Horizon Zero Dawn Is One Of The Finest Open World Video Games Of All Time


It’s been a long time coming, but thanks to Guerrilla Games keeping their heads down – save for press conference trailers or behind-the-scenes looks – Horizon Zero Dawn has emerged, fully-formed, as not only one of this generation’s most impressive titles, but one of the most tantalising reasons to invest in Sony hardware thus far, alongside being one of the finest PlayStation exclusives of all time.

Creativity

The biggest positive for Horizon is how immediately ‘playable’ it is. You can really tell that Guerrilla have studied the competition when it comes to third-person action games and how to build an engaging open-world, resulting in something that plays on inbuilt conventions to get you moving, before layering on detailed enemy boss fights, RPG conversation trees, skill-unlocks, points of interest and everything in between.

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Just to lay it out, you’ve got Assassin’s Creed-style climbing, the depth of a Witcher 3 side-quest, Far Cry hunting and crafting, Uncharted narrative sections with great dialogue and acting, Mass Effect dialogue wheels, Hitman: Absolution enemy path-tracking, The Division looting – it goes on and on.

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Cynically, yes, you can see EXACTLY where Guerrilla took the pieces for their own patchwork quilt, but in combining them all so effortlessly and then adding the art design, world mythology, character of Aloy and the story overall, it means you’ve got something millions can pick up and play, alongside a ton of depth and intricacy for those who want it.

Fighting Machines

Combat-wise, there’s a standout human-related negative which I’ll address towards the close of this article, but the game is overall at its best whenever you decide to fight the machines. Without going into spoilers, let’s say there’s a reason you’re more comfortable staying within the smaller vicinity of the Nora tribe at the beginning of the game, tackling the serpentine Watchers and occasionally something a little bigger.

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Following that, when you start venturing out into the ‘real world’, almost every creature you find will need a considered approach to bring down. Bringing up your ‘Focus’ vision-mode will highlight specific parts of the beasts to target – which you can then do so, depending on which weapons or items you have equipped.

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Potions can be chugged or outfits worn to maximise defence, and that’s before you start implementing things like ropes to tie down flying or agile enemies, freeze bombs to slow them down, tripwires to lure them into, stealth to sneak up and deliver a critical hit, etc.

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Combine all of these, factor in a lightning-fast, responsive feel, the constant rollout of new machines and how tackling multiple species’ at once means you’ll have to alter your tactics on the fly to survive, and you have one HELL of a package.

Single Player Story

Following the trailers and marketing materials released for Horizon, you might’ve thought the game was going to centre entirely on blasting apart robo-dinos for loot and treasure. That is certainly a good three-quarters of what you’ll be doing, but the thing that really surprised me, was just how personal and incredibly nuanced Aloy’s story is.

From the get-go, you’re painted as a literal Outcast, forced to grow up not knowing who your mother was – or being allowed to know. The Nora tribe despise the idea of a motherless child, refer to you as ‘it’, with the children even throwing stones at the sight of you. It’s this essential narrative groundwork that allows Horizon to dance between operating on a micro and macro level at all times.

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You truly care about Aloy’s personal plight, and understand her drive to explore and succeed, but the world’s history itself is just as interesting. Atop that, where so many other open-world games fall down is in giving the player an overarching goal needs to be complete immediately (Fallout 4’s missing infant, Mass Effect 3’s devastation of Earth, etc.).

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Horizon certainly has hooks, twists and turns across the main campaign, but it makes sense contextually that Aloy would go off and explore to her heart’s content, knowing whatever main quest marker she’s chasing will be waiting just around the corner.

As for that story, take it from me: You’re going to want to go into this as blind as possible. Every part of discovering what’s really going on, who Aloy is, what happened in regards to her mother etc. should be discovered whilst playing through for the first time.

Sci-Fi & Fantasy Contrast

It can’t be understated how unique and welcoming it feels to see a developer play with thematic conventions so liberally. This isn’t like For Honor, where Ubisoft thought it’d simply be cool to mash together knights, vikings and samurais into one timeline. Instead, you can tell every part of how Horizon plays its hand is considered.

Guerrilla want you to know a certain amount by a certain time, and leave the rest up to you.

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As such, the big hook across the trailers has been “What happened that allowed robots to take over?” and to solve this – again, without spoilers – you’ll need to delve into the world itself, just as much as the main story. You’ll hear people talk of the machine race and you’ll find ‘vantage points’ where you can look out onto buildings or structures as though it was the modern day.

Fun tip: Putting the names attached to these clips into Google Maps will also help in grasping the bigger picture.

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Most impressive though, are the ‘Cauldrons’; intricate cave networks where it appears the machines are coming from. Inside here you’ll find answers – or, allusions to answers, anyway – as the game’s aesthetic completely shifts, almost feeling like Assassin’s Creed as your out-of-place tribeswoman is suddenly exploring a facility straight out of Ridley Scott’s wildest imagination.

Pair the two and make it so you can shift between them without any loading screens, and it gives Horizon an identity like nothing else.

 

Source – Whatculture

#Horizon Zero Dawn Is One Of The Finest Open World Video Games Of All Time

 

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