Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4) Review
I had skepticism on Horizon Zero Dawn before it released, I’ll admit it.
It looked nice, but very little had been said about a story. It showed off the robot hunting, which looked fun, but I hadn’t found the reason that I’d be interested in taking down robot deer again and again.
Make no mistake, though, Horizon Zero Dawn has a great story. In fact, there’s very little that’s actually a letdown in the latest Guerrilla Games title. From stalking prey to the hunt itself, to traversing areas and most quests, the game will have you wanting to learn more about the world and Aloy’s story.
Before even getting to the start menu, though, you have an almost 10 minute cutscene setting up some backstory for the game. You follow your exiled caretaker, Rost, as he carries you as an infant past various parts of the world, showing off the landscape and creatures. Soon, you get to the naming ritual, where you’re finally given your name and the game begins.
Early on, you try to learn more about yourself and where you come from while learning about the world and how to survive. The tutorials are handled nicely, including teaching you how to handle the device you find and how it can let you monitor paths some robots follow and scan the area for useful materials.
While there are plenty of quests and sidequests to take on for benefits of new weapons, powerups and more, the meat and bones of almost everything in the game is the combat. Don’t get me wrong, with a good combination of melee strikes and slams, dodges and some quick arrows, you can take down a decent amount of weaker enemies. However, stronger and smarter enemies will require strategy.
You’ll quickly find that tall grass is your friend to hide in and plan attacks. There are also plenty of items to help you plan intricate assaults on robots to take them down with little to no hassle. After watching an enemy’s path, you may place a shock trap or fire bomb in the way to cause some early damage. Meanwhile, if you have the right ability, you can override an enemy to be a mount to ride on to be more mobile, or to fight on your side for a while.
After prepping a battlefield, you can aim for weak points, shown with Aloy’s technology she found early on, and keep setting traps and preparing for new attacks from enemies and packs they travel with. There’s a lot of freedom on how to handle groups, making the choice yours how you want to take something down and if alerting everything else around you is worth it or not.
Unfortunately, while the robot fights can be full of tension and always rewarding, the combat against humans are mostly simplistic. A stealth attack or arrow to the head will quickly dispatch them, and hiding in the grass and whistling toward them will get them to come over one at a time for their deaths, like an obedient lemming.
Another small weakness the game has is the lack of interesting characters and plot points to drive you after the first section of the game. The game does start to drag a bit later on, especially with some middling side and main quests. However, it does pick up toward the end to make the conclusion worthwhile.
The fast travel is also handled a bit differently than most games. You can’t just jump between campfires. You first have to construct a travel kit before being able to move to a campfire, losing the kit in the first place. However, once you get the ability to convert robots into mounts, you shouldn’t worry too much about travel kits, as you’ll be able to move much faster riding around.
Graphically, the game looks stunning as well. From the different environments you run through, to the robotic beasts you’ll face, the game is always dazzling and making you appreciate everything you see.