In a tide of games hitting shelves in the early months of 2017, there almost seems like too much to wade through. To stand out from the crowd, you have to be a little bit special and Horizon: Zero Dawn is exactly that kind of game.
For starters, it’s a darn good looking game. The Decima game engine created by Guerrilla Games, that we will also see used for Kojima Productions’ Death Stranding, is a real work of art that shines in so many different areas.
The faces have life to them, the animations are incredibly sharp and the depth that’s given because of the lighting effects really draw you in to their world. A photo mode has never more been as justified.
Then you add in the story, which is both intriguing and well executed in the way it’s told. You have so little to go on from the start but as you progress, you begin to unravel all the questions both yourself and Aloy have in what feels like such an organic way.
Speaking of the main character, she is lovingly crafted into an interesting human being. Shunned as a child, she possesses a nice mix of anger, passion and self-belief that really set her aside from others in this kind of action RPG genre.
She’s not afraid to be a little vulnerable, she can be as cold as she wants to be while rightfully never quite trusting anyone fully. It’s a depth that’s sometimes lacking in gaming, so to have it here instantly makes Aloy feel more real.
Even if she has a dumb name. Real talk, they all have dumb names.
But honestly, it’s the gameplay where this game really delivers in spades. It’s varied without weighing you down in options, tough without being impossible and strategic without needing to be a code breaker to decipher.
The weapons you have at your disposal all have a purpose, from trip wires to elemental arrows to bombs, they all have their uses when taking down enemies. The ease of use for all of them is remarkable, especially when you can recraft ammo so simply through the weapon wheel to keep up the pace of the action.
Even as you level up Aloy, she never becomes overpowered that she mows down machines like your dad does with the grass once spring comes around. Enemies are never simple, disregarding the more common foes can quickly get you surrounded and killed.
However, being prepared can make them a hell of a lot simpler to deal with. Looking for weak spots, using your focus to find what works best or what to take away from them can turn a daunting fight into a massacre.
And when that happens, you feel like a badass.
Taking off parts of a machine like peeling an orange before leaping into the air, firing fire arrows in slow-motion before landing the final blow with the opponent’s own weapon. That kind of stuff doesn’t get old. Ever.
In the end, it just has a wonderful mix of everything you would want from a video game. It’s beautiful, it tells a simple story well and it’s fun, could you really ask for much more?
Also, a tip of the cap to Guerrilla Games, who bounce back from a rather depressing previous game with Killzone: Shadow Fall with not only a potential Game of the Year contender but a new IP that will absolutely become one of Sony’s flagship franchises.
Do you like fun? Go get this game.