Guerrilla Games latest title is a departure from their FPS blast-a-thon, Killzone. Stepping into the Open World genre, they created a beautiful and vast game, filled with spectacular voice acting, symphonic compositions, and thrilling robotic action. Horizon Zero Dawn will make you a proud owner of a Playstation 4 but that comes with some disappointments.
You play as the female protagonist, Aloy, who is seen as an Outcast. With a mysterious past connected to her birth, her caretaker Rost watches over her. From her childhood to teenage years, Aloy deals with discrimination and hardships. Rost tells her about a test called The Proving. Determine to win the Olympic style test, Aloy trains hard. With this victory, she will be recognized and accepted but all is ruined when attacked by a cultist group led by a man name Helix. With Rost sacrifice, Aloy goes on a journey to find out why she was attacked and unravel a bigger story.
The graphics in Horizon surpass breathtaking. The landscapes, weather, and even the enemies look remarkable. The lighting and dark contrast allow the earth tone palate to present a modern prehistoric world you will explore. The dinosaur looking “Machines” metallic and animal resemblance, looks futuristic and never stutters in motion when attacking, running, and staying in their natural habitat. As impressive as the graphics look (on regular PS4 or Pro), the game is too orange and doesn’t showcase different environments that can display a destroyed history or a beautiful area of hope. The weather effects that happen randomly throughout the game is handled well and the effects of it on Aloy skin shines when you see it.
The weapons, mainly bow and arrow, are a letdown. The Hunting bows will be the basic weapon you’ll use throughout the game. These bows allow you to shoot regular arrows, fire arrows. The Sharpshot bows will shoot special arrows that can take off armor and weapon pieces of the machines that you can collect after the fight. The sling is mostly your grenade/bomb throwing weapon with limited range but has a powerful attack radius that does major damage. The Tripcaster will make unexpected foes fall over while the Ropecaster will make wild machines easier to stay in one place instead of moving around. You do have a melee attack which you can upgrade during the game. You don’t get use anything outside of that which makes the combat very bland and less interesting.
Horizon Zero dawn share some RPG elements, such as leveling up, side quest and trials, and a skill tree to make Aloy stronger. Every level you raise gives you a skill point and with the level cap of 50, you’ll gradually go up as the game progresses. You can spend the SP as long as you meet the requirements. Yes, the game has skill tiers attach so that you don’t become overpowered too quickly. The three sets, known as Prowler, Brave, and Forager, allows you what style you’ll find benefiting. Prowler is for those who are stealthy. Brave is for those who want to deal major damage and go all out, and Forager is for the resourceful player who wants to be well equipped. They all work well but the decision is up to the player to choose from.
Side quest in the game will help you obtain more experience and metal shards (the game’s currency). They can range from detective work to finding parts to help rescue someone or provide answers to the giver of the quest. The problem with the side quest is that some may take too long because of the distance which can be tedious, whether on foot or on a overridden machine. The reward may be worth it but the time invested draws the length of the 40 plus hour game.
The special dungeons in the game are not Zelda or even Tomb Raider puzzle filled places. They’re straight forward of fighting, stealth moves, and finding resources. If you complete them, you’ll be able to override more machines. Since the game doesn’t have many machines, you don’t have many dungeons to explore. They are optional and challenging but the reward for them are minimal.
You’ll also be able to take over bandit bases ala Far Cry 3. When everyone is wiped out, the base will go to the people and you’ll be able to visit, shop, and save there. You can also eradicate Corrupt zones. These areas contain enemies who cannot be overridden and whose corruption will hurt you constantly. Think of it as being poison that drains your life. Once the area is free of corruption, it becomes a regular place you can visit.
The big problem in this game though is the resources. When defeating or opening chest, you’ll gain resources. With these resources, you will trade, sell, and make your actual arrows. When in need of more ammo, you’ll pull up a wheel and select the ammo that is needed and hold X to refill. The metal shards are not only your currency but the majority of the resources to receive. You can expand to receive more resources and if you don’t have the right item to trade, you can hunt for that item. It doesn’t guarantee that you will get it on the first try, so expect multiple grinding trips. The problem with all of this the filling of the resources can happen quickly to where you’re not able to pick up items. You can sell or drop items, but when you need the fox fur or some important item to trade, your inventory can be filled up. The managing can ruin the flow of the game.
The biggest disappoint is the fast travel. When the travel distance is too far apart, you can fast travel to the nearest campfire save points. When you don’t have one, you’ll have to once again, spend 5 to 7 minutes running back to trade the quest in, which means, you’ll have to deal with the machines that come into your path. It becomes irritating. On the long side quest I have endured, the fast travel has saved me precious time but when I didn’t, I had to fight and run past Sawtooths, Watchers, Glinthawks, and others to even get to a campfire just to save. Rinse and repeat.
Climbing a long neck to expand the map, using your focus to find hints or gain information on the machines, or going through the story line of Aloy, Horizon Zero Dawn provides enough entertainment with an intriguing story. The machines can be ruthless but can also be beneficial. Even Aloy herself, who dealt with the discrimination, anger, and lost, is a strong warrior who is willing to right the wrongs and help those in need. Guerrilla Games set the bar high not for only the graphics but what can be done on the Playstation 4. Beside some minor flaws, Horizon Zero Dawn shows promising of the future for this IP.
5 out of 5 Yoshi Coins