Horizon Zero Dawn has finally arrived and with it, Guerilla Games has established their presence. After stepping away from the Killzone series for now, Guerrilla was able to spread their wings and show the gaming world that they can do something more than a first person shooter. Not that there is anything wrong with the FPS genre, or even the Killzone series, but getting away and stepping into something else entirely has really showcased what the studio is truly capable of. The Killzone series has been good, but Horizon is great. Horizon is a beautiful and engaging masterpiece that is well worth your time.
The game begins by introducing you to the protagonist, Aloy. She’s tough, smart and skeptical of the new ways of the tribal future earth. She’s out to stop a threat to the new world while learning about what happened in the past. Her adventure is also a personal one as she uncovers some things about herself along the way. The story is very well fleshed out and that makes finding the collectibles fun. The collectibles add pieces of what happened in the past to the overall story. With a world as unique as this one, finding all the information you can to see what lead up to this point was something I found very enjoyable.
As you’ll immediately notice, the game is gorgeous. No detail has been overlooked in terms of the visuals. Everything from the characters, mechanical enemies and the environments is simply beautiful. The bright colors and the contrast between the futuristic machines that now roam the earth and the tribal imagery of the humans is a refreshing take on the post-apocalyptic setting. A setting that is now finding itself crowded in gaming.
Now, let’s get to what matters the most with the game, and that is of course, the gameplay. Horizon is an open world game and the map is fairly big. The world is full of life and plenty of things to do to keep you occupied. The game has a good mix of side objectives, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s not as big or as full like The Witcher, but it’s similar to something like Far Cry. If you want to take a break from the story, you can find plenty of NPCs that will give you side quests and errands. There are also enemy camps to clear out, hunting challenges and cauldrons to explore. Or, if the side quests and random challenges aren’t your thing, you can just stick to the story missions and still enjoy the game just fine.
A big aspect of the game is Aloy’s Focus. A small device that she wears on her ear that can scan the environment, scan enemies to reveal a weakness or even scan the collectibles found in the world. If I had to compare it to something, it’s a lot like Batman’s detective vision from the Arkham series. The Focus is used heavily in the game and gives Aloy an advantage in battle, piecing together clues from the past or even just exploring.
As is the case in most open world games, you’ll need to do some exploring at first before you can start fast traveling across the map. But exploring the world isn’t a chore. There are different types of landscapes that keep things fresh as you embark on a mission that may take you a further across the world. As you make your way across this unique world, you’ll encounter the mechanical animal enemies. There is a good mix of different types and they are all spread out across the world. Some are more dangerous than others, but even though they pose a threat to you, there is something rather peaceful about coming up on a pack of Striders watching them graze. Albeit a very brief moment, but a moment nonetheless.
Fighting these robotic enemies can be a challenge if you’re not levelled up enough, or have strong enough weapons. Taking them down is all about attacking vulnerable areas on their bodies. These areas are highlighted with Aloy’s Focus. They take damage all over, but repeatedly attacking these vulnerable targets will deal more damage. Eventually, once a target takes enough damage, they are ripped off the enemy. Is a Thunderjaw giving you trouble? Rip off one of its weapons and you can then use it against the mechanical beast. Needless to say, the machine combat in Horizon is very satisfying.
As you progress, the enemies will of course get stronger, so naturally, Aloy must get stronger as well. Upgrades can be bought or found that you can apply to your gear and weapons. There are also plenty of merchants throughout the world that sell better gear to give you an edge in battle. Speaking of the gear, the armor that Aloy wears is tailored to a specific style of play. There are outfits that are more focused to protecting you from the elemental damage and melee damage. Some are better suited for those who prefer to take a more stealth like approach and then there are heavy armor sets for just straight battle. It’s really up to you which combat path to take.
As you can probably tell, I think the game is great. Despite that, it doesn’t mean this game is flawless. There are some issues in the game, but it’s really just some minor stuff. Some of the NPCs can make some very awkward faces when you’re interacting with them. The human enemy AI isn’t very smart. It doesn’t take much to escape an enemy alert. Really, all it takes is some quick rolling and they will have forgotten you were ever there.
Overall though, Horizon is great. It’s a fresh, unique and fun experience. Guerilla has delivered with their new series. And yes, I said series. Zero Dawn is the only Horizon game right now, but it will not be the last. Guerilla has something very special with this game and gamers should not be surprised when another Horizon is eventually announced.
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