+One of the strongest voice casts presented in gaming
+Top-notch graphics that show consoles can offer a PC-like experience
+Strong artistic creativity that brings the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn to life
+Crafting and leveling up systems actually matter and bring the size to life
–Minor nuances such as getting stuck on random debris of the terrain do exist
What do you imagine humanity will be like in the next few hundred years? Do you imagine humanity dashing across the stars, starships battling it out among the galaxies? What if humanity never even made it that far? What if humanity saw the reset button pressed and the world brought to an end in one swift go? What if you got to see the world after the calamity and were one to play as a survivor within the post-calamity world?
This is the very story Guerrilla introduces as players take the role of Aloy, a Norah tribeswoman in this very post-calamity world. A world where machine has become the hunter and humanity is the hunted. Unlike previous protagonists from different developers, Aloy isn’t a blank-slate character. She isn’t a character without a past, or a character. She very much is alive, with a past, a character, and a personality that the game wants people to fall in love with as if she is someone that they know.
Her back-story however, is not a happy one, it’s not a great one as we learn in the opening moments. From the get-go she is portrayed as an outcast much like her adoptive father, Rost. With him they are shunned by the Norah tribes people due to their outstanding. As she grows to adulthood, her curiosity, cunning, and personality mature with her so that she is someone we could easily believe could exist in our world. It’s all in-thanks to the writing team who managed to make her compassionate, thoughtful, and most-of-all a character whom is apparent, flawed, and one that fits perfectly into a medium where you’ll be exploring fearless exploits throughout the world we’ve been handed.
As you would expect, your adventures with Aloy take you across the skeletons of a world now gone. This serves as much of your story, a narrative unspoken, which makes her world exist. It’s also a vital piece of the games design as much of this worlds skeletons serve as the ruins that you’ll help Aloy and her tribe explore as her quest begins quickly. Moments after the introductory cutscenes, players are instantly given their control of Aloy as a child. From there they will explore lost ruins in which Aloy finds herself falling into by accident and not-too-soon, she learns of a world now gone, and here our adventure with her focus begins as she uncovers a world long-gone.
It’s ruins like these that are integral to Aloy’s adventures. It’s because of these ruins that we learn the truth about what happened to the world before the calamity. It’s also her way to connect with the mysteries to the past so that she may uncover the truth behind humanities fall. Players will find themselves fighting off things such as stalkers, sawteeth, and even watchers while moving through the ruins of offices, apartment buildings, highways, and even what seems to be a pre-calamity baseball stadium. While these ruins may also be inhabited by rival cultists, raiders, and bandits; these groups of enemies are the least of Aloy’s worries.
As easy as it sounds, Guerrilla went into a unique path of how to replace humanity with machines. While it may be easy to imagine, this isn’t something as easy as one can imagine, and here is where their history with Killzone shines through quite perfectly. These robotic animals are rewarding thanks to the resources they drop, but also because of the challenge, and the detail to their physical damage. While it sounds easy to just slam a few arrows into their metal frame, players are rewarded with panels of metal shredding from their wired musculature. Players are also rewarded with the sight of their metal plating popping off as their damage hits a certain threshold. Even the idea of knocking off weak-spots in order to obtain rare resources seems mildly rewarding compared to what players would expect.
While duels with these mechanical beasts may seem as simple as they sound, the fights are exhilarating, and adrenaline inducing as players will find themselves seconds from life or death. Players will find themselves tracking their targets with careful preparation as they will adapt their loadouts (weapons), armor, and even potions in order to ensure that their fights lean in their favor. This allows fights to feel unique, enthralling, and most of all – incredible.
The nice part about the armor and weapons in this game is the fact they are customizable. Players can enhance their effects with mods that can be obtained through treasure packs from merchants or simply by hunting and completing lodge quests. Players may find themselves leaning in favor for tear damage to destroy a creatures parts without dealing high damage. Once done, players may find themselves leaning to a creatures weakness in order to tear it apart, and even using things such as tether to hold their targets down as they attempt to take them out.
This stays true for elements such as the cauldrons where players will find themselves delving deep into unimaginable dungeons to gain new capabilities against their robotic threats. Through these elements, players will learn new ways to override these creatures in order to turn them into companions for combat or for riding. Players will also find themselves taking to unimaginable places as the game comes to life due to the amazing artists, rendering teams, and even sound teams that poured their very hearts into this newly released title.
As one would imagine, their time spent within the game will vary as they will farm for crafting materials such as flowers, wood for arrows, and even wildlife that still exist to upgrade their carrying capacities. While doing so, players are treated to one of the best compositions by Joris de Man since his days on Killzone 3 while he had been heavy at work with Velocity, Velocity 2, and even N+. Elements such as the games Main Menu theme, serve as a centerpiece to just how immersive the game can become. Whether its the subtle hums of a woman’s voice or the soft billows of a pan flute, players will find themselves immersed within this games living and breathing world.
Horizon: Zero Dawn – PlayStation 4
Release Date: Available Now
Admittedly, this also goes with the fact that every little piece of this game is artistically thought out so that players remain immersed within the world. Players will find themselves not dealing with clumsily made sorting systems, confusing descriptions, or even those rather confusing elements of what each supply is for. Instead players will find that the catalog of resources they obtain are rather well organized and descriptive as to what those resources are for. Want to make fire arrows? Just use some metal, some ridge-wood, and some blaze in order to do so. These little details make the game mean a lot as players will begin to familiarize themselves with while adventuring the wilds. Other words, Aloy knows what she needs to, and it’s ultimately up to you to get the most out of her where it matters.
Much as you would expect, the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn is a masterpiece of an ecosystem. It’s one that is amazingly well crafted so that one could believe it exists. Whether it’s the moments you are climbing across cliff-faces, running across the valleys to hunt a fox, riding across the wildlands on your mechanical steed, or simply getting the best out of your hunts. The game is endless thanks to the sense of awe and wonder it’ll place upon players. No matter what you are doing, the game will make you want to spend more time than you can imagine with the game, and oddly, I find myself never wanting to leave in the scheme of things as I enjoyed the new world I’ve gotten to experience within this masterpiece.
Our review is based upon a retail version we purchased. For our review, we used a PlayStation 4 Pro with a 7200RPM HDD. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.