by: Doctor Moth (guest writer) and rahz0mbie
Late February and early March of 2017 is, without a doubt, giving the gaming industry a much needed boost of vitality.
While many readers are surely lost within the wilds of Nintendo’s latest installment of the Legend of Zelda series: Breath of the Wild, or facing off against the mechanical dystopian hoards in the follow up to the cult classic title Square Enix’s Nier, appropriately titled Nier Automata, there is another game that was released at the tail end of February that demands the attention of these two big-name titles and refuses to be left in the shadows.
Guerrilla Game’s Horizon Zero Dawn incorporates both the open-world aspect that has many LoZ fans enthralled while also bringing its own unique flare to a post-apocalyptic world of machines. Horizon sets players into a future where mankind has regressed to a state of tribalism and players slowly start to piece together why mankind, once flourishing with technological advancements that would make any science fiction author proud, has been reduced so dramatically.
You play as a young woman named Aloy, who grows up as an outcast to the Nora tribe, one of the predominant tribes in the game. The Nora tribe shun the ancient world and live in a matriarchal society set in their old ways. After your tribe is attacked, you are named Seeker so you can hunt down those who have wronged the tribe and discover the truths of the ancient world which are forbidden to the rest of your people.
Aloy must prove her worth to those who still view her as an outcast and venture out into a world infested by leftover machines from ancient times fashioned in the likeness of various animals. The game steadily intensifies the level of difficulty for your enemies, starting you out by having you stealthily hunt down Watchers who function as scouts and alarms for other machines. Subsequent enemies are then larger, tougher, and increases in quantity during encounters.
At the start of the game you are armed with nothing but a spear and your bow, but by the end you’ll have a wide arsenal of tools that can help you exploit elemental weaknesses, tie machines down, or tear off their own components for your use. At one of Horizon’s trial grounds, I found myself manically laughing as I tore off a massive disc launcher from an enemy known as a Thunderjaw, turning the tide of battle into a frenzy of slaughter in my favor as I used it to rip all the machines apart. Each weapon has its own set of ammunition that keeps players from being locked down by set stats like other games, and you are able to modify weapons, tailoring them as you want.
A good hunter in Horizon relies on far more than just their weapons though; the game encourages you to use the beautiful landscape to your advantage whenever possible. There is tall grass covering many of your battlefields allowing you to avoid enemy detection, set traps, or make quick stealth kills.
During my exploration, I stumbled upon two Rockbreakers, enemies that can burrow underground and spit lethal jets of rock at you if you are not careful. The area had no grass for me to hide in but I discovered a tall boulder that shielded me from their breath attacks while I took potshots and launched fireballs at the beasts. Exploring the environment fully and collecting the various viewpoints and relics grants you a deeper understanding of Horizon’s world and lore. Many of you, no doubt, will have the game’s impressive map fully completed by the time you finally wind your way back to the story missions.
Overall, Horizon Zero Dawn combines a beautiful story and world setting with combat mechanics that make it feel worthwhile to experiment as the game goes on. Cling to the shadows and make enemies work for you, or go in slingshot blazing all while working your way through breathtaking tundras, mesas, lush jungles, and the ruins of mankind. Just make sure to really take your time with Horizon and fully experience all that the game has to offer. Aloy discovers this world as the players do and will make your $60 investment worth every cent.
From toe to tip, everything about the game is graphically beautiful. The scenery is colorful but realistic; the grass moves with every step… sometimes, and the way the leaves on trees blow in the wind is a pleasant escape from the flat, lifeless greenery featured in video games from the last decade.
The humans look like humans with actual human faces, which is something that many games from the last few years have tried very valiantly to accomplish, even using state-of-the-art motion capture technology, but fell short. The only thing that could stand to be improved is the slight lack of facial expressions on many of the characters in any situation. That, I think, is easy to forgive when you remember how fantastic everyone’s hair looks.
Much of the voice acting is fantastic and believable – during long “cutscenes,” if they can be called that, it’s easy to detach from your own world and become absorbed in the game, as if it were a movie. But during more than a handful of moments across the 30+ hours I’ve put into the game so far, some of the mixing on the voice acting has been a little off; Aloy will maintain a calm meter to her voice, but the person she talks to kinda shouts at her for a bit. Woops.
The combat is solid, and fairly easy to adapt to after being used to playing a variety of different games before Horizon’s release. I hope you like bows, because here are nine different types of arrows, and they are your lifeblood. Have fun!
Horizon Zero Dawn gets a 5.5/7 on our G.A.G.S. rating system.