Horizon: Zero Dawn released this past week. In this review we take a look at the game and give you our opinion on whether or not your should give it a try, or give it a miss.
Lets start with the story
Horizon is set in the near future after modern human society has collapsed for some unknown reason. The world is overrun by machines that are becoming more hostile. What is left of Humanity is split into several tribes and nature has reclaimed buildings of the past. Aloy, the main character sets out to discover her origins and why things are the way they are. The main story line is interesting and emotional and very well written. Horizon does a very good job at drawing you in and making you want to progress the story to find out more about what is going on. This is helped by a good sound track and some very good voice acting from Ashly Burch, known for her work as Chloe in Life Is Strange.
Throughout the world you come across people offering side quests and errands. It does feel like there hasn’t been as much effort put into the side quests as has been put into the main storyline as some of them feel hollow and repetitive. This seems to be the norm with this sort of game though.
Gameplay and Controls
The controls are simple and responsive and easy to pick up. The use of a weapon wheel for example, accessed by the L1 button is sensible and provides easy selection of your weapons and accessories as well as switching between ammo types. If you have played the Tomb Raider reboots then you may spot some similarities between the way both of these games play. It does feel like some inspiration has been taken from these. A similarity between the two games is Focus, which is kind of Horizons version of Survivor Senses.
Focus has various uses. It’s main use is scanning machines in order to identify their weak spots as well as vulnerabilities to things such as fire. This gives you a tactical advantage and allows you to deal greater damage to them and take them down much quicker. Focus also allows you to tag machines and enemies to track them and reveal their patrol paths. Focus also has use in identifying resources and helping with secondary quests.The machines are challenging and can be difficult to take down if you don’t plan your attacks beforehand. The use of Focus is strongly advised and it is best to plan things out. The machines will take you out very quickly if you are not careful so it is not always a good idea to just go in and hack and slash as many of them will charge at you and take you down in two or three hits. There is a nice balance though and you won’t find it too much of a challenge unless you up the difficulty levels.
Stealth is a big aspect of this game. There’s plenty of tall grass around for you to hide in and this allows you to sneak up on enemies and machines. It also allows you a safe place to hide while you work on your plan of attack. Nothing new appears to have been brought to the stealth aspect but it does work very well and is strongly advised to be used.
Crafting, Modifications and Levelling up
Like most open world games these days, Horizon has a crafting, modification and levelling system. Each time you level up you are granted a skill point that can be spent on upgrading your skill tree. This allows you to unlock extra abilities such as stealth take downs. Levelling up also increases your maximum health as well which means you don’t have to spend skill points on upgrading your health capacity.
The crafting element isn’t too complex either. You can gather resources from around the world and from downed enemies. These resources can then be used to craft items such as ammunition and upgrades to your storage capacities etc. Weapons and outfits also have upgrade slots in them which allow you to modify them to boost their attributes. Modifications can be purchased from traders or found throughout the world.
There are also several “Cauldrons” scattered around the world. These cauldrons, similar to optional tombs in Tomb Raider, are little puzzle chambers that once completed allow you to level up your “Override” skills. Overrides allow you to turn a machine into an ally in combat or allow them to be used as mounts in order to travel faster. The more Cauldrons you unlock, the more types of machines you can override, this does seem to be restricted by your progress in the game however.
How does it look?
Right from the start Horizon shows off its beautiful graphics. For a console this game does look impressive with great draw distances letting you see the full scale of the huge open world that is yours to explore. There’s a great attention to detail from realistic looking mountains to the long wavy grass.
The game does a very good job at presenting a realistic, stunning world. It makes you want to climb higher to get a look at the great views. Along with this you also have some realistic looking character models. The only downside is the facial animations. While most of the time the animations are good, sometimes they don’t quite hit the mark and end up out of sync. Despite this the developers have still done a good job of conveying facial expressions and showing what emotions Aloy may be feeling.
Should you play it?
Horizon: Zero Dawn gives you over 30 hours of play time from the main story, side quests and general exploration alone. It’s nice and easy to get into if you are new to this type of game. It has a well written, original story, great voice acting and a beautifully designed world that will make you want to stop and look at the views. Horizon feels like a worthy competitor in a gaming world filled with sequels and reboots and really stands out as an original game. If you’re currently debating whether or not to pick up this game and play it, We strongly recommend you do.