When you’ve spent the better part of a decade working on one franchise, when does the need arise to try something new? Guerilla Games decided this for themselves and we got Horizon Zero Dawn, a surprise that caught me off guard and kept my attention for dozens of hours so far. While Horizon Zero Dawn feels like many open-world games, Guerilla Games set their own trajectory on how things unfold in this massive, smart and involving game; and created technical feats few developers have been able to overcome on a console.
Guerilla Games stepped outside of their cocoon and flourished with Horizon Zero Dawn, a new series I cannot seem to get enough of.
Horizon Zero Dawn takes place quite some time into our future, the Earth has reverted into a different place, and our civilization is now a figment of the past, a warning to others. Unlike Fallout, The Last of Us, or Mad Max, the world isn’t a wasteland, but a luscious, sprawling land for us to explore. We seem skyscrapers and technology of a civilization that We meet Aloy, an outcast which leads to her being shunned as an outcast in the Nora tribe, a matriarch society in the world of Horizon Zero Dawn. Aloy is not your regular protagonist either, she’s smart, she’s strong, she’s fiercely independent, and this is why she decides to train to partake in The Proving, a ceremony that provides the victor anything they want.
This is just the opening sequence, and to explain the plot to you would be a disservice to you, the reader. I can say that during my 35-hour romp through the post-apocalyptic world,
After all this, the world opens up and becomes a daunting place as you make your way through luscious green, ancient ruins and unexplored wildlands. There is a lot to do, a lot to see, and a lot to hunt and as I was exploring this unknown land, all I wanted to do was see everything that was ahead of me.
Horizon Zero Dawn is beautiful to look at and oftentimes moving art. Guerilla Games’ attention to detail in the world showcases the PlayStation 4’s capabilities in spades, and doubly so on the PlayStation 4 Pro – the system I reviewed this title with. The 30 fps cap is consistent and dips rarely creating a smooth ride through all the chaos the world can throw at you. Expect to see a bump when the game launches as there will be a small day-one patch that brings a Performance mode that will smooth framerates and deliver higher visual fidelity.
Horizon Zero Dawn does things a bit differently in terms of story and sidequests. There are three types of missions including Main, Sidequests, and Errands. Main quests delve into Aloy’s story and Sidequests push the narrative further and expand upon the supporting cast of characters; all people who I wanted to invest more time into and get to know better. Errands are exactly that and are good ways to earn metal to craft better items and weapons to fight bigger enemies.
This is in addition to exploring the lands, cleaning out bandit outposts, clearing out Hunting Lodge trials that gift you rewards for completion, climbing Tallnecks to get a scope of the land around you, and more. The sheer amount of content will keep you busy for closer to 50 hours for full completion.
If you’re the type of gamer to get lost in a world, this immersive world will pull you in and keep you going for quite some time, exploring the environments, the day and night cycle, Guerilla creates a magical world for gamers to explore, oftentimes making you feel competent as Aloy as she fights, hunts and crafts her way through obstacles.
Crafting is a thoroughly joyful on-the-fly experience often providing the second wind needed to push on through a Sawtooth, Snapmaw, or Ravager. Crafting also goes hand in hand with Horizon Zero Dawn’s version of detective mode, an item Aloy owns that is called a “focus,” a Bluetooth-like device she wears that can do many things; chief among this is the ability to scan machines for weak spots, follow a target’s path, and more.
Each of the fantastic beasts you’ll encounter in their own land to encounter them in and each has their own patterns they follow, weaknesses to exploit and attacks to learn and counter. At the beginning of the game, Aloy has her bow and arrow and spear – and while these are going to help keep Aloy safe in a pinch, it’s how you react to enemies as each encounter requires some thoughtful planning in approach.
These encounters build experience for Aloy and as she grows stronger so do her abilities through earned skill points. From three different skill trees, Aloy grows to be an indomitable hunter-warrior. Through three different branches – Prowler, Brave, and Forager – Aloy unlocks skills and perks that allow for abilities such as override, allowing for you to pit beasts against each other, concentrate, which allows you to slow down time when aiming; creating new ways to face against the wild beasts and humans alike.
Horizon Zero Dawn might feel like a familiar romp through an open-world setting, but what Guerilla Games does with the established formula, is what really sets Horizon: Zero Dawn as a compelling, engaging, and entertaining game. Combat feels fluid, Aloy moves swiftly, and everything meshes well together providing a premium experience. Guerilla Games has crafted their strongest title in the library and I can’t find myself wanting to leave the world they’ve created. You walk away from Horizon: Zero Dawn feeling satisfied, it is a technical marvel for both Guerilla Games and PlayStation.