Horizon Zero Dawn Review
Horizon Zero Dawn Review – Survival At Any Cost
Mild spoilers in this Horizon Zero Dawn Review…
Horizon Zero Dawn is a game about sacrifice and survival, about humanity’s need to leave some sort of legacy behind even in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances. Guerrilla Games’ latest endeavour moves away from the studio’s shooter roots in favour of an action-RPG that not only tells an incredible sweeping story but also an intimate, personal one. Given this is a brand new IP you could perhaps forgive the Dutch developers for making missteps with the gameplay or structure of the game. Thankfully, these elements are almost as strong as the story resulting in a game that will truly stand the test of time.
In simple terms, Horizon Zero Dawn is the story of Aloy, a young woman with ties to the Nora tribe – a group of hunters who worship their goddess All-Mother. However, Aloy was made an outcast at birth and taken in by fellow outcast Rost who becomes the protagonist’s adoptive father and so she seeks the answers to her heritage and why she was outcast. The PlayStation 4 game is just as much about knowledge and learning what happened to this world for the player as it is for Aloy and the audience is taken along for a journey filled with surprises, action and friendship. For a new series, Horizon Zero Dawn has an incredibly deep and well thought out story that not only adequately explains the state of the world but leaves you desperate for more. The landscape and ruins of the areas Aloy traverses tell you something isn’t right as do several tribes scattered across the lands. The machines that resemble animals and dinosaurs are becoming more hostile towards humans and Aloy is the key to finding the answer. To say much more about the intricacies of the plot and story would be to give things away and it’s really not something I want to spoil here.
Graphically this is one of PlayStation 4’s best looking games with incredible lighting effects and flora and fauna. The gameplay often involves hunting machines for parts to upgrade or modify your gear and taking quests from the various tribes scattered across the land. Fighting the machines is tactical and challenging yet rewarding. Aloy can approach stealthily, setting up traps for the sentinel Watchers to fall prey to or go in guns blazing to take on the deadly Thunderjaw. Different types of machines have certain weaknesses and Aloy’s Focus (a mysterious, futuristic device for tracking and analysing various objects) allows her to take full advantage of those weaknesses. For some enemies you’re better off using a slingshot to cause elemental damage while others are better tackled from a distance with the bow or tied down using the Ropecaster to halt their rampaging violence. Aloy can have up to 4 weapons ready for quick select but the game really intends for you to use more and I wish there was a faster way to swap out more weapons other than going through the menu.
Aloy can wear different armour sets to give her specific advantages like improved stealth or resistance to ranged or elemental attacks. These can be boosted further with modifications serving as a degree of customisation for your armour and weapons. The skill tree has three branches which improve various skills such as combat or foraging – the latter of which plays a key role in crafting potions and traps as well as keeping your health up. Although it is fairly easy to obtain all skills by the end of the game so don’t worry too much. Quests will have several objectives such as tracking a missing person or defending a village from a Glinthawk attack. They often give a healthy amount of XP which is useful depending on the quest level but the resource or modification boxes are less useful in my opinion. There is sometimes an opportunity to make Aloy unique by at times selecting from different responses in a dialogue tree which boil down to aggressive, logical or caring. These are a fairly unnecessary addition to the game as they don’t affect any outcomes that I saw and Aloy is already well fleshed out as a character.
In Aloy, Guerrilla Games has given us a really great protagonist to be entertained by. She’s often serious yet caring towards others but has a light hearted side too. The writing is very well done and the points where Aloy makes a sarcastic remark or funny line provide nice moments of levity. In addition, Ashly Burch does a fantastic job as the main role injecting layers of personality into the red-headed hunter. Another aspect found in the game is collectibles that reveal more about the lore of the world and crucially how all this came to be. Some are found pretty easily as you can purchase maps but others such as datapoints can only be found by keeping an eye on the compass and you’re bound to miss a few. I would have liked a map for these collectibles too given their overall importance to gaining a complete picture of the story.
Without giving anything away, Guerrilla Games leaves things open enough for a sequel which is very exciting having enjoyed my time with Horizon Zero Dawn although it does cheapen the very climactic final battle in a way. I can’t wait to jump back into the game and gather up the remainder of collectibles and finish off side quests. It’s also a testament to the game that I want to jump back in with a fresh playthrough knowing the complexities of what happened to the ravaged Earth. Horizon Zero Dawn takes you on an incredible journey with a story filled with discovery and wonder, gameplay that is both challenging and tactical, and a plot that ultimately leaves you hungry for more. If you’re a fan of the genre and own a PlayStation 4 needless to say this game is a must play.
That was my Horizon Zero Dawn review. What did you think of Horizon Zero Dawn and Aloy’s journey? What would you like to see in a sequel?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
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