Our Review of Horizon: Zero Dawn

I am hunting a series of robot killers in a wide open field.  There are some lizard like sentries prowling around, but I’m not as worried about them.  There are two bigger, panther like guys that I’m a lot more worried about.  I’m able to stealth kill quite a few of the sentries, and set a couple of traps for the big panthers.  Everything goes according to plan, except that one panther has now spotted me and a couple of robotic birds have decided to join the fray.  That’s no problem; I can anchor them to the ground with a ropecaster and blast them to pieces with fire arrows.  All that’s left is me and the panther, and – after I’ve spent 30 awesome hours mastering the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn – I wouldn’t bet on the panther.

These robots are remarkably vulnerable to arrows. Too bad nobody ever thought of that in those Terminator movies.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of those great games that builds a solid story around core gameplay that works really well.  As an exiled girl who has been trained to survive in a post-apocalyptic world populated by primitive humans and bloodthirsty robots, you spend quite a bit of time hunting or being hunted.  Particularly by robots.  And man, there are a lot of robots.  There are raptor-sized Watchers and gigantic frost-spewing alligator-like Snapmaws and truly massive (and pleasantly peaceful) Longnecks.  Your bow and arrows work great but you can set traps, tie them up with ropes and lay exploding tripwires as well.  This opens a lot of gameplay; you can charge in swinging with your staff, snipe from a distance, or set traps and hide out to watch the fireworks.  All approaches are pretty fun, which is good as you’ll generally use all three.

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Aloy is easily the least annoying person you’ll ever meet who wears a bluetooth.

On top of great gameplay, Horizon provides a pretty solid story as well.  On one level, you have the story of your character’s desire to join the wider world and the game chronicles her rise from (mysteriously) reviled outcast survivor to well-loved world savior.  Aloy, your hero, is also investigating what happened to the world that existed before this apocalypse (and her connection to those events) and this story proves remarkably compelling.  Watching society fall apart through a series of terrible decisions and incompetence makes for some really interesting backstory.  I found myself anxious to dig deeper into those mysteries by delving further and further into the game.  And, ultimately, the game’s ability to unite both the story of the fall of civilization and Aloy’s rise – a story about the world’s past apocalypse and present conflicts – is really remarkable (and deserves to be seen not spoiled).

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This is one big world with a lot of big robots. I find myself where they get all the metal for making more robots. Must have one heck of a recycling program.

Horizon:Zero Dawn is going to feel very familiar to current gamers.  You have a big, open world map loaded with main quests and side quests, but the game is thankfully more reserved than most.  You’ll have one or two main missions and three or four options side quests to do.  Side quests are impressive in the game and major events happen in these optional adventures.  They also allow you to level up, making the main quests much easier if you’re willing to put the time in.  And you should, these quests are always really interesting.  Meanwhile the map opens wider and wider, revealing several diverse locations and a wide variety of robot monsters to hunt.  Don’t worry, though.  As big as the map gets and as dangerous as the robots become, you’ll scale up right with them.  You’ll go from worrying about every Watcher you encounter to actively hunting the massive Behemoths later in the game.

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What? Lance Riddick is in here too? Awesome!

Horizon: Zero Dawn is probably the best game I’ve played this year.  When I think about whether I’d recommend someone actually buy a game, though, I think about whether I could see myself playing through that adventure again.  I ask whether I’d want to return to that world, even just to mess around in the open world for a while.  I’d happily return to The Witcher 3’s open world to hunt down some monsters or revisit some of the more exciting levels of Dishonored 2.  I would also definitely return to the wide open world of Horizon: Zero Dawn.  The variety of monsters and environments to see, the array of weapons to explore, and various treasures to find all make returning to that world sound like a lot of fun.

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Aloy is a welcome addition to the pantheon of Playstation heroes. She stands tall alongside Kratos, Sly Cooper and PaRappa the Rappa.

THE BEST PARTS:

It has great gameplay and a great story.  Oh and the graphics range from good to stunning.

THE WORST PARTS:

Errr…..well, the Way Points get a little confusing in tight spaces.  Also, it’s often hard to see which walls you can climb.  So there’s that.

OVERALL: BUY IT

Horizon: Zero Dawn has been pretty universally praised and yet I feel that it’s underrated.  You need to play it and wouldn’t regret buying it.  Hunting robot dinosaurs in a beautiful post-apocalyptic world would actually be MORE fun than it sounds?