Welcome back everyone for another edition of Games and Gimmicks Reviews! It’s been a bit of a hiatus since the last review, but with this latest entry, let’s just get right to it, Horizon Zero Dawn is definitely a Give It A Shot!
So that’s it folks! I got a hot date tonight so I gotta make this quick…
Well, maybe just dinner alone.
Wait, you didn’t actually think I was just going to leave it there, did you? Understandable, you have your review so what should it matter now? That being said, there are some finer points I’d like to detail to prove my point.
Gameplay and Story
There are so many moments of Horizon Zero Dawn that will stop you in your tracks. The sheer originality with which this game is presented is amazing. I found myself taking more than a few brief moments to marvel at the content of Alloy’s surroundings. The very nature of this post-apocalypic universe, where humans have essentially devolved after the disaster of the last technological revolution, is truly something different. It’s funny however, that the very beginning of this game feels like that of other open world games, lush vegetation, mountains, snow and trees, it’s all there, but something about it feels different. It isn’t until Alloy, our main character, steps foot into the ruins of mangled and twisted steel buildings that you know this world is damn harsh. And I know, there are many games (i.e. Fallout 4) that have tackled the topic of a post disaster society. But what Guerrilla games (maker of the famous/infamous Killzone series) has done is to set out to envelop you in this new/old world.
Horizon Zero Dawn follows our plucky outcast, Alloy, as we see her grow from an endearing child to a fierce and deadly adult. She gets a lot of help along the way, through her friend, mentor, and a regular ol’ Bear Grills, Rost. Alloy has been outcast from her tribe and looked upon as a pariah due to some bizarre circumstances surrounding her birth. I won’t ruin the origins of her entire story to you, but needless to say, this thread is carried throughout most of the game. Alloy’s birth is looked upon as the downfall of her tribe, while Rost, is sworn to protect her. Training for several years, Alloy is first tasked with completing the Proving, an event that would immediately garner her the acceptance she desires from her former tribe. However, as is the case with most stories of this sort, her eventual “boon” results in some pretty terrible things happening. Outsiders, protesting the acceptance of Alloys win, turn to the destruction of her tribe to prevent her from becoming a full member. This begins Alloy’s journey to restore her name and to avenge those who died to protect her.
It’s at this point that I’ll be honest, I haven’t completed all of Horizon Zero Dawn’s robust story. There’s a lot to do and to see in this universe and I’m happy to report that the price tag definitely lives up to this being a solid single player experience. I will say however, that sometimes the steep difficulty did turn me off from the game for a while. Mostly because I kept progressing through the same mission (killing corrupted machines in the Hunting Grounds) all to continue to die in the same place over and over again. Sometimes, when you have spent what seems like hours traversing this world, it is easy to simply forget about the fire pit save points. When you die, you’ll be forced to start over from the last save point, regardless of how far you travelled. This, coupled with how hard these fire pits are to spot, can sometimes make playing this game a bit arduous. This can be really frustrating and honestly, the only thing that stopped me from immediately picking the game back up.
But hey, now that I have ranted about save points, wooo, let’s get to the really fun stuff: how this game plays.
Alloy really has some sweet weapons, whether it’s pulling out your trusty bow and arrow, setting traps with the tripcaster and ropecaster, or even concocting bombs, she really has a lot of cool tools at her disposal. She also has some moves that you can unlock as your receive more skill points, most cool of these is the ability to shoot in slow-mo. It really wouldn’t be right to give a character a bow and arrow and not allow them some bullet(arrow?)time.
If I were to recommend some skills to unlock first, I would highly suggest Silent Strike, as this allows you to get rid of many of the baddies during the beginning of the game. You’ll also want to use Concentration, as this lets you to slow down time. Finally, Critical Hit is probably your next best upgrade, as you can take down an enemy with a single blow. I found this extremely helpful when I ran out of arrows and had no supplies on hand to make more. That’s actually another important part to point out here: you pretty much need to build all your supplies.
This is accomplished by ripping down trees to make arrows, finding power-ups for flaming arrows from fallen enemies, and keeping a pouch full of medicinal plants to heal you in your time of need. In some ways, this is a great part of the game. It really puts you on edge as that inventory of arrows runs down during critical moments. Conversely, it kind of sucks sometimes too. At least until you get the Hunter Gatherer skill, you’ll find yourself scrambling at the last minute to open the on screen menu to build more ammunition. Or even worse, scrambling to find sticks and other items necessary during a big battle; in short, don’t go into battle unprepared.
Last but not least, let’s talk a bit about the movement of Alloy in this game. In short, she plays a little like the first Assassin’s Creed game, in that her movements almost feel like there is a slight delay behind them. Like some unforeseen hand is guiding her from moving in an unnatural way. The first moment you notice this is when you find your first rock that you’re itching to climb. In short, there is no automatic wall cling, no button to hold for climbing; rather, she just doesn’t climb surfaces that well. You can jump in this odd way that basically negates trying to get to a higher vantage point, but luckily there are not a lot of high vantage points in this game. I did find it a bit odd to be honest, that a game in 2017, that also focused highly on running around in an open field, did not have some climbing system for anything but ropes and pre-determined climbing spots. Ultimately, this isn’t a big deal as Tallnecks will satisfy your lust for a thrilling climb.
But let’s end on a note of why this game is special: this isn’t necessarily a slow game, but rather a game that is meant to be played patiently. You’ll slowly begin to learn that the game needs you to understand that preparation is key to winning each battle. That taking your time to sneak up on that enemy, or lining up the perfect shot, is all very crucial to progressing. Without it, you’ll be like me running headstrong into battle. Just watch out for those Sawtooth’s and you should be fine.
What more can I say about this game that I can’t just show you. The folks at Guerrilla Games have done it again. I mean, I can still remember the days of Killzone arriving on the PS3 and the whole world of forums going nuts over whether or not the game was pre-rendered. Guerrilla Games have earned their place in the pantheon of beautiful games, right along side Witcher III, Grand Theft Auto, and anything Naughty Dog produces (I’m looking right at you Uncharted and Last of Us). Just take a look at the lovely Photo Mode video I have below and you’ll understand that not only is this game lush and vibrant, but it’s also fun to just mess around with to create your most cinematic shot.
Seriously though, there are some awe-inspiring moments in this game, and just messing around with Photo mode will give you an increased appreciation for all of the work the designers and artists put into every detail. When I first encountered the broken skeleton of a long destroyed skyscraper, it really brought to home the possibility of this universe. I mean, in this current unstable political climate, you’d be remise in thinking that we humans may one day go the way of the dinosaur. And who knows? In that future, it would make total sense that the prevalence of advanced technology would one day turn our wondrous advancements into relics like Stonehenge. It would also make sense that our ancestors would look onto these things in the same way we look at the pyramids and say, “Boy, I wonder how they made that?”
Horizon Zero Dawn is a doozy of a game to review. Truthfully, I haven’t completed a lot of the story, outside of opening up some of the bigger portions of the map. But this game is for the patient-minded. In addition to that, it’s a breath of fresh air compared to the slog of open world video games that came out this year. In short, it’s different and that difference makes it all that it can be: an exciting and action packed game. I didn’t have a lot of time in this review to touch on the beauty of the facial animations and voice acting, but you can rest assured that it is on par with anything Naughty Dog has done. And that sure is some good company to hold.
GIVE IT A SHOT!
When in doubt, you’re gonna need a montage