Pioneering an idea is one of the gaming industry’s sought after trophy. For one, as a developer, you get a whole new genre named after your creation. Take Dark Souls for example. On the otherhand, some games would see yours as a precursor, a shining model made to be emulated and copied. Some games do that and some succeed in taking the good parts and making it theirs. Others fail miserably, branded as copycats rather than making their mark. On the good side, games Like Shadow of Mordor rise up to the task. Similarly so is the PS4’s new exclusive game, Horizon Zero Dawn.
What the Heck is Horizon Zero Dawn?
Strangely, upon booting up this game and playing it for a long while, I had this thought that I’ve already seen this somewhere else. Taking a trip down memory lane, it’s not hard to find similarities in not just one franchise, but in a whole lot.
For example, our protagonist is a red-haired girl trying to prove herself using a bow and arrow.
Interspersed with crafting and survival elements. Protagonist is left to wander a vast wilderness filled with beasts of varying sizes and shapes. Flowers and herbs (good and bad) are essential to surmount the islands’ trials.
As a very athletic woman, you scale heights, delving deeper into forgotten caves with your trusty bow and unparalleled wit.
Killing large monsters and using their body parts as trophies or wearing them as your skin.
Even with those examples above, Horizon Zero Dawn does great things with its inspirations. You’ll see why.
Good World, Bad Robots
Is anyone out there? Of course! Villages and havens of humanity are present in Horizon Zero Dawn’s world!
Horizon Zero Dawn, if you have yet to view the trailers, is set in a post-apocalyptic world reclaimed by nature but co-inhabited with inorganic life. Humans have regressed into tribal clans, returning to another Dark Age of technology. Life in this world is harsh. Electricity is either a rarity or a superstitious force that people shun. Here, computers are seen as cursed objects that brought upon the destruction of humankind.
Believe me when I say that you can walk up to the other side. The map is HUGGGGEEEE!
Oddly enough, everyone’s fine seeing mechanical cows and horses grazing across the vast expanse. These electric beasts are of unknown origin, with the humans just accepting them as a fact of life, not questioning their origins or such.
Now we’re into Horizon Zero Dawn’s plot. Aloy (pronounced as Ey-loy) an outcast child by birth is shunned by her clan, the Nora. Due to a number of question left unanswered, such as who her mother is, Aloy decided to join the Proving, an annual test of strength and character held by the Nora. Knowing that winning the contest would remove her status as an outcast, she then trains to join. As always, to keep the plot going on and give our heroine an excuse to travel, something extremely bad happens. Aloy then finds herself in the forefront of an investigation that leads her to lands unknown.
To throw or not to throw…
I won’t spoil much since the story quite well-paced. At some points in the game, the player is also given choices that would determine how Aloy would approach certain situations.
Hunt and Bag ’em!
In the first parts of the game, sneaking is the only (safe) way to bag a kill.
So what kind of game is Horizon Zero Dawn? In one sentence: it’s a third-person, open-world, action-adventure game spliced with hunting and Monster Hunter. Aloy is a huntress trained from youth, and as expected, she’s very well-versed in fighting opponents, be they of steel or flesh. Since the world is brimming with both natural and artificial structures, Aloy is also capable in scaling and traversing them.
With the absence of technology in Horizon Zero Dawn, most hunters and huntresses rely on the trusty bow. Guns are present, but are of extremely limited quantities. Firearms also tend to be heavier and bulkier in this game. To compensate the lack of arsenal, spears made of steel, slingshots that fire elemental ammo, and intricate warbows, are available for the player to use.
Killing enormous beasts require preparation, planning, and a number of deaths before succeeding.
As the world of Horizon Zero Dawn is plentiful of flora and fauna, suffice to say it’s obvious that gathering and hunting is a mainstay. With the help of weapons spliced with some imagination and wit, the player can hunt down beasts for their meat or parts. The larger the beast and the harder the challenge, the more parts you can get. Where do these parts go?
They become your arrows and pants.
Glad you asked. Horizon Zero Dawn also has a crafting feature that consumes rare materials to upgrade bags and tools. Told you it’s like Far Cry 3 and Monster Hunter. Aside from crafting, the player can acquire slotted kits (weapons and armor) that can be modded.
Naturally, stealth is plays a large part in this game. Bushes and hills provide good cover when hunting down prey. Everything seems easy at the start as a one-hit cheap shot can end it all. But as the game progresses, and to no one’s surprise, a T-Rex-sized beast can’t be downed with just one sneaky poke.
Aside from leveling up, some missions reward Skill points for consumption.
Lastly, a leveling system is also in play. The more quests you finish from those lazy quest-givers, the more experience you get. Leveling up grants you a skill point which you can use to further Aloy’s already capable list of awesomeness.
Beauty in Emptiness
Similar to Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn features a Photo Mode. You can even edit the time of the day in the photo!
I won’t delve into the graphics as it’s obvious that this game has the guns for it. Just look at the above pictures and see how light refracts from those branches and how the mesa appears detailed. There are some texture popping here and there but not enough to spoil the experience. The engine does a great job of fine-tuning framerates with what happens across the screen. I rarely suffered slowdowns during tense moments even when the screen was bombarded with visual effects.
The Hunt is On!
Made a slow approach to this Sawtooth (a robotic equivalent of a Sabertooth), but was surprised to find two of them. An epic battle then ensued.
Next, I’ll talk about experience. My time with Horizon Zero Dawn was mostly spent in exploring the world. I hunted down prey, gouged out their innards to make a high-quality wallet, and repeated the process. There are some times that I found myself in front of danger, but that’s what makes this experience all the more memorable. Having the odds against you, be it a gargantuan metal beast or multiple bots, the outcome (if positive) feels like a reward of some sorts. Preparation, planning, and execution, all of these are for the player to determine and carry out. The game just gives tools but everything else has the player’s hands in it. It doesn’t hold your hand as you get maimed or trampled, it punishes the unobservant and the unprepared. It’s moments like these that made me push through Horizon Zero Dawn at a non-stop pace.
Picking off a robots weapon off their body AND using it against them is gold!
Horizon Zero Dawn has what it takes to be one’s memorable game. Guerilla Games made good things from other sources, piled it into a cauldron, and sprinkled some of their personal magic in it, and the outcome is more than satisfying. Aloy’s journey across the world might have some plot holes and moments wherein one couldn’t help but raise a brow, but it all culminates in a fashion worth experiencing.
As stated before, everything brews well. From the graphics, the accompanying staccato, and wild encounters, all join together to make every player’s experience unique. It’s already a feat for a game to make things interesting even after 20 hours or so but Horizon Zero Dawn does that easily. It’s not surprising if you stay up late and forget about the time due to this.
It’s rare for a game to make you think about life. Things like, “what should I eat later?” “Should I go to work?” “Will I ever get married?” occasionally pops up in one’s mind.
One of the important things that I look for in games nowadays is length. Horizon Zero Dawn has the capability to keep up for 30 or 40 hours if you fancy doing some side quests. That game time can easily extend up to 60+ hours or so for completionists. The world is huge and secrets and collectibles abound.
After getting mauled by two Sawtooths, trampled by a Thundermaw, and clawed my way through bandit camps, I can say that this is one heck of a game. A must buy for PS4 owners and something to add to your growing list of “Should I Buy a PS4?” If you already have a PS4, Horizon Zero Dawn deserves a seat in the round table of highly coveted PS4 “Must Have Games”