not very likable. Whether they are evil or not remains to be seen, as we know next to nothing about them. We have no champions that have their point of view or any justification for their actions, as Pantheon is outdated and Zoe doesn't really mention it.
However, there are a few quotes from Taric and Aurelion Sol's entire bio that seem to paint the aspects in a negative light. Mostly Zoe being Targonian, as well as nuking a village for no apparent reason, makes her seem much less than human and uncaring. Most people point to Viktor wanting to be more helpful than Zoe is, which I have to agree with given what we currently know about.
She defends Aurelion Sol from Pantheon for whatever odd reason, which makes me think that not all aspects get along. After all, while Zoe may not be completely taken over by the Aspect of Twilight, they've been sharing a body for millennia, so she'd probably echo the Aspect of Twilight's opinions. This could be an interesting plot point when Pantheon gets VGU'd.
But I digress.
All in all, I do not think Riot did a bad job with Zoe. If the goal was to make a petulant child with weird morality who changes the laws of physics, then well done! However, I assume Riot also wanted to make her somewhat likable and sympathetic; this is where I think they missed the mark. They managed to make the giant dragon from outer space more relatable than her, which is why I think she needs a little bit more characterization.
Her current characterization is fine, nothing should be removed, but it's missing positive elements.
Hopefully a Rioter sees this, and heeds my feedback. If you have any notes, comments, questions, etc. that you want to add on to the thread, then please contribute! I'd be interested to see where this goes.
Many people find problems with Zoe, and for a few reasons:
1. She's an annoying child, not unlike a whiny 14-year-old that you would find when playing League.
2. Zoe is a cause of change, and change for the sake of change. Being human beings, we dislike the chaotic nature of it; there's no clear goal or method to her madness.
3. She's a Targonian, and the Targon update is one of the least liked out of the major lore updates post-retcon.