Released on March 7th, 2017, Horizon: Zero Dawn is an ambitious third-person, open-world game from Guerrilla Games and Sony. It is a PS4 exclusive.
You play as Aloy, a young girl who is on a quest to decipher the mystery of her past. This is an original IP and looks to be the start of a new franchise for Sony. Oh, but did I mention that it is fantastic? Because it is. From what I have played so far it is fucking amazing. I am not all the way through with the game yet, so all of my points will have an implied “at least so far” at the end.
Let me start off with Aloy and her representation in game. Not once has she been portrayed as a damsel in distress or sexualized. She is a strong woman who don’t need no man. People come to her for help, and not the other way around. The voice acting by Ashley Burch and performance capture by Kezia Burrows are exceptional. She is cautious, optimistic, trusting, and strong. Unless the story takes a wild turn at some point Aloy may join the pantheon of best female characters in gaming alongside Lara Croft and Samus Aran. If this franchise picks up steam and the writers don’t end up turning her into a sexy pin-up girl (like the aforementioned protagonists have been from time to time), she may supplant these heroines. She is the kind of character I would want my daughter to play and look up to -if I could ever get her to stop playing Undertale that is. The other characters vary in quality with some wearing out their welcome quickly, but others have me rushing back to continue their quests.
This game is absolutely gorgeous. I am playing it on a launch model PS4 and it still looks fantastic. I have played a bit on a friend’s PS4 Pro and it does look considerably better. On the Pro it has more particle effects and some stupid amazing looking grass. I sat there for a minute just watching the grass sway in the breeze before snapping out of it and resuming shooting arrows at giant robo-animals.
Speaking of robo-animals/dinosaurs, the combat in this game is tough and unforgiving. That being said, it is also fun and exhilarating. The main attraction here is you use various tools or weapons to take down some amazingly designed metal behemoths. Wiping the sweat from your palms after finally taking down a huge flying metal asshole (I’m looking at you Stormbird) after a 10 minute battle of attrition is immensely rewarding. The combat versus human enemies doesn’t hold up as well, but is not bad by any means. It handles this in the same way the Tomb Raider reboot did, but better. This game feels like the game that the Tomb Raider reboot (and sequel) wanted to be. Platforming is one of the weaker aspects of the game, as it seems to take its cues from the earlier Assassin’s Creed games. This means that you can just hold up on the analog stick and climb up and what you can and can’t jump on is random at times. Again, not bad, but it could be better.
I normally don’t like open-world games. However, I am fascinated by the mysteries and environment of Horizon. I find that most open-worlds are sparsely populated and I get bored with the fetch quests easily. Not so in this one. I want to know more about Aloy and her past. Why did our society collapse? Why the hell are giant robot dinosaurs running around? I don’t know the answers to those questions yet, but I am eager to find out.