Having played the majority of the Killzone franchise I had a vague idea of how horizon zero dawn would look visually, even though Killzone games are linear by design there is one thing that you cannot deny with guerilla is their passion for a gripping expansive story.
The scale and depth of this undertaking with horizon had me wondering if this would be their uncharted masterpeice or would it be their undoing.
The very opening off the game has you being introduced to the main character Aloy as a baby and her guardian Rost, someone who you can’t help but like, the way Guerrilla Games have created these characters help immerse you into a world that has been destroyed by some catastrophe that the survivors seem to have forgotten.
From the very start of the game you are introduced into a short tutorial which explains the basic controls but also allows the story itself to pan out, once you have completed this there is a time-lapse which progresses the story of Aloy and Rost to a point where you are allowed to enter the open world for the first time and try out some of your new skills.
From the get go the controls feel fluid and responsive, the bow attacks feel weighted and rewarding depending on where you aim, coming into contact with the robot denizens of this world for the first time feels tense but also exciting, controlling when you strike and where allows you to take down bigger enemies but depending on where you aim also effects how the machines can attack you, such as removing a sawtooths cannon allows you to pick up the removed part and fire the robots own weapon against it.
The robots of this world all have removable parts each with its own unique item value and use, often I found myself removing small parts of the creature just to allow me to craft new arrows to take on large stronger creatures, the crafting feels fluid and you can do it in the midst of combat which is always a plus when you are being attacked by a giant Thunderjaw and suddenly run out of tearburst arrows.
With that said the story plays out throughout a series of missions and each mission feels new and rewarding with very little receptivity, the characters feel real and you can’t help but get emotional attached to Aloy and her plight. the dialogue feels responsive and very fluid with very little robotic replies or answers which helps you to fully immerse yourself in the world of horizon.
As you progress through the story you are given an item that allows you to override the machine and even ride certain ones, this has its own skill tree which enables you to increase the length the machines are overridden, these machines not only fight for you but allow you to traverse the world of Horizon, the way the machines move and react is very animalistic and it even shows when they have taken damage, from the limping of a sawtooth right down to the way the glinthawks crash when their wings are damaged.
Through progression of the world you rank up experience for taking down foes and completing missions, this is where the skills tree come into play, there are three sections each with its own unique rewards, I found myself focusing mainly on the Forager tree which grants skills that increase the amount of items you gain from looting robot husks and Bandit corpses.
One of the most useful skills which I found myself using time after time was concentration skill which enables Aloy to slow down time for a period to aim at those hard to hit sections of the desired targets, using Aloy’s focus which you are introduced to very early on in the story.
This futuristic device allows Aloy to scan the environment and targets around her, this then highlights the weak areas of the robots and what they are immune to or what will cause increased damage such as using blaze arrows to hit a blaze canister on an unsuspecting Grazer, this will then explode and do large damage to the creature and to the surrounding area.
You find yourself strategically planning how you would take down this creature and learning how to maximise the damage you deal with each individual arrow. As you progress you encounter merchants who sell upgraded weapons and armour and a varied assortment of useful items, one of the first things I did was to buy a new boy which had one modification slot, these modifications drop from the Machines of horizon and vary in rarity from common to very rare.
Taking down larger and deadlier machines net you rarer modifications and rare resources that you would not be able to get anywhere else, although the task to take these creatures down is a large one, plan out each encounter and you learn where to hit and when to dodge, each shot counts and you learn to maximise your shots before you need to bug out or risk dying, but we all want that sweet sweet loot so the risk is always worth the rewards.
One thing you cannot deny with Horizon is that the game looks beautiful even in the darkest and bleakest of areas, it’s an impressive display of art work and you can’t help but at times just stand at the top of a snow-capped mountain and look out towards the scenery. This is something that Guerrilla games have thought about and even implemented a way for you to take images of areas you find beautiful, this mode is called Photo mode and allows you to move the camera and even set the time of day, remove Aloy and add filters to the image everything a budding photographer would want.
Once the main story is concluded and you watch the final cut scenes you can’t help but feel fulfilled in the story and even want more, well once that final mission has concluded you are placed back into the world of horizon just before that end mission, this was done so that you can go and explore the world and collect the trove of collectables and side quests that are scattered throughout its various Biomes.
The side missions although not a huge variety each have their own unique story and each help to immerse you deeper into the world of horizon, this is always a fear with open world games as the majority of side missions start to become repetitive but this is not seeming to be the case with horizon. Collecting the vast majority of collectables also immerses you into the world that was lost and even nets you rewards at the end of it.
The data terminals and data pads scattered throughout Horizon give you a glimpse into the world that was and hints at what caused the destruction of the metal one’s world, you can’t help but want to learn more and more as you progress, the way the story is told throughout these data pads can range from voice logs, video logs and txt, each showing glimpses into the old world.
Story – 10/10
Visuals – 10/10
Sound – 10/10
Gameplay – 10/10
Game Design / Innovation – 9.5/10
Horizon zero dawn is a beautiful well put together game that has immersive storytelling and characters, the game play mechanics are responsive and the soundtrack is very fitting, this is a game that anyone who owns a PS4 should play.
Overall – 9.9/10 – EXCELLENCE
Reviewed by Adam Walters (Fuzzage).