Horizon Zero Dawn is quite frankly, a fantastic game, and with March of this year being a month of fantastic games, I have no doubt Horizon will shadow all of them (Well, maybe not Zelda.) The game was announced all the way back at E3 2015 and generated a lot of 'buzz', mainly due to the game most unique feature, its robot dinosaurs. After countless trailers and gameplay teasers, the game was launched.
Just prior to the release I was skeptically excited for the game, but after dramatically deciding I wasn’t going to buy the game, I bought the game. Upon booting the game up my first thought was ‘wow’, words can't-do the beauty of this game justice. This game is beyond beautiful, I’ve never seen anything quite like this: the Decima engine is far and away the most beautiful in the industry. Nothing up to this point has even rivaled the beauty. This is what next-gen gaming should have looked like from the start.
As for the game itself, it is a very welcome breath of fresh air in the industry at a time where lots of open world games are being released that are all quite ‘Same-y’. The game’s unique time setting and addictive gameplay give it qualities of all the best open world games to date. There is evidence of where Guerilla has borrowed features from other popular games, like the vantage towers from the Far Cry series and the questing and crafting systems from The Witcher 3. These borrowed features may seem like a bad point to make about the game, but they’re definitely no bad thing as they come together to make one of the best games of this generation.
The game’s flame-haired protagonist, Alloy, sets a strong example for female protagonists and she serves as a fantastic character to view the world through, as she is just as clueless and as curious as the player. Having been locked away and out casted as a child she experiences the same wonder and awe we do when we lay eyes on the massive robotic ‘Tall-necks’ and the elegant ‘Sawteeth’. The witty comments and absently minded observations never fail to amuse, with one particular stand out comment towards the end of the game that made me stop playing and appreciate the writing for a solid five minutes.
With the game being set 1000 years after the Earth was destroyed, there obviously isn’t much left of what came before these new technological tribes, but the game’s story revolves around delving into the remains of the old world and uncovering its secrets, and the horrible truth about what happened. The story never feels forced, the gradual reveal adding effect to every little revelation, and with Alloy being just as curious as the player, there is nothing to do but push forwards and unveil the truth.
There are still some flaws, no game is perfect after all. My main gripe with the game is the lack of weaponry on offer, there is choice, yes, but with only Eight main weapon types it can be quite repetitive, the game has added a rarity colour system, with purple being the best and green being the worst, the standard for most games, but the weapons have very little in the way of diversity and the staged weapon categories only change in terms of damage, and not aesthetics, very boring. It took me all of about five hours to have a full set of purple weapons and from that point on the game didn’t put up much of a challenge until the last segment of the story.
Similarly there is a hidden armour set within the game which requires the player to jump through hoops to acquire, but the set is slightly game breaking in my opinion, allowing Alloy to take a huge chunck a damage before the armour’s shield breaks and allows her health bar to deplete. Although the armour set is difficult to acquire, I still think it should be more challenging, the set should serve as a reward for the games hardest challenges.
I do love this game, it’s amazing. But it is a sleeper hit and has come out just before some other industry giants, such as the new Zelda game and the much anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda. Horizon had the potential to soar above the competition, but it was grounded and buried under the strong line-up from March of this year. In short; If you own a PS4, buy this game.