Game: Horizon Zero Dawn1
Developer: Guerilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Release Date: February 28th, 2017
With the Nintendo Switch out now that this is posted I felt a particular urgency to play Horizon. It’s a game I knew I would like and one I was determined to spend as much time with as possible prior to Zelda and the Switch. Roughly three days later I’ve put over thirty hours into Guerilla Games PS4 exclusive, and I’m so glad I made time for it.
Our protagonist is Aloy, a female outcast of the Nora tribe and a skilled hunter. Horizon is set in what I can only describe as the post-post-apocalypse. Maybe I’m just making excuses for a game I like but how far removed ( by thousands of years) Horizon is from the end of the world makes it infinitely more interesting than your typical post-apocalyptic game. Your task is simple, win acceptance into the Nora tribe that shunned you as a “Motherless outcast” and discover the truth about your own heritage as well as the truth behind what happened to the “metal world” and the people that came before.
The world of Horizon is populated with lots of dangers including Raiders and cultists, but the biggest by far are the wild machines. The wilds of this earth are filled with rejects from Transformers Beast Wars. The smallest of the bunch are known as Watchers, they resemble raptors and are easy enough to take down. These typically appear as guardians for herds of other machines to alert them to your presence. Beyond Watchers, you’ll encounter a whole lot of cool looking animal-themed robots from the Bison looking Long Horns to the Sawtooth which is essentially a huge Sabertooth Tiger. The deeper into the game you get, the more you’ll encounter large-scale killers like the Thunderjaw a T-rex with twin missile launchers and an attitude.
Combat with these beasts is one of the deepest and most enjoyable gameplay aspects of Horizon. You don’t have the power to brute force these beasts so instead you’ll rely on Aloy’s Focus an ancient device that gives her a sort of eagle vision or detective mode that is all too common in open world games these days. You can use this to locate glowing weak points on enemies and pick away at them slowly in a very, Monster Hunter like fashion. Some of the larger enemies like the Thunderjaw can even have heavy weapons knocked off and used against them. If monster slaying is your game Horizon has a whole line of hunting lodge side quests to scratch that itch.
Aside from necessary large scale encounters Horizon has a large focused on stealth. Small human enemies and small robots like the Watchers can be killed with a single strike from stealth. Horizon took a page from Assassins Creed with a whistle mechanic that had me stacking bodies in the bushes pulling my enemies one at a time.
As you complete main story missions and side missions you’ll accumulate experience and be able to dump skill points into upgrades abilities like increased stealth or stronger melee strikes. In addition to these abilities, Aloy will gain some exceptional skills through completing side quests. Early on Aloy gets the ability to hack small machines to fight for her. Throughout the game you’ll find robot manufacturing plants called “Cauldrons” reaching the center of one of these and hacking its core will allow you to subsquently hack the machines produced there but don’t expect to do so without a fight.
In addition to Aloys bow, you can purchase many weapons from traders on your journey including trip wires and a sort of repeater rifle. I never used much more than my trusty bow, and a weapon called the rope caster which allows you to tie down enemies temporarily. You can also buy new armor sets for Alloy which give certain benefits like damage reduction from specific elements. You can also find and craft upgrade modules to boost weapon and armor stats.
The crafting system of Horizon is incredibly deep. One rule applies always be looting. Grab plants, machine scraps everything you can, you’ll always be crafting fresh ammo and health potions and most of these materials are also used in trading with merchants, however, the metal shards you loot are the primary currency in play.
Most importantly for me, Horizon fixes a lot of the problems I have with open world games. For starters it has towers to help reveal the map in the roaming Long Necks but only four in the entire game. You mean I don’t have to climb 400 watch towers? Thanks Guerilla. The map also doesn’t feel too populated, you have plenty of side activities, but they don’t feel overwhelming. You can also buy maps to reveal more icons if you like horrible messes. Combat doesn’t feel repetitive like it often does in games like Farcry and Assassins Creed fighting behemoths that are far stronger than you keeps you on your toes.
It seems funny to say that one of Horizons biggest strengths is that it delivers on story. I have no doubt we will see a Horizon trilogy, despite this Guerilla left no real dangling threads. Horizon answers all of the big questions it answers. A sequel is basically a sure thing, but it may be something very diffrent.
Horizon Zero Dawn is a really special game. It blends an enticing story with likable characters and gorgeous environments. It has challenging and rewarding combat that makes you want to challenge robotic death machine for hours on end. Horizon Zero Dawn is a perfect open world game and Sonys new IP to watch.
Score: 10 out of 10