'Horizon: Zero Dawn' review: An exhilarating game unlike any other
Around a thousand years into the future our world is taken back by Mother Nature, but the effect of our technological advancements remain. A majority of the animals have been replaced by robots with highly advanced intelligence. Meanwhile, the human population has dwindled and has reverted back to tribalism.
Our history has been wiped clean, with only our old grey and rusty ruins to remind the tribes that we existed. Sadly, despite all of this, our own human nature hasn’t changed. We still shed each other’s blood. We still go to wars.
It’s a dark and disappointing outcome for modern society and our love for advanced technology. Yet, Guerilla Games’ biggest risk, Horizon: Zero Dawn, is one of the most beautiful and exhilarating games of today.
And it’s all thanks to a slick and fast-paced combat, a wonderfully designed world, and an inspiring character that breaks clichés.
Combat for all
Horizon: Zero Dawn’s combat is what mostly makes the game enjoyable. It’s a game that will welcome beginners but will also provide challenges for those used to action RPGs, but most of all it’s designed to be fast, fluid, and fun. The controls are a little different from many other action RPGs but an engaging tutorial weaved into the prologue is enough to help you get a grasp of the foundation.
There is no auto-aim in this game and there is no lock-on for melee fights and that’s okay. Aloy still makes you feel like you and her can conquer anything that wants to stop you from your journey. The way she power slides to take down a beast from underneath will make your jaws drop, and the way the world slows down as she pierces a human’s head with your arrow will make you feel like you’re the best sniper out there.
Combat shines the most when hunting in Aloy’s world and you will be doing a lot of it as you explore the game. The hunting quests and grazing areas are designed to test your skill, mettle, and mind. While you can go head on and attempt to battle the beasts face to face, it feels more rewarding to successfully bring them down through traps, rope casters, an array of arrows, and a solid strategy. Using Aloy’s “Focus,” her trusty advanced piece of wearable tech, just makes it all the more satisfying.
Fighting against humans though? That’s another story, and it’s a bit of a shame that the main questline has too many human vs. human fights. Because Aloy’s techniques are too advanced for the likes of her human enemies, it almost feels like it’s cheating when they’re put up against her.
A dangerous world waiting to be explored
My first impression of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s world hasn’t changed. It’s still a beautiful world with stunning locations and vibrant colors courtesy of Mother Nature. Yet, it is peppered with the dull greys of the ruined past, an intriguing contrast that makes you wonder even more.
But Horizon: Zero Dawn’s world is not just beautiful, it’s also dangerous. It was too easy for me in the beginning to be lulled into a false sense of safety because of the world’s lush design. Because the world was wide open, and there were so many gorgeous vistas, I forgot that going to and from any location would mean having to face several grazing areas of dangerous beasts.
Several times I felt attacked out of nowhere by Scrappers and Watchers, only to realize it was my own fault to be seduced by the wonders of this world.
It’s also fascinating to watch these beasts in action, whether they are protecting each other or are out to attack you. The beasts feel natural in that it’s not exactly easy to spot if one of them would break the status quo. For example, a beast that’s supposedly skittish may attack you if it spots you hurting a member of its herd. There’s always a new hunting lesson to be learned with each encounter.
And while the game has no survival element, the game makes it crucial for you to hunt, gather, and craft for your arsenal. Aside from beasts, you can hunt live animals to craft cargo upgrades and potions. You can gather berries to serve as medicine and wood for arrows. While it seems chore-like at first having to do these things, you will soon realize that this is all necessary. The game will feel more rewarding if you’ve stocked up on supplies.
Aloy, breaker of clichés
Slowly there are more and more video games with female characters put front and center, but many of them seem to fit only certain types of molds. Aloy’s characterization feels natural, relatable, and heroic at the same time. She’s larger than life yet her soul and struggle will surely resonate with so many women and girls today. It felt like she wasn’t designed to please, to charm, or to save. It felt like she was designed to relate with, and to inspire.
Aloy starts out as an orphan kicked out of a matriarchal tribe for her unknown origins. Instead of backing down, she channels her resentment to do something productive. She becomes determined to figure out her past. To do this though, she has to earn the tribe’s respect (something she shouldn’t be doing in a perfect world) by training to become a skilled hunter.
From there, her quest becomes a long and arduous one, filled with twists and turns. It’s a rollercoaster ride that will sometimes leave you scratching your head and asking even more questions. But no matter how you see the ending, Aloy’s growth and maturity throughout the game will leave you feeling empowered and inspired. She is a character you will root for from beginning to end. The game truly is a riveting masterpiece.
Aloy represents everyone who has been cast down, and shunned by society for being different. Aloy’s journey is not just one where you must seek answers, it’s also a journey of learning how to stand up for yourself and rising above the hate and resentment.
While it has a few imperfections, it isn’t enough to draw you away from hours of fun exploration and action. And of all the PS exclusives I’ve played so far, Horizon: Zero Dawn is the most fulfilling. – Rappler.com
Nadine has been a passionate gamer since she was a freshman in college. When she isn't playing video games, watching her favorite YouTubers, or trying to share her gaming misadventures, Nadine is working on her photography and her travel plans. Her biggest gaming wish? To build her own gaming PC and to see the release of Devil May Cry 5.