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Horizon Zero Dawn Review

"Well-Oiled Machine"

Known for their Killzone series, Guerrilla Games has decided to branch out from their sci-fi shooter franchise and expand their portfolio. Horizon Zero Dawn is fresh start for Guerrilla, allowing them to experiment with different genres and fully expand new ideas. Though Horizon isn’t a shooter involving evil red eyed villains, players will notice the similarities to their past games. No, the Helghast don’t make any appearance, but seeing the pre-historic future where robotic creatures roam free gives players the immersive sci-fi word Guerrilla is known for. While the developer dwells closely to the rising open-world formula, Horizon forges its own path with smart, challenging gameplay.

Horizon presents players with a simple hero coming of age story, but with a lot more robot dinosaurs. Players control Aloy, who is obsessed with unraveling the mysteries of her past and why she became an outcast to the Nora tribe. Her quest for knowledge intertwines with this mysterious post-apocalyptic world, and the violent creatures that inhabit it. Where did these creatures come from and what happened to the world we once knew? Discovering this will take Aloy to the farthest reaches of her world.

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Once the world opens up, players will be get into the motion of Horizon’s gameplay. As with most open-world games, Horizon’s gameplay relies on exploring the world and completing quests. Guerrilla has crafted a beautiful world, but has stuck with safe activities for players to do. Players will explore the world, clear out bandit camps, hunt creatures to upgrade your inventory, and track down collectibles on the map. Typical formula one would find in their open world game. After you’ve looted numerous enemies and found your third collectible of the day, you’ll recognize where Horizon is going. The formula still works and it’s still fun, but it’s something we’ve seen before. What I will say is that for what Horizon does, it does it very well, making every moment feel exciting.

And what a world Guerrilla has crafted. Everything looks so beautifully crafted. Horizon’s world is full of variety with snowy mountains, huge destroyed cities, and desert landscapes. Not only does the world looking absolutely amazing, the beings that exist in it look great as well. The humans all look visually appealing, minus some issues here and there. Horizon’s living machines, however, are visual masterpieces. The machines that roam the land look authentic with movements that make them feel truly alive.

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Exploring the world is all the better with the mechanical creatures that lurk within it. Stalking bandit camps, silently taking out humans is standard, but Horizon’s robot creatures really steal the show. Each of the different creatures feature their own behaviors, components, and attacks. These synthetic beasts have their strengths and weaknesses and all can be exploited during combat. Each creature demands a thoughtful approach, with careless movement meaning instant death. Even the weakest Watcher can easily blind you and call in stronger creatures at a moment’s notice. Massive foes like the Bellowback feel like full-fledged boss battles in themselves. Chipping off armor to expose weak points, laying out elemental traps, and destroying Blaze canisters will help, but only the smartest players will walk away unscathed.

Unlocking new skills and modding your different weapons with buffs can also help even the odds. You’ll still need to play smart and Horizon is all the better for it. Even with the best armor in the game, the enemy can still take a huge chunk of health away if you’re not careful.

Story-based missions make up Aloy’s adventure, but there are different tiers of mission types. While the story missions progress the plot and give the best rewards, side quests give additional experience, items, and cash for your time. Side missions involve secondary characters and furthers their own backgrounds, but aren’t as in-depth as say Witcher or Mass Effect. Errands are simple and can be completed through regular gameplay. These missions involve tasks such as collecting a certain amount of boar skins or Watcher lens. The wide variety of missions do a great job of detailing the world and providing different ways to play.

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Unlike most open-world games, I enjoyed thoroughly exploring the gorgeous world Guerrilla has crafted. The mystery surrounding the post-apocalyptic world drew me into the world. I looked forward to finding new audio logs that explored modern day life, detailing the world’s collapse. I especially liked the disconnect between the modern day world and the Nora tribe. Finding items like “ancient vessels” and “ancient chimes”, which are coffee mugs and car keys respectively, really show the disconnect these people had with modern culture. Despite these moments, Horizon isn’t afraid to dive into deeper sci-fi topics. Horizon’s lore and world became one of the major driving forces for me.

Horizon doesn’t reinvent the open-world genre, but delivers consistent fun from start to finish. None of Horizon’s flaws stopped me from sinking hours into the experience, leaving me satisfied the whole way through. Horizon may not be the next step for open-world games, but its compelling adventure proves that Guerrilla can do some amazing work outside of Killzone.

Rating
9.5
Pros
  • Aloy's journey of mystery through a post-apocalyptic world is a wonderful tale
  • Beautifully crafted world unlike any other
  • Machines feel alive and are fun to challenge
  • Plenty of different activities to do
Cons
  • Doesn't reinvent the open-world genre, offers many of the same activities found in other open-world games

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