Ryu’s Musings – Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4)

hzdLanguage: Audio: English
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Format: PS4
Type: Open World / Action Adventure
Demo Box: PS4 (Old)
Synopsis: Earth is ours no more

See the world through the eyes of Aloy, a woman shunned by her tribe from birth, as she goes on a quest to discover the deepest secrets of the ancient past. Go up against warring tribes and terrifying mechanized creatures as you enter a lush world facing the near destruction of mankind.
Turn predators to prey, fuse primitive gear with advanced tech and explore sprawling, dangerous terrain as you investigate the world around you.

While I’m very much an anti-hype person, sometimes I cant help it, and this was one of those times.

If you want me to give you a TL;DR right now, here it is: BUY THIS GAME!

Firstly, please note there will be some minor spoilers bellow. I’m currently sat around the 35 hour mark and I can honestly say that Guerrilla Games have done an amazing job with this game. However it’s not, as some reviews are hyping, the greatest game ever made. Nor is it a perfect game, or a 10 out of 10 game, and the reason for this is because it’s not an innovative game, nor does it change things up enough to deal with the tedium that does set in.

Now, before we go on let me clarify something, there’s nothing wrong with a game not being innovative; and there’s nothing wrong with iteration either. My issues with this game are that it’s come at a time where the open world collect-a-thon has grown stale.

But lets move onto what’s great about this game before we go into the bad!

Out of all the games released on the PS4, this is by far the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The visuals in this game will blow your mind, racing from snowy mountains, to forests and everything in-between. Only thing I’ve not seen seen (and that doesn’t mean there isn’t one!) is a desert.

However it’s not just the world that’s stunning. What really surprised me is that the characters and their outfits are equally lavish and detailed. Whats more they have actual facial expressions, and genuine, mostly fluid head movements while talking. Now admittedly there were a few times when they’d spaz out and heads and eyes were all over, which made me chuckle.

Another thing that took me by suprise, and made me wary, was the lack of invisible walls. I did run into a few, but mostly I’ve been able to run anywhere and everywhere, much to my detriment. The first time I fell off a cliff when I was expecting a wall was damn funny, and refreshing. The game will quite happily let you run off and kill yourself. Though I did also run into a phase issue, where id get a message saying I was leaving the game area, and if I didn’t turn back it would reload my last save. So yeah that was funny, especially since it had been an hour or so since my last save!

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Earlier in my post I said the game was iterative, and this is why: The game takes the best (and one worst) of games like Far Cry and Tomb Raider. The worst of course being the towers, why WHY!! Frankly climbing towers is dumb, and I’m sick of it, and wish games would find something else for this.

However everything else looked and felt familiar, the crafting of Far Cry, and the game play and campfires of Tomb Raider. We also get some ruin delving for treasure, much like Tomb Raider, though admittedly thus far I’ve not encountered anything to frustrating.

The ambient sounds and music for the game are just amazing as well. For me I’m historically not into game music (except for JRPG’s!!) and will turn off in game music and listen to spotify, or have TB&Jesse Cox’s Terraria vids on in the background. Here however I found that for the first 30hours or so I was genuinely into the music and sounds.

Now lets talk about the meat of the game, the combat. You’re typically fighting three types of mobs, firstly you’ve got general wild life like turkey, boar, rabbit and foxes, which you’ll spend way to much time hunting I might add!. Then you’ve got humans (naturally) and then you’ve got the machines, who are the main stay of the game.

These are where a lot of the fun comes from IMO, due to the fact you need to approach different ones in different ways. Some will run once they spot you, so you need to sneak and take them down in one shot. Others will charge and tip your face off, and others will sit and hurl acid and fire at you. You need to learn their weaknesses (which your handy focus will tell you!) and adapt your approach.

This becomes more apparent as the game approaches and the difficulty of the machines increases, and you get  packs of them to deal with. Overall I spent the first 10 hours of the game just hunting machines, because it was so much fun.

Finally lets talk about the best bit, the story. Holly hanna in spandex!! This story is gawd damn awesome. Aloy is an amazing heroin, and her story is both harrowing and amazing. A mysterious birth, cast out from the clan and ending up saving the clan. Losing her step father, who dies for her, and coming to the realisation that no matter how good she gets prejudice will still rule.

The way the game moves almost seamlessly from gameplay to cinematic is amazing and makes for one hell of an immersive adventure. I love the way that Aloy is both a badass, but also still a bit immature. Despite everything she’s done, and is doing people still hate her and she has to deal with this.

Early on the development we see in her character with Rost left me a little worried. Rost is a bit mechanical, but as the story progressed its more apparent that this is due to the circumstances they’re in, and not down to the writing or the VA. Though i did notice the facial expressions spazzing out on Rost more than anyone else.

I was especially drawn in to the way the clan handles the young Aloy, who doesn’t understand whats going on around her. While I understand they wanted to get you into the gameplay quickly, I would have loved to have seen more of young Aloy. Potential there for DLC? Adventures of Aloy?

Now we sadly have to address the bad in the game, and there’s a good bit to talk about.

Firstly we have the crafting, and it looks and feels like a direct lift from Far Cry, go hunt 10 bear asses to upgrade you pouch. Then go hunt 10 fox pelts to upgrade it again etc etc. This crafting system is as frustrating now as it was in Far Cry. I understand why they have it, but it’s a crap system that needs to be changed. It’s made worse in this game however because the items you need to do the upgrades are rare (it seems to me). So you’ll be hunting rabbits and foxes for hours just to get your upgrades. This is where my fun starts to decline.

It’s an open world game, and yes, these days I feel thats a flaw. The problem stems from the problems with open worlds. You have this huge world you’ve created, so now you need to fill it with stuff so people will explore it.

While it’s not too bad in this game, for me it’s the straw that broke the camels back. Running around gathering relics, statues, and flowers is not much fun for me any more. Rather I find it a chore, and pulling me away from the core game and story.

Whats worse is, it feels like the game is balanced around you completing all of these. So if you don’t your going to be under level of the main quest. I ignored all of these intially and eventually found myself 2 levels under where the game wanted me to be for the story quest (I was level 10 and the quest was rated level 12).

So I was faced with a choice, try and do the mission under levelled, farm machines, or go do the collect-a-thon. Farming would have taken a long time, and doing it under levelled has its risks as well, repeated deaths are not fun!

Its time to move on from open worlds and return to hub based game play, or innovate open worlds to make them interesting.

However, if you haven’t figured it out yet, despite the flaws of the genre this is still a damn good game, well worth it’s full asking price. Hell I picked up the deluxe edition and still think it was with my money and time. This is a game I will defiantly complete, if only to see how the story plays out.

I also hope that this is the start of a new franchise, and that we’ll see more of Aloy, or even other characters in the world. The good thing about this game is it doesn’t have to be fixed on Aloy, other games could tell the story of other outcasts, or even from the perspectives of other clans, not just the Nora. This world is oozing potential and frankly if Sony and Guerrilla Games don’t cash in on it, they’re nuts!

I will be streaming this game all weekend over on my new Twitch Channel

Author: Ryu Sheng