Guerilla studios is known across the world for the Killzone franchise. The first person shooter in which you fought an onslaught of menacing soldiers with threatening orange eyes and clad in black military gear. Now for the first time since basically its inception Guerilla studios takes on a new idea in an entirely different setting. Horizon Zero Dawn that studio’s new effort and is a huge departure and a massive undertaking from what they previously have done. But does it all come together? Does Guerilla’s effort pay off?
Earth is ours no more.
Horizon takes place a thousand years after an apocalyptic event where robots have killed almost all of humanity. These events are barely visible anymore as the earth has reclaimed the world, humanity has regressed to the point that they hunt using sticks and stones and the world is now also populated with robotic creatures that mostly mimic creatures. It’s an interesting setting that’s ripe with the possibility of mysteries. And Horizon does manage to provide a lot of questions as to the why’s, what’s and how’s. And almost most of these question will get answered as you follow Alloy’s journey. Alloy’s a girl who has been outcast as soon as she was born by her tribe’s matriarchs and is raised by another outcast by the name of Rost. Being an outcast means that tribes members shun you and aren’t allowed to talk to you. Of course Alloy isn’t too happy about this and wants to know why she was outcast at birth and who her mother was. Rost tells Alloy that when she comes of age she will be able to participate in the Proving which if she completes it will be accepted by the tribe and the winner gets to ask the matriarchs one request of their choice. Alloy decides to take on the challenge in order to find out who she is and to be accepted by the tribe. During the proving, however, things don’t go as planned and an attack on the contestants leads Alloy into a far bigger adventure she ever imagined as she discovers she’s more important than she could ever have though. This world’s mysteries are the main draw of the game’s story but it also helps that the dialogue is written well and the voice acting is great. That being said the main story itself isn’t anything not seen before. Players will start to speculate pretty much as soon as they start playing and chances are that one of their speculations is right is pretty big. While the story is delivered well enough it’s pretty standard fare. During your journey you can talk with other people through a dialogue wheel. This is mostly used for the player to get to know the characters sometimes players are asked to choose between a thoughtful, aggressive or emotional response. While these won’t impact the story in a major way these events are mentioned and have an impact on dialogue in the future. Most of the characters are all pretty interesting. You will meet many people on your journey, all of them have a pretty interesting story to tell or an interesting history. All side-characters are engaging mostly because of the solid voice-acting and writing on display. While the voice-acting overall is pretty good the animation is a mixed bag. While faces look really good for the most part and lip-syncing is great the facial and body animations are somewhat stiff at times and can lack emotion. While Alloy and some other main characters avoid this problem there some characters that don’t seem to get the same treatment. Characters can be really upset or crying and the only way you would know is trough the voice-acting while faces just kind of squints awkwardly. Horizon’s story is pretty standard stuff and while uncovering the mystery is engaging enough mainly because of the writing and voice-acting it won’t unravel players as much as it might have could.
The hunt is on.
Horizon will feel familiar to anyone who played a game in the past eight years. The game sadly doesn’t really innovate or improve as much as it takes elements from several other different games and just makes them work very well. Zero Dawn is classified as an ARPG and while the action part is the most noticeable the game really feels like an RPG. Alloy has a device called the Focus which works like detective vision. You can scan enemies which will tell you their weak parts and what element type they are weak to. Being able to dodge well and hit the enemy well won’t be enough to win. Players will have to optimize what weapon they will use and on what part of the body. You are equipped with a bow and spear. The spear has a light and heavy attack which work in pretty much the way you think it does. Same with the bow. Aside from those weapons there are other tools and traps players can buy and craft to suit their needs. When tackling a huge mechanical enemy, players best prepare by laying traps, trying to trip enemies or tethering them to the ground. Knowing what weakness the enemy has and which attacks they have is half the battle. When fighting enemies that are weak to fire and use ice will require you to stock up on for traps and arrows and a freeze-resist potion isn’t a bad idea either. If you run out of ammo you can create ammo, traps or potions on the spot in your menu provided that you carry the right resources you collect along the way. Hunting machines is fun and engaging. Trying to take down a herd will require you to stealthily take down their spotter and if they manage to run it’s up to you to put an arrow in the right place to incapacitate them. Fighting humans however is not as fun. all these elements just kinda get thrown out for shooting guns in the head. Stealth is a huge part of the game and while the AI can sometimes be too dumb for it to be fun it can be exhilarating to sprint and slide from bush to bush trying to get closer to your target. Horizon’s world is massive. It can take quite a while to get from one point to another certainly if you don’t have a mount. Most of the side content is spread nicely enough so that players might stumble on something to do or collect when wandering about. Most of the map will be covered in fog which can be cleared up by scaling one of the ginormous Long-necked machines. While this is the same principle as towers in Ubisoft games there are only five in the entire game and trying to get to them is fun enough. Players can collect items or collectibles, clear corrupted zones, go into cauldrons to increase their hacking ability and off course side-quests. There are quite a bit of activity to do in the game. Quests work pretty much like you see in any other ARPG. Someone asks for your help whether it be killing monsters or finding someone and you go do it. That being said it’s not just a text box and objective marker. You can ask more information on why or how they want what they want. All of the quests will have cutscenes and dialogue options and sometimes even give the player to make choices which affect dialogue. Zero Dawn plays it safe. It took elements from other popular games from games of the previous and this generation and puts them all together. It works and is fun but it’s still somewhat lamentable that this ambitious project doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
Technical and visual masterpiece.
Zero Dawn is astounding on an artistic and technical level. The designs of the world, characters and machines are impeccable. Machines look nice and the animation on them is impressive.The bigger monsters really feel imposing and fighting them has that David and Goliath feeling to it. Wandering the world and seeing settlements or creatures in the distance give that great sense of exploration. In a lot of parts of the world you will find remnants of the old world in some obvious and even not so subtle ways. Things like walls of fallen skyscrapers that stick out of the ground or even when walking around and then realizing you are walking on toppled structure covered with plants or dirt is really neat. Character designs are all very well done and character faces look really impressive. Horizon is one of those next-gen looking experiences along games like Uncharted 4 or battlefield One. The lighting and effects are jaw dropping and make every part of the game breathtaking. During the entire adventure the game kept a locked framerate with no stuttering. The score is amazing with the main theme being a real standout. Horizon looks amazing from an artistic standpoint and on a technical level it’s probably one of, if not the, most impressive game out there at the moment.
Horizon Zero Dawn is a great game. It’s fun, engaging and gorgeous. While the main story is nothing to new it manages to keep players engaged until the end unless they get distracted by the heap of side content to do in the game. Hunting machines is fun and it’s here where all the game shows both its hardcore RPG elements and its pretty brutal difficulty. Stealth is exciting when you use it to hunt but fighting humans and using stealth on them is considerably less fun. The world is vast with a lot of things to see and do. Its inhabitants whether they are organic or mechanical look amazing and the same can be said of the environments. While it doesn’t innovate or perfects anything Horizon Zero Dawn is an amazing experience through and through.
If you are interested in other games similar to this one you might want check out these reviews: