Danny Stueber, Staff Writer
Horizon: Zero Dawn, Sony’s newest PlayStation 4 exclusive, takes little pieces from other open world games and improves upon all of them. As a result, it feels like a breath of fresh air in the genre. There are some minor hiccups along the 30-40-hour journey but overall the game shines in every sense of the word.
The setting is that of a post apocalyptic world where humanity ended over a thousand years ago due to an unknown cause. The planet has over grown what used to be cities and towns so the entire landscape is skyscrapers and vehicles overgrown with wild life.
The humans that are around, now live in tribes like the Native Americans and survive with bows and spears in the ruins of ancient cities, in which they think it was all created by a god they call “All Mother” but you as the player knows that the buildings in the city they are exploring, are actually banks or car washes.
It is bizarre and not a setting I have ever seen before in any kind of media to where it held my attention through the whole thing. Finding treasures referred to as “ancient bracelets” but knowing it’s just a Rolex watch was always amusing to me.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, the entire world is inhabited by robotic animals ranging from deer like creatures all the way to tyrannosaurus rexes. Just a small detail I left out. You have to survive against these robotic creatures with nothing but primitive weapons which hooked me in even more.
The design of the world and the characters were also amazing. It is without a doubt the most beautiful game on any console system to date. It even included a photo taking mode for you to take screen shots in the game.
I found myself multiple times stopping to look at the environment not believing this was on a console and not a high-end PC. Menus were designed nicely, the creatures all were distinct and creative looking to where you could tell which was which from a far distance, and just over all it’s a marvelously designed game that never even really had any hiccups in framerate or performance.
I will lament however that in the middle of the final cut scene of the whole game it made my console crash to where I had to reboot it and do the fight before it all over again. Overall that was the only problem I had with the game.
You play as Aloy (meant to sound like the word alloy because metal and such ha-ha so funny), a girl who was cast out from her tribe at birth and grew up without a family. She trains her whole life though to enter the Proving, a passage for those who want to enter the tribe and if she places first among the other young adults she is granted one request.
Her request is to know who her mother is and why she was outcast and if she wins she is guaranteed answers. For any other game, that would be the whole plot but this is only about 10% of the game. The story goes places and passes all expectations.
By the end of the game it even wraps up which most big budget games don’t do know anymore since they want to push sequels. It was just an overall nice experience. The gameplay revolves around side and main missions where you mainly fight the robotic beats for resources and experience.
Each monster has different weaknesses that you learn how to exploit; making each fight unique. The combat flows very well and was always a fun. I admit though that the healing mechanic was awful. You could carry health drinks but by later on in the game there were not enough to heal you all the way.
Other than that, you could collect plants to heal you whenever needed, but when those ran out you would have to spend a lot of time running around the world crouching down to pick flowers and such. It slowed the game down and really was a boring roadblock.
Another problem I had with gameplay was the feeling of progression. Whenever you leveled up you got 10 more health points and the ability to choose a new skill like slowing down time when shooting arrows or being able to roll farther.
You never felt like you were getting stronger though, since your spear is the same from the first chapter to the last and your weapons, while upgradable with coils and such, never really did much more damage.
If you’re not hitting weak points your just shooting pointy sticks at a robotic alligator and you feel that at level 1 or level 50 you never really got much better at shooting those pointy sticks at those alligators. Other than that, though and needing to hunt for resources a little too often I loved the combat.
I mentioned that this takes open world elements from other games and improves them which it does in every sense of the word. It takes tower climbing, which is used to gain more layout for your map, and makes you only climb four towers, which are moving robotic giraffes.
Tower climbing in some games can be in the dozens and are no fun at all but making it a minimal activity while also making the tower itself interesting made it a great experience. Another thing is clearing out bandit camps to use for fast travel locations and for people to set up shops.
In other games, there are far too many and do nothing in the grand scheme of things but in Horizon there is only a handful and clearing each camp is part of a story mission with one of the most interesting characters in the game.
So many things like this Horizon gets right where other games have failed since they just wanted filler content to pad the asking price. Horizon doesn’t waste your time and instead makes sure your having fun during every step of the process.
Horizon is one of my favorite open world games I have ever played. The environment and setting are like nothing you have ever seen, the gameplay is fast and fun while also being strategic, and the main character has a great arc from being a homeless child to finding out why the world is the way it is.
It’s also a special game in the sense of having a female character in the lead and not just another buzz cut, muscle head like companies always assume will help sell a game. Aloy is an amazing character that can show young girls that not all games are for men or center around men. I’m glad to see her step up in such a male dominated genre. The game stands out on every level with its story-telling and its amazing protagonist to where even though I had some problems with the progression and some performances here and there, I will still remember this game for a long time.
Horizon: Zero Dawn = 9.5/10
Photo source: Gamespot
Edited by: Brea Childs