In Horizon Zero Dawn you play as Aloy who grows up as an outcast, and an orphan, raised in the wilderness by a man named Rost. He teaches to how to hunt and survive in the wild. One thing that kind of bugged me on a personal level was the names that Guerrilla Games came up with. I get what Guerrilla was trying to do with “Rost” as rust, “Aloy” as alloy, but even simple names from people before the apocalypse have dumb names.
So far Horizon Zero Dawn is checking all my boxes. I haven’t bought a single Ubisoft game since Far Cry 3 because that was the last good Ubisoft sandbox game. A big problem for a lot of open world games nowadays is that they think who has the biggest map wins. Leaving a lot to be desired from their big, open, and bland worlds. With so little substance I usually don’t even buy games that market themselves as open world games anymore. Guerrilla thankfully breaks that mold giving Horizon Zero Dawn’s map plenty to explore and do. The game just feels huge and plays huge. Early on in the game, I bought the maps that reveal the locations of the collectibles, which are quite plentiful. I can’t remember that last game to use all the space on their map so effectively. I’m also thankful for there not being any invisible walls. If they don’t want you to go somewhere there will be a gate, though after the start of the game I haven’t run into any more of those.
I’m not going to delve too deep into the story but so far it’s actually pretty good. There is plenty of intrigue from the start of things sprawling out over the first few hours of Horizon Zero Dawn setting up mysteries, playing out from birth to becoming an adult. Mass Effect: Andromeda could really have used some advice from Guerrilla Games on how to make an intriguing first act. Within the first few hours I have my main motivation, answers that only raise more questions, and a vague push towards a town called Meridian.
Horizon Zero Dawn starts out when Aloy wanders towards other humans when they react quite nasty towards her. She runs away crying, stumbling through the brush before falling into a cave. There she finds her ‘Focus’; a tool that is essential in the game. The storytelling takes on an organic approach. So far I am twenty-six hours in and the game says I am only fifty percent done with Horizon Zero Dawn. I only try to do side missions to level up for the main story missions and seems I still have ways to go.
The combat is varied with many different ways to take on the machines in Horizon Zero Dawn. You start out with a simple bow and spear. At first, some machines may seem overwhelming, but if you can learn their patterns and dodge while hitting their weak spots you will have a much higher rate of success. This becomes much more challenging if there is a group of them or more than one type of machine. Most of my deaths have come from trying to pull off a shot only for a totally different enemy to come out of left field and take off half my health or more. Other times I have made some fights a cakewalk, by climbing to a place just high enough the enemy can’t hit me. Though this tactic is useless against the flying enemies or enemies with a ranged attack. Who gives the robot alligator a long range attack anyways?
If you take time and learn how to use all of Horizon Zero Dawn's tools properly it’s a much more rewarding challenge. Setting up trip lines, and traps, and stealth to your full advantage. If long range isn’t working you can use your spear which has two attacks. A slow attack that misses half the time or a slower attack that can deal more damage, but still misses half of the time. You can’t modify or upgrade your spear the entire game unless you count the perks that increase melee damage.
I am saving this till last because it might be a slight spoiler even though it happens within the first few hours of Horizon Zero Dawn and I still flipped out over it. Once you defeat your first corrupted machine, Aloy retrieves a device that allows her to pacify machines, but what I didn’t expect after I pacified a Strider was that it was mountable! I was like a kid in a candy shop getting to ride around on my own robot horse. You can also pacify Watchers and other to act as short-term companions but I largely found it useless, since the few times it did fight for me it was easily dispatched. I guess that could be its own reward though.
All in all Horizon Zero Dawn is the first open world game in quite some time to actually benefit from being open world. Even from just a technical standpoint alone, this game could get perfect marks. Coming from the bug ridden, glitches infested Mass Effect: Andromeda to Horizon Zero Dawn is a delightful breath of fresh air. It even makes cut-scenes skippable. Something a surprising amount of developers forget to do. If you have a PS4 and like open world games then this a game you’ll want to pick up sooner than later. Take it from someone who waited and is now kicking themselves for not getting Horizon Zero Dawn sooner. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game is game of the year.
Horizon Zero Dawn — PlayStation Experience 2016
Horizon Zero Dawn was developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PS4 on February 28th, 2017. A copy of the game was purchased by myself for reviewing purposes.