Last week I mentioned in my IMDB “Must Play” post that Horizon Zero Dawn is a must play on PS4. Upon reflection I thought that this would be a good opportunity to evaluate on this statement. Also taking into account that the game was released not too long ago on PC, It does make the review a bit more relevant, so without further or do lets get on with it.
Horizon Zero Dawn tells the story of Aloy. A young female hunter who’s tribe is attacked by a cult wielding corrupted machines called Eclipse due to her resemblance to an old world scientist. It is then that she is told of the strange circumstances of how she came to the tribe. Aloy then sets off to discover her past, what part she plays in the fate of the world and the truth behind Eclipse and what they are planning. Throughout her journey Aloy must face the perils of the environment, savages as well as that of the robotic wildlife roaming the wilderness.
The game set less in a post-apocalypse world and more of a post-post-apocalypse. The world is bright, luscious and vibrant, with wildlife galore. Although to be fair not all of it is made up of flesh and bone, but we’ll get to that later. The scenery is varied (maybe even too varied) as in easy access by foot we have rolling green fields; towering, snow capped mountain ranges; vast, rocky deserts; dense, thick woodlands and overgrown, old world ruins. With how visually stunning the environments are I can’t help but think the game is just showing off wanting to show off it’s range of landscapes.
Like most AAA games these days, Horizon Zero Dawn is an open-world action adventure with RPG elements. This means you know what to expect, optional side-quests, collectables, crafting, un-lockables, combat choices so on and so forth. Although as far as combat choices go, you have 2. Either put your stats in ranged and stealth or die a lot. Although to be fair I thought this would have been a given in any game involving fighting large robots. Anyone that thinks it’s a good idea to charge at a towering robo-saurus is either a psychopath, completely fearless, a moron or d) all of the above.
Speaking of our heavy-metal adversaries. They feel very much like the selling point of the game. The meat between the bread and butter in our open-world action adventure with RPG elements sandwich, sadly though it’s not quite enough to make us a hearty lunch. As much fun as it is to separating a Thunderjaw from it’s beloved disc launcher then proceed to give it a taste of it’s own medicine it’s hardly enough to hold the game up. The story as intriguing as it is, is just bland. The same way as finding a hobnob in your pack of rich teas is intriguing but it’s hardly going to get you a New York Times best seller.
The main problem that Horizon Zero Dawn faces is that although it is a good game, it’s not a great game. What the game does well has been done better by other games before it. It just can’t compete with games like The Witcher 3, Mass Effect or Zelda: Breath of the Wild which stand head and solders above other games of a genre so dense it’s close to critical mass. The game is at it’s best when it’s not trying to be another face in the crowd. When you pull off a perfect slide dodge followed by an instant kill shot or scraping together the last of your resources to finally take down that Stormbird that’s been holding up your progress. Those moments are unique to this game are when it comes alive and reveals it’s true colours. So I guess the moral you can take away from this is that it’s best to be yourself rather than a knock-off of someone else.