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Review – Horizon: Zero Dawn

In the midst of the new releases early in the year, one title has been on the radar of most PS4 gamers. That title is Horizon: Zero Dawn. Will Guerrilla games and Sony’s game be a smash hit or will it have a zero dawn? Let’s take a look at our review of Horizon: Zero Dawn.

Horizon: Zero Dawn
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: Playstation 4 (played and reviewed on Playstation 4 Pro)
Release Dates: NA – February 28th, 2017; JP – March 2nd, 2017; EU – March 1st, 2017
Genre: Action-Adventure, Action RPG
Mode: Single Player

*Special shout out to Sony for the opportunity to review this title. We at Hackinformer, myself especially, are eternally grateful for this opportunity. This review will do its best to stay spoiler free while delivering a critical look at the game.*

*Disclosure: I had zero hype for this game and paid attention to no media on the game. If you see something that you may consider a spoiler, please do let me know so I can edit it accordingly.*

Intro/Story:

In a lush, post-apocalyptic world where nature has reclaimed the ruins of a forgotten civilization, pockets of humanity live on in primitive hunter-gatherer tribes. Their dominion over the new wilderness has been usurped by the Machines – fearsome mechanical creatures of unknown origin. The plot revolves around Aloy, a hunter, and archer who lives in a world overrun by robots. Having been cloistered her whole life, she sets out to discover the dangers that kept her sheltered for so long.

The plot of the game is the strongest point in this game. It kept me engaged and immersed the whole way through. Between the moments of gameplay and story delivery, it is well written and delivered well. Aloy is an interesting character herself. From living a sheltered life as an outcast and not knowing her own origins she continues to drive the story to discover more about herself and the outside world. There is a driving force behind this. What is that force? It is up to the player to find out what it is. Just understand, while it may have some issues, it is part of the charm of the character. She is mainly on a journey of discovery and it plays out as such.

While the story is stellar, I can say the character development for Aloy is amazing as well. You undergo a journey of Aloy from the beginning of her life throughout her life. The character development for her is fleshed out. You will see her internal motivations, and how they change. In addition, you see her conflicts and dictate how she should resolve them. I can honestly say, in most recent memory, she is one of the most well-written characters I have experienced in a video game in some time.

Intro/story: 5/5 – easily the strongest point of this game. Well written story and well written character. 

Gameplay:

With the amazing story, does the game compliment it? Yes and no. For the pros, the game is fun and easy to play. There is no real learning curve to controls. If you are having some struggle, you get optional tutorial missions to help learn the mechanics. I personally did not need them, but they are a nice addition.

When exploring the world, you will encounter the robot creatures roaming the lands. Sometimes there will be a handful, other times a whole pack of robots. You can either choose to engage them, run off, or sneak around. Be warned that engage a pack without the proper supplies, you will more than likely get overrun real quick. It is up to the player to choose how to approach each encounter and how to engage it appropriately. Each robot has a weakness, you can choose to exploit it or take on the enemy head on. As to how to figure out the weakness, you will be using your focus. This device will be explained in game. A con to this is that it tends to make encounters easy. It also makes for several cons that I will address in another part. A short part of it is that it basically felt like a Batman Arkham game’s detective mode.


Throughout the game, you will gain resources. Some can be sold off for metal shards (currency), others are used to trade for better weapons/equipment, others can be used for upgrades. You can upgrade your pouches to carry more weapons, equipment, resources, and other pouches that will be necessary for your adventure. You will also level up during your adventure. You will get skill points to put into a skill tree. I will emphasize that this is beneficial as you will need some of these skills during your journey.

 

The exploration in this game is interesting. The land is huge and you have a few means to travel across it. If you like exploring or want to enjoy the beauty of the game (like I did at some point) you will just walk/sprint across the land. This can be thrilling as you will encounter quite a bit of enemies in your travels and some interesting elements to explore. You will come across some awesome robots, and some bandit camps. This is part of the world exploration experiences.

You can do the fast travel route. This consists of a fast travel pack and any previously activated campfire. You can get an unlimited fast travel pack with the right components to purchase it. I highly suggest getting it ASAP if you do not wanna take 10-20 minutes to travel from one area to another.

Finally, after gaining the ability, you can override robots and use them as mounts. They will run and fight for your normally. In addition, using them as a mount will decrease your travel time as you run through these vast lands. This is always a fun thing to do, just mounting an enemy and riding.

The player will be doing a great deal of exploring. However, this does not come without cons. These cons can almost play into any open world game as well. While the player is exploring, doing quests/sidequests, collecting resources, and fighting robots it will eventually dawn that the lands are huge… but empty too. If an open world is not your thing, it will become wearing very quick. Beauty can only go far. Traveling across the lands and facing these elements is nice, but that is all it is. At times I found myself just running across the land with sheer boredom. I eventually gave this up and just began fast traveling everywhere.

Another component is the use of your Focus. This has its pros and cons as well. I would say more cons than pros. For the good, Focus can help in battle, explorations, and quests/sidequests. In battles, you can scan the enemies, determine weak points, and weakness points on the enemies. In exploration, you can scan the environment and find tracks, resources, and see enemies on the map. In sidequests/quests, you can use it for every reason listed. In addition, finding certain enemies in the world and overriding them will make all of these elements appear on your world map. You will look at the map and think to yourself “This looks like a Ubisoft game”. I can say this feels like Farcry: Primal, but more polished and looks much better.

As for the cons, the Focus itself makes the game beyond easy in several areas no matter the difficulty. The player is encouraged to use and overuse the Focus. The majority of the missions will ask the player to investigate using your Focus. This happens quite often, especially in the later half of the game. It becomes a very overused mechanic that gets forced onto the player which personally makes me think that the developers wanted the easy route in developments or had some development issues. This could have been fleshed out more, or done differently. However, it becomes routine and the same thing over and over.

Another con, which I feel is the weakest point of the game, is the repetition of the side quests and exploration. The side quests are basically rinsed and repeat with a different painted color. You will get a task, given some options to learn more, go to point A, use the focus to explore, kill enemies, go to point B,  talk to someone (some quests end like this), and it continues further like this. The game will use this formula constantly. It feels it was put into the game to artificially increase the game’s length. There is way too many of them that are just unnecessary. This also plays into the towns of the game. They just feel empty. Sure there are people there, but there is no importance to anyone outside quests/sidequests and the shops. This almost turned me off the game completely, but I wanted to see where the story went so I bared with it.

Gameplay Score: 3/5 – There are some great gameplay moments, but it does becomes TOO routine and mundane as it does with several open world games. This game unfortunately falls into the open world trap.

Visual/Audio:

Visually, this game looks beautiful. Whether played on the PS4 or PS4 Pro, it looks incredible. There is also a photo mode within the game which allows you to capture some breathtaking moments. You are given a bunch of options to tinker with to create the perfect photo for photo mode. The pictures above was taken with the photo mode.

Visual Score: 5/5 – Simply a beautiful game no matter what platform the player choses to play it on.

Audio wise, the game has some great audio. Everything sounds incredible from movement, fighting enemies, and voice acting. The music is incredible as well. However, a gripe I have is while the music is good, it either replays the same track quite a bit or rarely. It feels there is a handful of songs and it is just recycled. Below is a sample of the main theme track.

Main Theme

Audio Score: 3/5 – Sounds incredible with sound elements in the game, not music. Not much music is in the game or becomes repetitive in the music tracks. 

Fun Factor:

Is this game fun? Yes and no. For what it is worth, I had a great deal of fun until the repetition set in and the exploring just became routine. It was basically the same thing, different layout. What kept me going was the story, which I already stressed is incredible. The player needs to remember, do everything in moderation. The open world trap is most definitely there. Find the balance and proceed in a way that you will enjoy. The players know themselves best so do what is good for you. I eventually gave up exploring and just began fast traveling until it was required to get to a new place to open a fast travel point. It was still an enjoyable experience, but I fell into the open world trap and eventually recovered towards the end of my 40+ hour journey.

Fun Factor: 3/5 – It was fun for what it was worth, despite the open world trap and empty feeling of several areas.

 

Replay value:

For those who want to know, the game has high replay value. This is true especially for those who love the open world. You can get through the story I would estimate anywhere between 8-20 hours, so anything outside of that adds to the replay value. Tons to explore, a good amount of side quests, and tons of extra stuff to discover and do. There are also other difficulty modes to explore as well.

Replay Value score: 5/5 – Tons to do outside of the main story.

Wrap Up & Conclusion:

Horizon: Zero Dawn is a very ambitious title and one of the anticipated titles of this year for good reason. It is fun and has much on a huge scale. However, it falls into an open world trap. If the player is moderate to low open world player, it may be a huge struggle for them. There are great elements and gameplay within the game. However, it feels like a Ubisoft open world games at times. With great elements, wonderful main character development, and a wonderful story Horizon: Zero Dawn is a good game in its own regard. If the player can get beyond the open world, Ubisoft feeling and the huge amounts of repetition, you will find a good game that needs some polish. It wraps up nicely and if Guerrilla decides to develop another game in this universe, I hope it gets more polish and doesn’t feel this way.

Until next review, Mgs2master2 out!

Recap:

Intro/story: 5/5 – Easily the strongest point of this game. Well written story and well written character.

Gameplay Score: 3/5 – There are some great gameplay moments, but it does becomes TOO routine and mundane as it does with several open world games. This game unfortunately falls into the open world trap.

Visual Score: 5/5 – Simply a beautiful game no matter what platform the player choses to play it on.

Audio Score: 3/5 – Sounds incredible with sound elements in the game, not music. Not much music is in the game or becomes repetitive in the music tracks.

Fun Factor: 3/5 – It was fun for what it was worth, despite the open world trap and empty feeling of several areas.

Replay Value score: 5/5 – Tons to do outside of the main story.

Final Score: 24/30 – Horizon: Zero Dawn is a great game and lays the foundation for something special. It could be so much more if it doesn’t fall into the open world trap that most open world games (especially Ubisoft) fall into. A great story, a great character, and great delivery of it. The gameplay leaves something else to desire at times.  I do hope there is a sequel or another story in this franchise that polishes the game and addresses the complaints I had. 

About Mgs2master2

Mgs2master2
A gamer and jack of all trades. I enjoy many things, but overall just enjoying life. Hopefully, I can add enjoyment to your life through my articles or interactions.

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