Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
This game has quickly become one of my favourites. Not surprising, right? Well there are good reasons why Horizon Zero Dawn has generally been very well received. As an open world game with RPG elements, it pretty much hits the nail on the head, a solid story, breathtaking scenery, and a lot of interesting side quests.
Intriguing Story with Early Predictive Moments
A good story captivates you. Makes you believe in it. Which is what this game achieves. As you play through it, you’ll constantly ask yourself, “why is everything so messed up?” and “how is Aloy’s focus (her guidance system) still working after all this time?”, well the second one not so much! The game gets you asking questions. While it’s not the best story I’ve seen, with some predictable moments, it’s still very enjoyable.
With the absence of Aloy’s parents, her father figure is quite interesting. Rost, exiled from the Nora tribe, guides her through her childhood into adolescence. Sounds familiar to almost every ‘up and coming’ hero story, right? It only gets better from here.
Side Quests are a Nice Distraction
Side quests tie in nicely with the story line. You may be tasked to take on trials to prove your worth, aid fellow members of your tribe or simply help strangers out in the wild. You might even find yourself distracted from the story because side quests are either very rewarding, or fun to complete.
While the story is solid, it can be easy to look past the negatives and simply concentrate on its positives. There are problems with the game, while they are very few, we can’t ignore them. The biggest drawback is how facial animations during dialogue, especially during the more important ones are lacklustre. There’s nothing worse than seeing lips hardly moving when there is dialogue. It can almost ruin good scene. Disappointingly, Aloy’s facial animations are among the worst in this game. She almost looks soulless, with very little expression shown. Don’t get me wrong though, she’s a strong, unique character and that is shown through her actions and I do like her. Aloy’s facial animation should be the strongest and it just doesn’t show that, unlike other characters whose animations are actually how they should be, like Rost.
Aloy’s Focus, is a small device she attaches to the top side of her ear, like a hands free set! It’s a cool system that allows her to track and interact with the ‘Old Ones’ (the machines) technology. It’s not really all the unique, as we have seen these things in games like The Last of Us, where Joel can focus on his hearing to track enemies, which I feel was a little silly. At least in Horizon Zero Dawn, it makes more sense.
The combat system is very fluid. Each attack flows well into the next one and you can do some interesting setups while hunting. I love how you can alert a horde of Lancehorns to have them run into your tripwire to destroy them all within a small window of time. Or you can go a setup to knock off materials from them to maximise your loot. Some missions, like the trials, will have you using specific setups to complete them. You get to use everything in your arsenal, and the game makes sure you do that. Especially with how different machines have varied strengths and weaknesses. So you have to use your whole toolkit.
This is where difficulty comes in. There are four difficulty levels; Easy, Normal, Hard and Very Hard. While I haven’t tried Very Hard yet, I can say that Hard mode is quite a challenge when you’re introduced to much tougher enemies. This is where you will need to utilise traps, taking over a machine to help you (which is extremely useful might I say). A Sawtooth vs another Sawtooth is a great sight to see.
The second post at this link will give you some information on what each difficulty changes.
The Right Amount of RPG
Note that I said “with RPG elements”. Don’t expect anything like Divinity: Original Sin, one of the most hardcore RPG’s I’ve ever played. A better comparison would be with the Tomb Raider (2013/2015) games, where you can upgrade weapons, change clothing for perks or stats and a skill tree to unlock some nifty abilities.
One of the best things about the game is how there isn’t a piece of gear that is the absolute best at everything. Sure there is the best stealth gear or the best melee protection gear, but you can’t have both. This is where good player choice comes into play. You decide when you need extra fire resistance, or that ranged damage protection.
Resource Collecting can get Tedious
How do you feel when you play a game where there are seemingly unlimited resources to be found, out in the wild? Pretty great, right? So what if Horizon Zero Dawn is that game, but when you find resources (which is very frequent), you find a lot of ’em? This is that game. And it can feel tedious. It’s nice a way of slowing things down, in between hectic battles against machines, but I feel it happens too often. Maybe the amount of resources per loot should been increased, at the cost of the frequency at which you find them. This would have you focus more on the environment, hunting and missions rather than getting 10 branches every 20 meters. Maybe it’s just me being crazy. What do you think?
The thing with visuals, you can only really judge them on a game-per-game basis. What exactly is Horizon Zero Dawn trying to accomplish in this department? As it’s gone for a realistic approach, the game is spectacular and among the best I’ve seen on a console. Apart from facial animations, game looks fantastic and I’ve only noticed tiny FPS drops when the camera is zoomed in at a tight angle, which is rare anyway. Horizon Zero Dawn performs like water.
There’s even a Photo Mode
If you think the game looks great playing, you probably haven’t tried out ‘Photo Mode’ yet. Photo Mode is exactly as it says. It’s a mode where you can take snaps of the world, with or without Aloy. You can get some breathtaking shots of the world, with effects like depth of field, vignette, saturation, borders, brightness and more. While it’s not particularly game changing, it’s nice to take a photo of special places with added effects, which adds a nice change of pace. Of course, if you’re into this sort of thing. ; )
Horizon Zero Dawn has many things going for it. The visuals, combat system, great performance and many more. It does have its flaws, as does any game. If you aren’t bothered much by the facial animations and how frequently you loot resources in the wild, then I can’t recommend this game enough. But honestly, these two main issues are outweighed by the positives. This game is a must buy for us PlayStation players and will give you a truly enjoyable experience, one you won’t regret. Sorry Xbox, looks like PlayStation gets another one-up.
What’s your take on Horizon Zero Dawn? If you aren’t a fan, what are the reasons? Your opinions interest me too!
+ Stunning visuals and beautiful, yet brutal world
+ Fluid combat and different ways of approaching it
+ Simple skill tree with abilities to look forward to
+ You use different sets of weapons and gear in different scenarios
+ Difficulty is good and can be changed at any time
– Facial animations are inconsistent and at times, faces look soulless
– Looting resources out in the world can be dreadfully boring
– Beginning of the story is a little predictable