Horizon: Zero Dawn – Mini-Review!

Horizon: Zero Dawn is a game that I’d been loosely following for a while. It’s a Playstation exclusive (sorry!), by Guerilla Games – the folks behind the Killzone series. Which sounds like a weird departure, but I soon learned that this game is directly reflective of the talent behind that studio.
I was on the fence about cancelling my pre-order for Mass Effect: Andromeda, but my friend Robi Dean insisted that I should just borrow his copy about Horizon: Zero Dawn so that I can still get Mass Effect: Andromeda. (Review for that coming soon.) He lent it to me last week, and I’m already 20+ hours in. I. Am. Obsessed. I can’t express just how many of the right buttons this game is hitting for me. I am even slightly regretting rushing this for ME:A. Horizon: Zero Dawn is a game that you need to give a go.
The juxtaposition of the tribal world with technology is a weird combination that Guerrilla manages to seamlessly intertwine.

Aloy is an Awesome Main Character

Aloy is an outcast and she finds herself on a quest to discuss her lineage that also folds into a “save the world” story-line as machines grow more and more malevolent. Aloy herself is fantastically voiced by Ashley Burch. Burch plays an expressive, inquisitive, and brave Aloy. Aloy’s designs are fabulous, and her interaction with the world around her feels genuine and real. she is a blast to play and I am really enjoying watching her story unfold as I play.

Other Characters

In short: really well acted and fleshed out. Sure, some fall into predictable tropes, but I felt connected to them. Even characters I was weary about, I fell in love with later. This game kept me guessing on characters and I’m stoked that just as much love and craft was put into the supporting cast.

What’s Up With the Tribes?

Basically, a LONG time has passed since civilization as we know it ended. Why are people afraid of the old cities and technology? How did they turn into tribes? I will say I was a little bit concerned that the tribes would be hokey, but the story thoroughly explains how Horizon: Zero Dawn‘s world occurred.

Open World

The open world is just phenomenally gorgeous. The starting area may feel boring at first, and at moments it can feel like a rehash of Witcher 3‘s landscapes. But once you fold into the second act of visiting Meridian and hoofing/riding from one corner of the world to the next, you’ll realize just how diverse the ecosystems are.
I have to do an extra shout-out for how beautifully lit the locations are. Guerrilla really pushed the limits of the PS4.

Gorgeous Set Pieces

You know how in the Uncharted series you’ll find a mystical city in the end, visit for 4 minutes, and then promptly escape its destruction? Horizon: Zero Dawn lets you stay and explore the epic city and do quests for it. Meridian is one of the most jaw-dropping locations I have visited in a game.
And how the environment affects thing! When it rains in any location, I stop to see how the forest dampens. When it’s night, the moon and fog are eerie and ethereal. Dust storms remind me of our local haboobs (but prettier). It’s a work of art.

Hunting the Beasties!

The combat is smooth, and appropriately challenging. You can get bag of tricks, and how you use them is completely up to your game style. You can hide and snipe down fortresses (reminded me of Far Cry), or override machines and use them to take down other machines and evil humans. The machines are FUN to fight, and each has a series of attacks to learn to take down. If you like the hunting, there are also challenged in the game in the form of hunting grounds and bandit camps.

Side Quests Flesh Out the World

Plenty of side quests flesh out the world and the different tribes. I fully recommend them – as it was in Witcher 3, some of the side quests are more fun than the main story missions. There are also different quest types, so you can switch them up depending on how you feel.

My Verdict: A Must Buy

If you like open-world games with a boatload of quests, I believe that Horizon: Zero Dawn is a system seller the way The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a system seller for Nintendo Switch. Witcher 3 was my GOTY of 2015, Uncharted 4 was my GOTY for 2016, and without question– Horizon: Zero Dawn is currently in the running for my favorite game of 2017.