Home Game Reviews Horizon Zero Dawn: Aloy’s Unforgettable Sci-fi Robosaur Hunt

Horizon Zero Dawn: Aloy’s Unforgettable Sci-fi Robosaur Hunt

Horizon Zero Dawn review

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Horizon Zero Dawn Front Picture
Horizon Zero Dawn – Aloy hunting Longlegs

Title: Horizon Zero Dawn
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Released: February 28, 2017 (PS4), August 7, 2020 (PC)
Platforms Available: PlayStation 4 PlayStation 5, PC Game , Mac Game
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Article Reading Time: 12 minutes

An Epic Sci-fi Begins

Horizon Zero Dawn’s story is one of the game’s most vital points, so I’ll say at the beginning of this review that I won’t give anything away. By gaming standards, it has unprecedented head and heel, good pacing, and a strong ending. It doesn’t leave many unanswered questions and closes everything necessary in a satisfying and meaningful way. I will readily admit that some scenes gave me chills, while the final minutes moved me more than I would have expected. The story here certainly doesn’t add to the main attraction, which is the open-world robosaur hunt.

Multi-Layered Epic

Horizon works on three story levels, and I emphasize “works.” It’s immensely refreshing to follow a character’s journey driven by a desire for answers to personal, almost intimate, problems. These are eventually layered on top of a social plane and one other I’ll keep to myself. However, only some of these could work if Aloy was believable. Fortunately, the writers, animators, and voiceover artists portrayed her in a very plastic way. You’ll root for her just like you do for all the characters mentioned initially. Whether it’s anger, disappointment, compassion, betrayal, elation, or hope, you implicitly believe all of Aloy’s emotions. Aloy is thrust into a world where robots rule while humans are stuck at the tribal level. No part of Horizon: Zero Dawn is permeated by rust and sizzles under your hands, but it’s the world that shines the most. You probably haven’t seen anything like it in the game or the movie, certainly not in such a thoughtful, meaningful, and enticing treatment. The world here is huge and fun. You will always enjoy it visually and gameplay-wise, even after dozens of hours. Each region has a soul and unique atmosphere; it’s a pleasure to explore it all and discover different corners full of more or less pleasant surprises.

Horizon Zero Dawn Aloy hunting Lancehorns

Navigating the World

Aloy is different from other people in many ways. For example, she’s a little one who can find a so-called “Focus” or device that allows you to activate augmented reality at any time in the game. This is used to identify enemies various elements in the environment and for detective tasks. Detective work is frequent but still a tiny part of the massive machine called gameplay. It consists of almost everything you would expect from an action-adventure game in a big open world. So get ready for main quests, side quests, settlements with bandits, towers revealing part of the map, resource gathering, crafting, inventory management, gaining experience, leveling up, gaining new abilities, traders, and a ton of other stuff. You’ve probably played all this a few times, and some of you are rightfully sick of games like this.

However, it should be added immediately so that you don’t have to roll your eyes at any of the above. Horizon, alongside its direct competition, stands out with an excellent foundation on which the developers have piled one brilliantly crafted layer on top of another. The result is so impressive in every way that the label “yet another open-world game” is rather unfair. Even though it is another open-world game. At the same time, the creators needed to tighten the reins a bit and come up with some good ideas. For example, you could count the settlements with bandits on one hand and the towers. These are also handled in such a way that you don’t get the feeling of a repetitive, endless process in the middle of a map dotted with a million icons. After the first “tower,” you’ll be looking forward to the next one, and after the last one, you’ll regret that there aren’t more. And so it is with almost everything here.

Balancing Gameplay Elements

The developers perfectly balanced the importance of the different parts of the game. So let me just praise what they’ve already missed the work with the inventory. This is seamless most of the time, but the moment you need to buy or sell more stuff, you’ll silently curse the design decisions made by the developers. You won’t be doing this every ten minutes, though, so you can turn a blind eye to the inventory. Horizon offers a lot of consequences, but I never felt pressured or pushed into an activity I didn’t want to do. The game neatly divides your tasks into several categories, and the map is beautifully readable without dozens of unnecessary icons. These are cleverly hidden behind the map system.

Horizon Zero Dawn – Aloy overriding Tallneck to expose new map area

If you’re in a collecting mood, just buy a map with one of the treasure types from your nearest merchant and set off in search of fortune and glory. The density of activities is your choice. You won’t be bothered by collecting resources or the routine work of a messenger. Resource management can be simplified very elegantly by investing points in the relevant abilities. Elsewhere, the annoying game of errand-runner is again sagging under the weight of dialogue, story, choices, and sometimes minor twists, so that you won’t mind the perennial challenge of collecting four skins from wild boars. Tasks of this type are also optional here, and even if you dive into them entirely, you won’t feel overwhelmed by work and “shopping list” syndrome with many boring items.

Moreover, some of the side-quests are pleasantly whimsical. The characters are generally chatty, and not only do you have a circular menu of dialogue to choose from, but you can still take one of three moral sides occasionally. Your choices have little impact on the story, but the positive, negative, or sympathetic Aloy fleshes out the protagonist’s personality in the way you want to play her.

Combat and Creativity

Aloy’s primary tool is not her mouth but her bow. Or a spear, a slingshot, or the equivalent of a machine gun. Combat is the order of the day in Horizon: Zero Dawn, and like the dialogue, it gives you some creative freedom. The basic premise is simple: Aloy, with her bow and spear, is in direct contrast to the technologically advanced robots. Except for the first two or three species you encounter, you won’t kill any of them in one or two shots. Thus, tactics based on a plethora of options and tools come into play. Like Aloy, each robot has a somewhat varied exterior with several layers. Each robot’s body consists of several elements: modules, weapons, mounts, and parts. Modules are purely a functional matter, and these are the ones you’ll target most often. Shooting ordinary arrows into the robot’s body is a waste of time.

Horizon Zero Dawn – Archery is a pleasure

The primary goal of any robot fight is to gradually “strip” your opponent of important functions by destroying individual modules. Selectively reduce its combat, movement, or cloaking effectiveness to a minimum. In addition, each body part or module is susceptible to a different type of damage, from ice to fire, to special “tear” damage. This doesn’t do any real damage, but a properly aimed rip arrow can quickly take a targeted module down and strip an enemy of a piece of equipment. The individual modules and key information for them will be revealed by Focus, and while it will matter less at the start of the game, you won’t be able to avoid tactics as time goes on. Some later enemies can take a few minutes of work and dozens of arrows or a combination of arrows, traps, sneaking, and your trusty spear. Fights are incredibly intense, with the most giant monsters or robots moving in packs.

Stealth and Strategy

Not every fight is necessarily about fast action, precision aiming, and frequent dodges. The game gives you enough space and varied enemies to get action-packed one day, while at other times, you’re carefully treading through the bushes and hunting down poor robots or bandits in silence. You can vary the gameplay by whether you approach a conflict straightforwardly or stealthily, as well as by choosing individual arrows for different bows and targeting different parts of the body. For example, the Stalker can make himself invisible and habitually lays mines in his surroundings. If you manage to rip the Stealth Generator from his body, you’ll be up against an extremely angry robot, but at least you’ll see him. For example, I once managed to grab a machine gun from a robot. Grabbing it, I began showering its former owner with its plasma blasts, which eventually disintegrated for good the moment it tried to jump on me.

Not even Michael Bay would have shot it that way, and yet it all flowed naturally from the game. The fights may seem overly complex from this description, and admittedly, they are not trivial. But I never found them unfair or so difficult that I had to repeat a passage more than once. By successively blasting away various modules, you shape your enemy into a state in which it’s easier to fight. The corruption arrows also help by turning the robots against each other for a while, and you can also hack some robots to your side. More heads know more, and you’ll always have a better fight with a metal sidekick by your side.

None of this is downright necessary, though, so it’s purely up to you how easy in difficulty or simple in mechanics you want to make the fights. Only in the bandit fights does it hurt to be able to whistle, which only one unfortunate person ever hears. You can then, like in Mafia III, gradually summon one after another and dispatch them from the bushes. Fortunately, you can only get away with this sometimes, and only with humans. Robotscan hear the whistle, too, but you can only kill a few enemy types in one shot.

Horizon Zero Dawn – Not just fight but revelations keeps you engaged in this great sci-fi story

Technical Performance

I’ve played Horizon on PlayStation 4, where I have yet to notice a single framerate issue. Similarly, I encountered almost no bugs, and only two or three times did the physics of a dead robot malfunction in a way that made its body behave somewhat strangely and not very realistically. What I do fault the game for, however, is the facial animations. These are mostly okay for all the main characters, though they’re nothing exceptional within the field. However, some of the secondary characters have fallen through time here from a game a few years back. Horizon otherwise looks absolutely top-notch, which is what makes the crappy animations on some of the faces all the more glaring. Considering how the game looks overall, as well as Aloy’s face, these unfortunates deserve similar treatment.

Final Thoughts

Horizon: Zero Dawn is much more than just “another open-world game”. You can look at it cynically like that, but you’ll then be deliberately ignoring the fact that Horizon is quite different from many recurring franchises that sometimes confuse quantity for quality. Guerrilla Games may not have come up with anything revolutionary here, but much like, say, The Witcher 3 or Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, they’ve managed to push the genre’s bar in a way that probably few expected. Horizon is too good to let slip through your fingers. It already offers more on a basic level, and where other games gasp, Aloy breaks into a sprint. And next to her, even after the 30+ hours it took me to get the platinum trophy, I would have happily kept running…

Where to Buy Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition

  1. Steam (PC): Available for $49.99. Purchase it from Steam
  2. Epic Games Store (PC): Also priced at $49.99. Find it on the Epic Games Store
  3. GOG (PC, Mac): Available for $49.99, with discounts often available. Purchase it from GOG
  4. PlayStation Store (PS4): The game is priced at $19.99. Check it out on the PlayStation Store
  5. Best Buy (PC): Available for $49.99. You can purchase it online from Best Buy
Horizon Zero Dawn Horus destroyer of the world
Horizon Zero Dawn Horus, destroyer of the world

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