Horizon Zero Dawn is the highly anticipated new game developed by Guerilla Games for the PS4. Guerilla Games is a Sony owned studio and are known for developing the Killzone series, which was a highly successful franchise, and with Horizon Zero Dawn(more articles). They stepped out of their comfort zone and went in an entirely different direction and tried their hand with a different genre.
Were they able to deliver and make another successful game, or should they just stick to what they know with first-person shooters? Here I will talk about all the aspects I thought were good about the game, and what could be improved.
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Look and Feel – “Air, water, earth, and steel.”
Have you ever seen something so stunning that you had to just stop and look at it for a while to take it all in? That’s how I felt about the world of Horizon Zero Dawn. The graphics are breathtaking, from the grassy hills of the Sacred Lands, to the deserts and lush jungles of Meridian.
The world is beautiful, and with the day night cycle and weather system it feels alive. I caught myself many times just stopping and going into Photo Mode because the view was too good-looking to just ignore.
The people looked almost as good; They didn’t seem to have too much expression and when they smiled it looked a bit off, almost like they were wincing, but the models were impressive for minor NPCs and slightly better for important NPCs. Aloy, being the main character, obviously had the best character model, though she still suffered from a lack of facial emotion and sometimes what she was saying didn’t quite match her mouth movements, but that didn’t ruin the immersion for me.
Playing on a regular PS4, I had no framerate dips or stutter during my time in this huge open world, and everything ran smoothly for my whole playthrough. Even when I had quite a lot of Machines around me and all hell was breaking loose trying to take them all out, everything ran perfectly and the framerate held steady.
Story and Gameplay – “They do move in herds!”
The story takes place in a ‘post-post-apocalyptic’ setting where robot dinosaurs and animals the natives simply call Machines roam the world, and has you playing as a young huntress, Aloy, who was shunned from birth by the rest of her tribe, the ‘Nora’.
The story starts with you training for an event called ‘The Proving’ in which the winner gets whatever they ask for, Aloy’s wish being the truth about her mother. Things happen, and Aloy sets out on a quest of self-discovery.
I found Aloy to be rather likeable, she acts accordingly as someone who was shunned from birth, questioning beliefs and sounding irritated about the mere mention of the Nora. Ashley Burch did a good job voicing her, however sometimes I felt that her voice acting could have been better, a bit more emotion here and there would’ve gone a long way as sometimes Aloy does sound disconnected and bored.
Robots in the wild
The mechanics of the game felt dead on, from the combat to the climbing, none of it felt unresponsive and bulky. The last thing you want while fighting a Thunderjaw (that’s a robot T-Rex), is to feel slow and frustrated, and you don’t feel any of that. You can craft arrows on the fly with resources you collect in the world right in the middle of a fight (time slows down when you have the weapon selection menu up) and you can get right back into it. Dodging actually feels like you’re dodging instead of madly pressing a button as much as you can to start the animation.
There wasn’t a fight where I got frustrated with the controls, everything was responsive and quick. Fighting Machines doesn’t get tiresome either, not only do they have components that you will need for upgrades and resources and the like, I never felt like I got bored fighting them, and found myself actively seeking out Machines because I enjoyed fighting so much. It gets even better once you learn their weak spots, and can exploit them to get as much loot as you can.
The climbing mechanics in Horizon are fluid and controllable. Initiate the climb, and Aloy will then climb by herself in whatever direction you have her going. Occasionally you’ll have to jump to the next point yourself, but she’ll let you know that she can make the jump by having her arm outstretched towards it. It’s a climbing system that actually works, and should definitely be implemented more often and in other games.
Stealth also felt well implemented, and as the skill tree that I focused the most on during my playthrough, it felt very natural. Aloy is a huntress after all, and taking down enemies by luring them into tall grass for them to meet their doom felt like the right way to play. Throwing rocks and whistling at enemies to get them to go exactly where you wanted them made me feel like an evil puppet-master, and the closer they got to my patch of long grass all the way up to the eventual stealth kill felt powerful. I took down entire bandit camps 6 or so levels higher than me, using only the stealth mechanics and perks from the stealth skill tree.
I think that Horizon Zero Dawn is a game that everyone who owns a PlayStation 4 MUST play. It’s such a great experience, and a fresh take on a ‘post-apocalyptic’ world which makes it unique and new.
The voice acting and facial animations could have been a bit better, but it’s not bad enough that it ruins the game completely, if at all. Aloy is a strong female protagonist that is very much needed, and she feels relatable and likeable.
Guerilla Games did an amazing job and I’m looking forward to seeing more stories told in this world.