Horizon Zero Dawn Review

Every once in awhile a video game comes along that get into your soul…. The characters are interesting, the story intrigues you and the game mechanics enhance, instead of take away from the video game playing experience. Horizon Zero Dawn is one of these game. Get ready to be drawn in. Horizon Zero Dawn starts off as most video game RPGs do these days…. With a mystery. You seem to be in a primitive time period, based off the clothes the characters have on and the locations they live in.  But wait…. what’s that machine creature doing over there and look at that abandoned building back there!  Intelligent smart machines are prowling the landscape and attack you if you get to close. Those abandoned building look oddly like our cities and buildings today. So what is going on? This mysterious story and the lore of Horizon Zero Dawn will immediately get you involved and excited to play more.I haven’t been able to put it down since I first started playing.

 

Aloy the Female Lead of Horizon Zero Dawn

You play as Aloy, a smart, super talented ,fiery, red haired female that kicks butt. Like seriously kicks butt. It is really nice to see a female lead that is a talented huntress, witty and doesn’t have insane freakishly large boobs tucked into her armor. Aloy is a genuine likable person and I immediately wanted to get involved in her story. She is the master of sarcasm. Conversations with NPC’s are easy and straightforward and I laughed frequently at Aloy’s quick tongued responses.  The other characters you meet in Horizon Zero Dawn are lovable too.

Gameplay Controls Of Horizon Zero Dawn

The controls of the game are just plan awesome. Usually there is a short learning curve in games, where you learn complicated controls, like how to run and the special way to jump etc. Frequently negative parts of video games exist to “make the game challenging”. Things like you constantly run out of storage, you only can run so far then you have to ‘catch you breath’ even though you are a master hunter or war chief. Climbing and falling are often made super challenging parts of the game.. None of that  here. The game flows naturally. If you are running out of storage space, that’s OK. Do a quick little bit of collecting items for a bit and you likely can upgrade to a much larger level via crafting. The game controls just allowed me to be a part of the world, they were not the challenging game ITSELF. The challenge came from story dialog, traveling around, and choosing which part of the mystery and side quests you want to do next. Horizon zero dawn pulls heavily from other Blockbusters in the RPG genre, like The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted. Dare I say it takes the best elements from these games and combines them to make a new franchise. This might bother some people, but to me it just made it seem familiar and using what works. There is a unique enough story and other elements here to make it enjoyable to me.

Combat System of Horizon Zero Dawn

The combat system is really something to behold. You have a small triangle device by your ear that gives you a heightened computer like sense. Using this device constantly will give you detailed information about your surroundings, and perhaps most important, tell you the weakness of the machines you will be fighting. Aloy’s weapons are basic bows, arrows and poles, but with the focus abilities you are able to target the exact weakness on the machines to get the upper hand in battle. This system is pretty easy to learn, and makes you feel like an instant expert in taking down large machines.

Storyline and Side Missions in Horizon Zero Dawn

There are countless side missions for you to enjoy besides the main story line. Each of these side missions will help level Aloy, as well as reveal small parts of the story. I spent countless hours since getting the game a few weeks ago going down these paths and getting lost in the world. Without including any spoilers, there are many typical RPG side missions elements here – track down a mission person, find a special machine piece or traveling to a new location.

It should also be noted that I feel there are quite a few deeper political and humanitarian elements to this game’s story. Women are often in positions of authority and power. They are full of strength, respected and oftentimes better fighters than the men. The game also plays around ideas of race, culture and religion. This was very noticeable to me playing this game. I had thoughts like ‘another woman leader?’ MULTIPLE times. It’s not something I normally notice or think about in games. Over all this isn’t some Foo Foo get to the end treasure hunt. I really enjoyed seeing a game deal with some deeper elements of story and not shy away from them. I even teared up within the first hour of playing this game. That’s a pretty touching experience for something that I just started playing. Top marks for the story.

Some Weaknesses of Horizon Zero Dawn

Overall the game plays out very well, but there are a few elements that could use work.

I am totally a 100% competitionist in RPG’s like this. At a certain point in the game you are able to travel anywhere in the world and play out stories as you see fit. I prefer exploring the entire map, so I am able to fast travel to other locations immediately and quickly complete the missions. As I ran around and new map locations were revealed several times Aloy would remark about something at the location, like – “I hope I am able to find Person X inside”. I have no idea who person X is because I haven’t done the previous parts of the quest that would happen at that location yet. The game basically is spoiling itself.

Swimming and moving between water in the many rivers, is a very complicated experience. You can’t jump, stand or move properly in what is generally a small amount of water. Same thing goes for getting in and out of the water. Don’t get me started on the complicated parts of moving with your ride in the water. It’s just not been coded very good here. You’ll see what I mean soon enough. 🙂

The machines you are fighting have a certain circle radius that they kind of stay inside. When they chase you, you are frequently dodging and running away to stay alive while you plan your targeted attacks.  At a certain point the machines will realize they have left their home area and suddenly make a bee line back to that location. Hopefully. Sometimes they just disappear. In more than one story mission I had almost killed the major creature I was fighting and then poof, they ‘ran back’ only to actually disappear completely from the game. I quickly learned you need to dodge the creatures, but stay sort of close.

Climbing up walls is also some what frustrating. Much like Uncharted, there are special hand holds and ledges that are marked for you to use to climb. You basically need to push the controller in the right direction to climb up large rock walls and ledges. Finding these ledges is the hardest part. They are frequently hidden and not easy to locate. I frequently found myself doing a jump roll technique up the mountains instead. Same with coming down, you are able to drop from great heights as long as you include a roll at the bottom. I scaled large mountains for collectibles doing this. Ledges that SHOULD easily be accessible are not because they don’t have the marked edge. This was perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of the game, finding these magical bridge ledges to get where I needed to go instead of the same height ledge beside it that I am not able to use. I hope this could be improved upon in the future.

Gameplay tips

If you enter any water near most machines attacking you, they will reset and not chase you into the water. There are some exceptions to this, but this but use this to your advantage. This became a seriously useful tactic later on in the game and I recommend you try it out and use it to also.

I fully recommend using stealth to your advantage. Hiding from battles, or sneaking up to do stealth attacks on enemies is something that will make clearing locations out much easier on you.

There is a merchant you will meet at a certain point that has a map for all the collectibles of the game. I recommend purchasing these if you plan on getting collectible because you will not be able to find all of them otherwise. Many are in pretty out there locations.

Use your focus frequently. You can target the parts of the machines much easier as they will glow a lovely yellow color.

You are able to set a “job” quest in the menu to pick up parts you might need to craft a weapon or armor. I recommend using this as it will help you track down how many items you still need to get that upgraded bow!

There are tutorials for various weapons you get under the menu. They don’t pop up automatically and they should. They are worth a LOT of XP for completing basic tasks using the new weapon. It’s also helpful for learning exactly HOW you should be using the new weapon. Do these to level up quickly. There is also a section called the Hunters Lodge. I recommend doing these as you come across them, as like the tutorials, they will allow you to practice some more advance skills needed to kill some of the machines. Definitely worth checking them out.

Final Thoughts for Horizon Zero Dawn

This game is a solid one and I fully recommend you pick it up and play it. All your friends will be because its one of those epic games that everyone talks about forever. The controls, fighting, and story make this a unique and enjoyable game. Pick this up and get started into the mystery of Aloy and the machines.

I received a copy of this game to review from Playstation but thoughts as always are my own.

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