I think that will be the best way to describe this game, Horizon Zero Dawn doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the genre in terms of overall gaming experience. Instead it will rely on the gamer to keep an interest in its story and setting, while offering a more refined, smooth and evolved game mechanics in an open world RPG game.
Also, lets not forget the graphics, as they are really something else. Even more impressive than Uncharted 4
A story that has been done before, but with some new twists
We have seen other video games/movies/series. Where it has been set in a post apocalyptic future, mankind have almost reverted back to their primitive state, thanks to either some disease or machines over throwing them. In this game, from the outset it seems to be the latter.
Animal like machines roam the land, almost all are a deadly threat to humans. They come in all shapes, sizes and forms. Some resemble real life animals, while others are completely unique and are like nothing you have seen before.
To combat them, the humans combines some of the technology that make up the machines with Staffs, bow & arrows, traps and more.
They are like Native Americans, with different tribes and families having thier own ideologies. Some tribes look to try to embrace the remnants of technology mankind left behind, in order to move forward. While others forbid any members from approaching areas with technology or trying to use the technology for more than just weapons. As they believe this will bring more dark times upon them.
They all share one common unity though, and that is the “All Mother” who they believe is the creator, the judge and executioner of them all. As you play through the game, you will find out more about this being and what she represents.
Speaking of playing, you play as Alloy, a girl who is an outcast from birth (banished from the village and cannot be spoken to by anyone) who is trained by a fellow outcast to regain her right to be a part of the village once again. As you play through the game, you will also seek out to find answers on the mystery of her birth and why she was banished in the first place.
I found this to actually be an engaging story, as there were a few main plot points that really hooked me. What happened to civilisation? Where are these machines coming from? Why was Alloy an outcast from birth?
Side Quests that matter to the story
It is a good thing then, that majority of the side quests you do in this game. Actually contribute to the main story, there aren’t really any giveaways here. Every side quest you do, will actually feel meaningful to Alloy and the world around her. You aren’t just doing them for the sake of it.
Whether it be exploring an abandoned cave, full of old technology where you get to uncover hidden secrets and artefacts about the lost civilisation, to hacking into giant mechanical beasts to find more points of interests that can help you battle these beasts and uncover the truth behind them.
You don’t just pick up these side quests by just meeting a random stranger in a village
Although there is that too
You will quite often bump into them while you are exploring the vast land, and just like other great RPGs, it is usually when you are actually doing another quest. You don’t really need to wonder around much to find an engaging side quest or character, you will find them doing something and you offer to help or they are in danger and need your assistance
Alloy is a character, who is always looking for acceptance among others and helping those for the greater good. As she has faced tragedy from an early age and wants to change things the way they are for the better.
Which you will buy into from the early stages in the game, and will make you want to achieve those goals for her.
This is what Far Cry Primal should have been like
I am a big Far Cry fan, especially of number 3 and 4. But I was heavily disappointed with Primal, it was more of the same, in the sense of hunting animals and taking over enemy camps and the story really did not engage me. I was expecting there to be an evolution of hunting animals, but it was the same as the previous titles. This is where Horizon does better than Primal.
Every creature you face will have a number of different weak spots. Which at first you will need to identify with a piece of technology Alloy picks up early on in the game called the “Focus”
With this tool, you scan the machine, highlight its weak spots and even track its move patterns. From there you can then tactically plan how you will take down the beast. These weak spots aren’t just as simple as shooting them with an arrow, they are quite often environment based. They could be weak to fire, ice, poison, or just a straight shot to a specific area of the machine by an arrow. So you need to be clever with your character, making sure you get on the right angle to make your shots and be quick with them, because these machines will move and jump around the map and act like predator animals hunting you for the kill.
To aid with this, and believe me you will need this, especially with boss fights. You have the ability to set different type of traps, these can be chemical bombs you place or trip caster wires that you can place around the battle zone. In combat, its all about planning ahead and knowing your enemy, you cant just rush in and take down these machines, which makes for some satisfying kills when you defeat them
Following Naughty Dogg’s Example
Like the Far Cry series, to improve your weapons and inventory management tools, you will need to find items and ingredients found in the wild. This will be from killing animals and taking parts of machines or picking up plants that you will find scattered amongst the land.
You will also have enemy camps that you need to take down, hunting challenges to complete, mountains and towers to climb and traverse.
What Guerrilla games have done, is what Naught Dogg did with the Uncharted series. They bought a combination of game mechanics from other games and brought them together all in one sweet package, with excellent presentation and fluidity. While the sequels to the first Uncharted game, started to bring in its own unique elements to the franchise
Getaway scenes, and scripted disaster sequences to bring cinematic gameplay
Guerrilla, have already sort of done this with the combat you have with the machines. You have never played something like this in any other open world RPG. While that may not be refreshing enough for some gamer’s, maybe the more expansive story will keep you engaged.
If you enjoy open world RPG games, then yes you will definitely want to pick this game up. But If you are looking for something completely new to the genre, you will not find it here. What you getting is refinement and an evolving combat system in a compelling backdrop. If you only own a PS4 you are mostly likely going to get this game anyway, and if you are playing it on a Pro and on a 4k screen, you will be blown away by how pretty this game is. As a fan of Far cry, I have enjoyed this game so far, and I was surprised by how well the story is written and its expertly done main & side quests. But for the sequel, I will be expecting an uncharted 2 like follow up for Zero Horizon Dawn, as it has a ton of potential for it.