Developer: Guerilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Tested on: PlayStation 4
Horizon Zero Dawn – Review
Whenever a game boards the hype train, it tends to gain so much momentum that when the train reaches its final stop the brakes give out and the whole thing becomes a trainwreck beyond imagination. No Man’s Sky, Alien Colonial Marines anyone? So it should be the rule that whenever the hype gets big, the game subsequently won’t live up to it. Not so, as there are many games whose hype train make it safely and unharmed to their destination. The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Final Fantasy XV. The ranks of the latter grows with the latest game of Guerrilla Games, Horizon Zero Dawn. It has survived the trip and is here, for everyone to enjoy.
You are Aloy, not Alloy. Most of the time your brain will be hardwired to say the last. The world has gone to shit. AGAIN. It’s not zombies that ended civilisation, and you are looking for clues as to what exactly ended the reign of mankind’s technological advantage. The world has reverted to the caveman/cavewoman stage. The game starts ab ovo, so you get to see how Aloy grows up. Boy, it’s not a really fun upbringing she get as she and the man who raises her -Rost- are outcasts. Cruelty is the name of the game when it comes to Aloy’s growing up. Kids and other Nora tribe members shun her and she’s left to wonder about the reason. The story starts off small and what seems like just the start of a little quest for some simple answers turns into a globetrotting search for truth. The scope of things is bigger than just the’ why was I shunned.’ question Aloy wanted answered.
Getting sidetracked is something that’s bound to happen unless you focus mainly on the main story line, which is difficult as the world beckons you to wander around getting lost and taking up quests left right and dead center. The writing is decent, with a perfect balance between showing and telling.
When it comes to graphics, having a game be exclusive to one console as is the case with Horizon Zero Dawn helps the developers focus on making the game run as smoothly as possible, while showing off the graphical prowesse of the machine. Horizon Zero Dawn is really beautiful, and even more so on PlayStation 4 Pro.
There are however small niggles that hamper the experience. Don’t fret, they are really minor. Texture pop in, lip sync that isn’t completely accurate and texture clipping. Everything else, from the character movement to the general interaction between characters shows off the developers’ hard work and love for their trade. For instance, the glint in the eyes of the people in the game or the way their faces animate whenever they talk. It’s all so consistent that every conversation and cutscene is a very gleeful experience.
When it comes to sound, Horizon Zero Dawn is an audibly alluring game. The music is both very bombastic when it comes to combat and eerie when it comes to the emotional conversations. Speaking of those, at times the voice acting isn’t on par to the writing. It’s like the voice actors held back at times to drive their points home, making certain scenes lose their impact. When someone dies you’d think the person being left behind has more of a cracked voice, or a more tearstained one when the writing obviously shows that they are grieving.
The sounds the machines make are different to one another so after a while you’ll sort of be able to tell which monster is hiding out of sight. If you are wondering on how good the musical score is, then you can head over to Spotify and listen to the entire soundtrack.
Horizon Zero Dawn is an action adventure open world RPG. So this means you can faff about all you want and have hours stolen away from you in blissful exploration. The game is filled to the brim with content and not so much in a Ubisoft kind of way where the map is fill with checkmarks, but more in an organic way where you’ll be less inclined to check the map and thus stumble upon quests and things to kill. This presents a slight problem where you’ll soon be faced with the reality that you are overleveled for the main quest line without it even feeling like you went out of your way to do so.
The map is rather large, especially if you leg it. You can override machines and ride them to get to places faster, or fast travel. The latter takes up ‘fast travel packs’. These are finite, but at a point in the game you can purchase the infinite ‘gold fast travel pack’ which will negate your fear of running out of fast traveling.
Horizon Zero Dawn is an open world that works in the sense that The Witcher 3 works and not in the Skyrim sort of way. Where the former gives you more of a direction and a focus, the latter just gives you a shove in the back and tells you to make your own adventure. This makes it so that you don’t know if the content you are accessing is in the right sequence or if you are missing out on crucial elements to make another quest more easy and enjoyable. So Horizon Zero Dawn lets you prioritize quests and gives you helpful markers that lead the way to your objective. This helps the player to remain focused but this doesn’t stop the game from yanking on the proverbial chain and sidetracking you from your quest for answers. At one point you’ll be following your marker to the next part of the quest, only to hear a voice ringing out, crying out to you for help. So you walk over to them, talk to them and take on their request. At this point you’ll explore other parts of the map, and hunt down other creatures.
The fact that the levels on the quests are mere indicators and not very adequate ones should be a sign on the wall. An example is a quest where you have to clear out a bandit hideout. The quest is indicated level 12, but every enemy in the camp is level 6, making the indicator seem redundant. There’s a crafting component to the game to upgrade your pouches so you can hold more ammo and tools and enhancements for your weapons and armour. When it comes to ammo for your bow or other ballistics weapons, you’ll be able to craft them from components the enemies drop. Crafting them can be done on the fly and only takes half a second. This makes it so you can restock on ammo in the middle of combat and not miss a beat on the action. It doesn’t have to come to shooting down enemies and stabbing them with your spear in an all out brawl, you can also sneak around and be stealthy to take down enemies. This isn’t just some tacked on gimmick that works only half of the time. It’s not like the developers had to fill in the gap to make sure they had that niche covered too. It’s functional, it’s fun and it helps to change things up and stop encounters from growing stale and repetitive.
There’s also a skill tree and without it, Horizon Zero Dawn wouldn’t be quite the RPG. Every kill, and every quests gains you experience, and upon leveling you’ll gain points. These can be sunk into skills divided among three skilltrees: Prowler, Brave, and Forager. With each tree making you more proficient in the art of stealth, all out combat or the gathering of resources needed to craft ammo and health packs.
Horizon Zero Dawn is every open world RPG lover’s wet dream come true, so if you were into The Witcher 3 and the free style of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, then this is a must buy. The amount of content you are gettting for your buck is ridiculous. If you are new to the genre and need a game that holds your hand whilst equally giving you the space to roam and explore and see what works for you then don’t hesitate to give this game a go. If you are looking for a linear game where you are herded from one shootout into the next, then this won’t be your cup of tea.