I’m not a gamer. I just play games I like, a lot. Usually it has to involve a specific type of gameplay, a good story, and archery. I like to joke with friends that I don’t like a console game unless it involves archery. So far, some of my favorites to date are Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Far Cry Primal. So you can imagine that when I saw someone sharing their screenshots of Horizon Zero Dawn, and heard it compared to Tomb Raider and Far Cry Primal, I was intrigued. I grabbed the game on Friday last week at Bullmoose, and proceeded to spend most of last weekend playing it.
Horizon Zero Dawn has captured my interest not only with its singular fantasy/sci-fi/speculative/dystopian story, but with the level of mystery as well. Often you’re helping Aloy solve all kinds of weird mysteries surrounding her birth, her world, why there are Machines everywhere, and how the different peoples of future Earth interact. The cut scenes are gorgeous and filled with information. You can talk to almost anyone in the world, and choose your response to people in complicated situations.
You can make Aloy someone who is kind, and helpful, or someone who is terse and bitter because of her status as an outcast.
The cast of unique characters is remarkable. Another thing I’ve noticed about this game is its intense diversity. It’s great to see peoples of every color in every tribe. The nations are not established by race, but by tribal groups, rituals, and laws. It’s incredible the detail that the developers have put into all of the non playable characters. It really make the game worth the interaction with others. You never know what clues you can pick up from the NPCs.
The landscape is another thing that has struck me as absolutely stunning. At any point in the game I can stop and look at the world around me. It is rich with different kinds of wildlife, different Machines in different environments, and all kinds of topography. Some of the landscape is reminiscent of the landscape that crawls along the Sierra Nevadas, as you can see in the background here. Other locations look like Utah, and the Arches. Still other places remind me of the Southwest and the Northwest. Since it’s “future Earth” and everyone speaks English, I’m assuming I’ll eventually discover where she’s supposed to be. I can’t wait to find out.
The Machines are pretty damn cool. I still don’t know how they came into existence, but there are huge machines that “match” different real life animals that aren’t in the world any more. There are machines that behave like velociraptors, rams, giant cats, giant crabs, roadrunners, longhorns, horses, and even more. The farther I get into the game, the scarier and larger the Machines become. Aloy can hide in tall bushes when a large herd is nearby, but it’s tough to avoid a group of five or six Machines that are all hunting her. It’s really interesting when a new Machine comes into play. Yesterday I discovered a Machine that is like a giant hawk. I didn’t even realize there were flying Machines!
Aloy can also “override” Machines, which is another creative feature in the game. Get her close enough to the machine, override it, and ride it through the lands. It’s a lot faster than running. The Machines don’t stay “loyal” for long, but in the game Aloy will become more capable of overriding bigger machines as I play. I’m excited to try to ride a Sawtooth (giant cat, basically) at some point… If that’s possible.
Reviewers weren’t kidding when they said it plays like the new Tomb Raider and Far Cry Primal put together. It’s definitely an adventure game, and definitely a story game with some really long cut scenes and conversations. But it’s also a hunter-gatherer/survival game, which is what I enjoy about the aforementioned titles. I like the idea of slowly building up a character’s capabilities and personal growth. It’s more like “real life” although I don’t have to survive nearly as hard as Lara, Takkar, or Aloy. It adds adventure elements to the story that don’t just involve battles and bloodthirst. Sure, I want to kill some bad guys. But I’d rather do it cleverly, than do it bluntly.
I’m about 16% into the game according to the PS4, but I’ve also missed a lot of training quests I need to go back and do this next weekend. I haven’t checked out Hunting Grounds or Cauldrons yet, and I know both of them will help me level up and be able to handle some of the Corrupted Machines I’m having a hard time with now. Right now I’m with Erend in Meridian, trying to figure out what’s going on with his potentially dead sister Ersa. (That’s not really a spoiler because I don’t know much about what’s happening anyway)
Thanks for reading! Have you played Horizon Zero Dawn? What kind of games do you like to play? Got a favorite console? Or are you more of a Fruit Ninja person? (I am too, even though that game is “outdated” I think it’s a classic) Tell me your story in the comments.