|Dev: Guerrilla Games|
|Release: February 28, 2017|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Alcohol and Tobacco Reference, Blood, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Violence|
by Patrick Tretina
Sony Interactive Entertainment and Guerilla Games embarked on journey to build something unique and exciting. Something that would remind us exactly why we love games with a great story. Horizon Zero Dawn does just that, as it perfectly captures the essence of vicariously living through emotionally charged characters in a setting beyond our wildest dreams. After fives years of development, a splash at E3 2015, and a few untimely delays, Sony’s most epic title in years has finally arrived.
The action RPG, puts you in control of perhaps Guerrilla Games’ most polarizing protagonist, Aloy, as she embarks on a journey across a captivating post-apocalyptic world. You are tasked with uncovering the mysteries behind her origins, why there is this battle between humans and machines, and the reasons for her being her community’s outcast. Perhaps the biggest, understated question posed within Horizon Zero Dawn is certainly what happened to civilization prior to Aloy’s thrust into survival. I haven’t quite gotten the answer to that question, but my journey thus far has been deeply captivating.
The story is what truly makes Horizon Zero Dawn such an intimate experience. Following Aloy from when she was just a baby to her current role as a huntress seamlessly fused a deep connection with the protagonist. Guerrilla Games does a fantastic job of following creative writings’ golden rule of “show, don’t tell” by letting players experience each piece of Aloy’s story, rather than forcing it upon us. Every interaction seems to build on her life and who she is as an individual. I couldn’t help but find myself almost instantly and emotionally connected to the questions surrounding her existence.
As Horizon Zero Dawn’s story starts to unfold, players are given bite-sized chunks of gameplay to progress. The way the game gives you exactly what you need during each arch is a display of pure video game genius. I never once questioned my ability, or inability, to complete various tasks, nor did I even question the controls during my initial playthroughs, as they organically unraveled. This method of distributing limited information is a risky move, but it pays huge dividends when done correctly. Horizon Zero Dawn lands firmly on the list of those games which achieved this sort of gradual presentation perfectly.
Horizon Zero Dawn’s captivating story is complimented by a breathtaking landscape that seems to go on forever. The sheer beauty this game exhibits is remarkable; it’s no wonder this title took five years to complete. It very much takes the look and feel of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, but without the dark undertones. Rather, Horizon Zero Dawn is bursting with an array of life-like textures that bend and flex as the story progresses. This subtle technique pulls players right into the thick of the story and effortlessly creates an immersive experience. Undoubtedly countless hours of rendering went into this part of the game. Everything, from the vast wilderness, forest ranges, and mountains to the meticulous refinement of the ancient ruins, perfectly binds together this impressive world. Even the flowers and trees move and sway as if they were alive and well. Simply put, it looks stunning.
The machines are not immune to the impressive levels of detail. They borrow a lot of their elements from real-world animals, but manage to maintain a certain degree of uniqueness. Even as you stalk them, you can’t help but marvel at their artistic beauty. They don’t quite make a lick of sense in a world like this, but that’s the amazing thing about their construction. Horizon Zero Dawn, and the story as a whole, would feel lost without their wild machinery inhabiting a land that isn’t theirs.
Horizon Zero Dawn makes use of a clever combat system that grabs elements from both the action and RPG genres. Neither precision nor creativity is lost within the fights, as you might expect with such a blend from two opposing worlds. Rather, the game requires you to take full advantage of your surroundings, physics, and cunning tact to take down opponents. Use cover to outsmart and outgun your opponent or take them head-on with no mercy. The choice is ultimately yours to make, and Horizon Zero Dawn supports either decision.