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I was merely… trespassing

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    Horizon Zero Dawn

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    I was merely… trespassing

    If I had to use one word to describe Horizon: Zero Dawn, it would be deep. The combat is deep, the story is deep, the world and lore are deep. The game drew instant parallels to Enslaved: An Odyssey to the West (A horrifically underrated game) for me, but while I preferred Enslaved’s characters and humor, Horizon has it beat in most other categories mostly due to its depth. There is clearly a large amount of effort that went into every aspect of this game, and that shows through with each step I took further into this thoroughly engaging tale.

    Story – 8/10

    You take the role of Aloy, an outcast of a tribe of religious peoples calling themselves the Nora. The setting is a post-post-apocalyptic world where civilization has begun to rebuild after an unknown calamity seemingly wiped out the previous civilization. The only other things inhabiting the world are robots, some that look more akin to dinosaurs, and others to modern animals. Over the course of the last 20 years, the robots have been growing more and more aggressive, and after a particularly devastating event, Aloy takes off on her adventure to discover the nature of the world, what happened to those that came before, and find out who she is.

    It is far better to go into Horizon knowing as little about the plot as possible, and so I will leave it there, but just know that there are many twists and turns, and Horizon presents one of the most unique plotlines I have ever seen in any piece of media, let alone a video game. I would have scored the story higher, but I did dock it a bit due to what I felt was a rather uninspired cast of characters. Most of the major characters are interesting enough, but none that really jumped out at me aside from Sylens, Aloy’s partner in discovering the nature of the world for most of the game. Sylens was one of the more unique characters I’ve seen in gaming, and his attitude was incredibly refreshing and intriguing, as when Aloy began to act in ways that seemed rather stereotypical, naive, etc, Sylens would rebuff her with almost the exact sentiments I was feeling at the time. Not only did this make Sylens all the more interesting, but it helped to temper the less inspired aspects of Aloy, by showing the player that the developers realize just how generic some of her behavior is.

    Despite these complaints, the story truly is a great tale, and one that I enjoyed every minute of.

    Gameplay – 9/10
    There are multiple facets to Horizon’s gameplay. There is, of course, the combat, which as I said in my opening statement is incredibly deep. It plays in a familiar way to that of Tomb Raider, but with far more complexity. Aloy is equipped with a spear (her melee weapon), several different types of bows for different encounters (Long-range, mid-range, etc), and various other tools at her disposal such as a gun that can set wire traps for the robots to get caught in, or a ropecaster which can be used to keep flying enemies from getting to far away. There are so many different methods of dealing with encounters from just hacking away with melee attacks (Which can be very dangerous, unless you know what you’re doing), to staying on the outskirts and peppering their weakpoints with arrows, to slinking in the shadows, stealth-killing enemies, and setting traps that they will not notice until it’s too late. Due to the sheer variety in combat, I never once found myself getting tired of it.

    The open world of Horizon is vast, and generally has a lot of content to complete, from various collectibles and side-quests, to the Cauldrons, which are dungeon-like areas similar to Tombs from Tomb Raider, though with far less complexity. I found the Cauldrons to be rather disappointing other than the rewards, which allowed to override more powerful robots and turn them to your side for a limited time.

    Overall, the gameplay in Horizon is amazing, though I do believe that it does not offer much new, it does vastly improve on systems from other games. The only real complaint I can give is maybe that some of the content felt a bit shallow, but otherwise I had an absolute blast playing this game, and never did I find myself just pushing to get through it, which is a testament to just how much fun it really is.

    Graphics – 9.5/10
    Horizon is absolutely gorgeous. The world is beautifully crafted, the robots that traverse the land have so much detail that it is honestly astounding. The characters also look quite good. There are a few issues here and there when they zoom in on faces in conversations, but it was never something that detracted from the dialogue. While I am not some huge graphics-lover, there are instances, particularly when it comes to games with a large amount of world-building, where I think graphics can very much add to the experience. This is one of those games.

    Sound – 8/10

    The voice acting is, for the most part, great. The music was also very solid, though no tracks really stuck with me. The noise of the environment were the most impressive, with each noise that the robots made, which almost had you believing they were real animals, to each blade of grass being pushed aside as Aloy snuck through it.

    Overall – 8.5
    Horizon: Zero dawn is a great game with an enthralling tale to tell. There are so many things that are good here, and many things that are great as well. The story is incredibly unique, and while the gameplay may not be entirely original, it is done very very well. For those reasons, I feel that Horizon: Zero Dawn is the best PS4 exclusive other than The Last of Us, and if future products from Guerrilla games are anything close to this, I will be there waiting.

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