Horizon: Zero Dawn is undoubtedly one of PlayStation’s biggest exclusives since Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The game has been adored by many players due to its huge, detailed environments and incredible lighting, but the game does more than offer just a pretty face for the PlayStation brand which we discussed in our review for the game. However, I thought I’d discuss some of the finer things Horizon gets right, and wrong. For the sake for starting off on all the right notes, we’ll discuss what was good.
Horizon: Zero Dawn has a good story
Without spoiling the campaign, the game is very clever in the way its missions and side missions are structured, so it allows the player to seek out every minor detail before they complete the story. Not only that, but based on the player’s side missions completion, the game modifies the ending and feature allies that aid you in the final mission of the game. This was particularly nice when I played the game, as it gave me more reason to play through and complete all the additional objectives.
She’s got the moves
The good thing about the protagonist Aloy, is that she has an incredible skill set that allows her to freely adapt to each situation that she faces throughout the game. Aloy is able to slide, jump, roll, dodge, and slow town time when aiming. This in turn, allows Aloys combat skills to be so fluid and empowering to the player that lengthy machine fights can still be very enjoyable.
It’s quite easy to play the game how you’d want to play, whether that’s more stealth-focused or combat-focused and you’ll feel so powerful doing so, regardless of your choice. What also makes Aloy so great are the enemies that are pitted up against her. Learning to use equipment and weapons effectively is key to taking out these machines. You can take out the heftiest of them with the right weapon and as you all probably know; the bigger they are, the harder they fall and the more satisfying it is to destroy them.
Beauty in its true form
Every stretch of its diverse environments are beautiful, especially in 4K. Horizon Zero Dawn looks so good that that alone will make players want to explore and take pictures using the games photo mode, but if you’re not much of an in-game photographer, the beautiful and vast landscapes in Horizon with tempt you to hunt for secrets and collectibles, which are also very interesting to find and are often placed atop mountains that involve intricate climbing sections.
And the beasts…
As discussed earlier, what makes Aloy great is that she has powerful enemies which quickly make use of her skills in combat. There’s a selection of about 15 different machines to take on and each one has a weakness. However, some are colossal, and this in turn results in pushing you to adopt a more strategic way of taking them down, as you’re having to shoot off vital components to be able to stagger the target and deal more critical damage.
It’s not just how you kill the target either, these enemies have gorgeous animations and will react to the player more aggressively the higher the difficulty is set. Other machines however, may just be better suited to override and ride around environment with, so the choice is with the player in that regard.
However you interact with these machines, it’s safe to say that the attention to detail for each machine is phenomenal and I actually spent a good amount of time just looking at the outer-workings of these machines, right down to the wires and components using the game’s photo mode.
My favourite has to be the Thunder Jaw; mainly because it looked like a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex with cannons on its back, and I generally like anything that brings such ridiculous death and destruction to players in video games.
What wasn’t so fun..
What’s great about the game is that the player can climb large mountains and look over the horizon and see small details in the distance, whether it be a formation of birds, or a big machine many miles away. The problem with that though is that the game offers many high points and spectacular views, but unless the player is in a collectible and grappling hook area, there is no way to get down that doesn’t risk certain death. This is quite frustrating and the game will normally dump the player back at the last camp site upon death, giving the game a sense of restriction despite its open-world setting.
Another key criticism is that while settlements and the cultural architecture look great, the people and animals within them are often quite stiff. This is most noticeable when arriving at the first settlement and Meridian in particular.
The only other characters that have Aloy’s standard of character design throughout the whole game were Rost and Erend, everyone else just seemingly moves and talks like uncomfortable mannequins – even young Aloy looked like a Troll doll. This was perhaps the biggest shame, as a cast of more memorable main and side characters would have made the game feel like Aloy was genuinely bridging the gap between tribes and outsiders, which is the point of the game to some extent.
Horizon does an incredible job at giving PlayStation fans an enjoyable open-world game with faux-RPG elements, that appeals to more than just the average crowd. It’s essentially an action-adventure game within a massive RPG world, which is something games like Tomb Raider have dabbled with in recent times. Horizon: Zero Dawn is the most successful of them, as the vast world is just waiting to be explored with many, many secrets to be discovered, giving the players any number of things to do.