Horizon Zero Dawn
- Developers: Guerrilla Games
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Genre: Action RPG
- Platforms: Playstation 4
- Release Date: 1st March 2017
- Microtransactions: None
In The Days Of The Caveman
Before I get into the crux of this review I just want to lay a bit of ground work. March has been an incredibly busy month of gaming. First up for me was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which I had put a good 70+ hours into and was sure a front runner for game of the year. Shortly afterwards I picked up and dove into this gem of a new IP. My play through to 100% completion and the platinum trophy was a good 65-ish hours and it has jumped straight to the top of my game of the year category and quite possibly my favourite play experience I’ve had in a game period. This for me is easily in the Link to the Past and Last of Us position of quality storytelling, amazing gameplay mechanics, extraordinary visuals and all-round as perfect as a game can be. I cannot score the game a 10 on this site due to site and scoring rules but let me assure you if the 10 was allowed this game is every bit deserving of that score.
The Land Before Time
The story of Horizon is a completely original and new take on the post-apocalyptic genre that is forever popular in film, tv and games these days. In this future dystopian world society has taken a backwards move to a more primitive way of life, divided into different areas and tribes living a more simple life whilst also trying to protect each other from the mechanical beasts that rule over most of the world known in game simply as ‘Machines’.
You play as Aloy a motherless outcast from birth from the Nora Tribe raised by fellow outcast Rost. As you grow up you question the reasoning behind you and Rost being outcasts and work your way to acceptance with the tribes. It’s quite an emotional style approach to the storytelling, and the further you dive into the story and learn more of Aloy’s and the world’s past it gets very deep very quick. I can’t really explain much more of the story without heading into spoiler territory but where it heads and goes is by far some of the best sci-fi style storytelling you’ll ever find in video game formats.
T-Rex Skin Boots
The gameplay of this game truly stands out for the uniqueness it provides in your combat. With you being primarily a huntress and an archer your main weapons tend to always be a bow of some kind and a staff. Having the bow as your main weapon differentiates this from most other post-apocalyptic games which focus heavily on guns, and the amount of different kind of arrows you can craft, created for unique battles and encounters that require you to constantly try new methods to bring the combat to your advantage.
You also craft other weapons such as bombs and tripwires that come in handy quite often to lay traps for prey to make your life much easier travelling through the wasteland. The weapon does come with a very simple upgrade and play system where you can either buy new weapons from vendors or upgrade ammo and carry capacities by hunting and gathering certain resources which you find in abundance throughout. These resources can come in forms of electrical goods harvested from ‘Machines’, plants gathered in the wild or bones and skin off real-world animals you encounter and hunt. All in all it’s a nice simple mechanic which doesn’t become a chore as it’s just a basic task that you end up doing regardless of whether you realise as you travel from one location to another.
The Age Of The Dinosaurs
Now let’s move on to a subject which initially turned a lot of people onto this game – giant freakin’ robot dinosaur animals! The ‘Machines’ in this game are the backbone to the gameplay and story throughout and boy oh boy do they look fantastic! They start with smaller easier to hunt and kill models, such as the Watchers and Striders which are very similar to Theropod dinosaurs and small horses all the way up to gigantic beasts like the Stormbirds and Thunderjaws who are more akin to giant Eagles and Tyrannosaurus Rex’s. Taking on each machine requires a different approach to the combat and most of the bigger machines found later in the game like the Thunderjaw or Behemoth’s require a mix of patience, skill and smart tactics to ultimately take them down. Whilst throughout the game you learn the means to override and control these machines by completing Cauldrons, you still need to be very careful when approaching these for a fight.
There is a good amount of variations in the different machines they created for the game, and the fact that all of the 20+ models are unique in both style and movement really gives off the impression that these guys really do run the land. A tactic you may discover that works incredibly well to kill one machine may ultimately end up kicking your ass against the next one.
They Do Move in Herds
Visually the world Guerrilla Games have created here looks stunning and really feels alive consistently. The little details they added within the different tribes and strongholds really help you feel like you have travelled to the other side of the world which with how large the actual map of the game is, you would hope to expect but not every game adds this little touch in. The weather and landscapes do change drastically throughout and eventually this can hinder you if you don’t have the right equipment to keep you going. For a world they’ve created with so much darkness in the storytelling it is incredibly bright and beautiful to look at until I suppose a giant Thunderjaw crushes you under its foot though.
Leaving the main story behind the game is filled incredibly deep with extra things to do. Whether it’s helping out a group of mercenaries clearing out bandit camps, delving deep into the mysterious cauldrons to learn more of the Machines history, even just helping travellers or tribesmen with simple side quests there is plenty to keep you going! My personal favourite of all the side activities you could do was taking part in the Hunting Lodge challenges, these involved applying to join a club of elite hunters and undertaking the trials they set for you to advance to become a more skill hunter. These missions awarded you with huge amounts of XP to level up and provide good insight and practice in mastering techniques to take down the Machines in swift and precise fashion.
My only main gripe with the game is a problem I have with a lot of games especially those in more of an RPG style genre – voice acting. If your game doesn’t feature Troy Baker or Nolan North in the main character leads I tend to find voice acting sometimes a little tedious myself. Whilst it isn’t necessarily bad in this game at certain points during cutscenes or dialogue choice options it can sometimes fall a little flat and scripted. Whilst I know every game, film or tv show is scripted there is a way of delivering dialogue naturally without it coming across very wooden. This is more of a little bugbear of mine in general more so than a complete negative but hey you can’t win everyone I suppose.
Whats That Coming Over The Hill
Overall there is more than enough in Horizon to keep you playing long after the story ended and with a promise of more stories to come this is definitely a new IP to keep an eye on as I can see this shooting straight up into elite series status. The story was emotionally gripping throughout and never let up, the mix of characters you meet throughout gave more than enough variation of life in the world and the gameplay and combat is second to none in my opinion so far this generation. I feel this is the game that is going to be remembered this generation as a new starting point and benchmark for Action Role Playing games to come.
- Gripping storytelling
- Great gameplay mechanics
- Wide selection of enemies throughout, each more stunning to look at and deadlier than the last
- Graphically stunning and the world feels and looks alive consistently
- Character dialogue can sometimes be a little flat with the options provided
- The game ended (in all honestly I couldn’t think of another con so I put this one on for good measure to seem a bit more balanced)