The Unknown Gamer

Cavegirl vs. Robot Dinosaurs

2017 is shaping up to be a good year for open world games, and for the first time in what seems like forever, Nintendo fans have an exclusive AAA title that they are proud to gloat about. Fortunately for Playstation loyalists, the PS4 also got a highly anticipated open world title.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is a visually stunning game set in a post-post-apocalyptic world where the ruins of 21st. Century have been overtaken by nature, as well as robotic animals. Humans live in primitive societies and hunt these robots for parts. Taking on the role of Aloy, a plucky huntress of the Nora tribe, players are tasked with uncovering the secrets of the machines as well as the lost history of the Earth, while getting distracted by all the Skyrim-esque map markers and side quests.

There isn't too much to say here that isn't self-explanitory. The game's selling point is that it is a well-crafted open world in which you fight giant robot dinosaurs with bows and a spear. By leveling up and doing side quests, Aloy gradually increases her skills at hunting machines, and can even learn how to take over machines to use as mounts or to sic on enemy robots. Her bow skills can be supplemented by traps and other weapons that can be used to trip up, freeze, or otherwise temporarily disable robots. These can be very handy when taking on flying enemies or robot T-Rexes, as it is easy to take massive amount of damage if you let yourself get hit by a big attack.

Since Horizon: Zero Dawn has the unfortunate fate of being released only a few days before Breath of the Wild, these games will be inevitably compared side-by-side. I'm not sure if this was intentional on Sony's part in an attempt to steal Nintendo's thunder, or just a tragic mistake that frustrates people who happened to be looking forward to both games. While I feel Zelda is the better game overall, there are a few things that this one does better, aside from just the graphics. The controls are just a bit tighter, and the ability to craft arrows on the road is something I wish Link would have spent time learning. On the other hand, the game is not without its own annoyances. The climbing in this game is (in my opinion) heavily "automated" as Aloy climbs and jumps between points in largely per-determined climbing paths. It looks cool but provides little challenge in most cases compared to combat. I am also a bit annoyed that I unlocked all of the machine override skills and invested heavily in stealth skills, only for them both to have no use in the final showdown of the game.

Story-wise, the game ended up having a better MSQ than I anticipated. The game's writers actually did a decent job of taking the concept behind the game and putting together a story that justifies it happening. While I feel that the narrative suffers at the beginning, and that some of the plot points are extremely predictable, things do pick up about halfway through. Some of the truths behind the old world are revealed, and in many ways this part of the story is better than that of Breath of the Wild, though it is somewhat annoying how Aloy is basically being dragged about by the whims of a shadowy NPC who may actually be evil. By the end, the story remains open enough to make a sequel feasible. Given the sales figures, this is almost guaranteed.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is a must-play PS4 title for PS4 owners or anyone who likes open world games. It is a shame that a PC version does not exist, but it looks great even on a standard PS4. Also, robot dinosaurs.

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