March 10, 2019 at 9:14 PM #874
Horizon Zero Dawn
Rating: 5.0 – Flawless
Horizon, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Robo T-Rex
The idea of a robopocalypse has been around for a while, but Horizon: Zero Dawn, with its unusual fusion of robots and natural ecosystems, and focus on tribal warriors rather than John Connor resistance leaders, promised something unique and new. And boy does it deliver. Horizon is one of the pinnacles of the video game form, a rare AAA game that has a massive world, beautiful graphics, deep lore, a fun combat system with many tactical options… and of course, robo dinosaurs.
Story – 9.5/10
On the surface, the story of Horizon seems pretty simple, in a world where robots have become the dominant species, a girl of strange origins who was raised as an outcast becomes a badass in order to gain entry to her tribe in a trial by fire. But, this is all just prelude to a world chock full of ancient secrets, and kingdoms that seem fantastical yet are rooted in strangely familiar places, at least to we viewers from what the denizens of the future would call the "Metal World". The game does a great job of making the various civilizations and tribes feel as though they could really spring up after a future "dark age" caused when robots mysteriously took over the planet, and telltale signs of robots are interwoven with their very culture and has caused them to be regarded more as parts of the natural world than mere machines. Still, the robots aren’t exactly natural… they may look like animals, but they seem to be working together and don’t exactly like it when humans try to pry into their secrets.
The story is written with very topical themes, and witnessing the natural beauty of this future world while learning about the greed, hatred and foolishness of those who brought the world of the ancients crashing down, and betrayed the trust of those who trusted them, only makes it all the more sad that the story is so very, very believable. What really sets the game apart is the large amount of often chilling lore there is to piece though, and which doesn’t just feel like random technobabble.
If there’s a criticism of the story, it’s that some of the story beats can be predictable. But for a game this size, I think that it still does a bang up job, and Aloy doesn’t feel like some generic character, but is likeable and has personality.
Gameplay – 9.5/10
Horizon is an open world game, and a ridiculously big one at that. There’s a ton of land to explore and things to discover, so move over Skyrim, there’s a new king in town. As Aloy, you’re an all around kick-ass warrior girl who can take out robots armed with lasers that are many times her size with just a bow and a spear. Of course, a lot of this is due to her handy dandy holographic assistant, which can pinpoint weak spots to target. Which is good, because all of the formerly docile robots dotting the land have started attacking humans on sight, while other more deadly robots have started to appear. If you’ve ever wanted to know what a sabertooth tiger wielding a laser machine gun would feel like to fight, now’s your chance! (Hint: run.)
In the usual open world fashion, you can take on sidequests, as well as "errands", the game’s term for shorter side missions that usually only involve doing some basic fetch quest or battle. There are also other things, like hunting missions involving performing particular tasks for prizes, which I found surprisingly fun. There are a large variety of weapons, ranging from bows to bomb launchers to pseudo crossbow guns, and even heavy weapons like a Light Machinegun that are way too fun to use for the limited time you get to use them.
If there’s a criticism, it’s that sometimes the game’s jumping can be a bit wonky, but it’s forgivable in a game of this magnitude. At the very least, the animations feel smooth and responsive, and the dodge roll usually works as intended. Another issue is that sometimes the story missions feel a bit easy, as though they expected players not to bother with, like, any of the side missions.
Graphics – 10/10
The game looks absolutely gorgeous, and the designs of the robots are totally believable as extrapolations of real world tech. The designs of characters’ clothing is also top notch and shows concept artists at the top of their game. Aloy’s dreads may offend some people’s sensibilities but they fit her character and the game’s themes well.
The main problems are primarily technical, with massive pop in due to the PS4’s weak capabilities. At its worst, it can break immersion in the game.
Sound – 10/10
The game’s music is ambient yet evocative, and powerful when it needs to be. It uses a combination of tribal instruments and synths to create an ancient meets futuristic feel. The voice acting is also very well done and shows the full range of emotions for many characters.
The acting for the main character, Aloy, is also a great performance, although she can at times sound a bit too "modern" in her mannerisms and speech.
Overall – 10/10
Horizon Zero Dawn is a true modern masterpiece that earns its place as one of the best games on the PS4. It was also clearly a labor of love and the effort put into it certainly paid off.
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