Horizon Zero Dawn shouldn’t exist. Everyone knows Guerilla makes shooters like Killzone, right? But here we are, and you’ve seen other reviews – this one is legit. One of the finest games this generation, and a brave new IP in a world of clones, Horizon Zero Dawn is a game that every PlayStation 4 owner should play. This is our Horizon Zero Dawn review.
An Ode to All Sorts of Games
Don’t go thinking that just because Horizon is a great game means it’s somehow the most innovative RPG to hit the market. Like all great experiences, it’s built upon the backs of the games that came before. Most notably, Horizon Zero Dawn reminds me a lot of Rise of the Tomb Raider – both in gameplay and controls, as well as the open world traversal. Where HZD sets itself apart is in its world. You play Aloy, an orphaned and outcast member of the Nora Tribe.
You forage for supplies and items to make weapons, much like the recent Far Cry Primal. You’ll choose branching dialogues that alter story outcomes a la Mass Effect. You’ll unlock tons of side quests and scavenger hunts a la Zelda. Horizon is, in many ways, a collection of the best parts of the open world genre. All the while you’re leveling up, learning new skills, unlocking fast travel points and uncovering story details.
The world as we know it has long since ceased to exist, and mankind is forced back to tribal and nomadic behaviour as animal-like machines have come to dominate the planet. As you progress the story, you’ll uncover the lost past of humanity, as well as the story of Aloy herself. It’s a surprisingly emotional journey, and it’s extremely well-wrought through in-game cut scenes and mostly splendid voice acting.
Open World, Open Quest Log
One of the complaints levied against Horizon is that it’s got a lot of side quests… and this is where I roll my eyes. HZD is, after all, an RPG. It’s supposed to be filled with additional content on top of the main narrative, otherwise it becomes a mostly linear slog. Thankfully, a lot of the side activities in Horizon are varied and interesting. But there are also a lot of things that seem ripped right from Ubisoft’s method of open world content. Instead of towers to climb, you’ll climb giant mechanic beasts to get the lay of the land and uncover additional content in an area, for example.
It’s this kind of side quest that gives an RPG its weight, and without them Horizon Zero Dawn would be just another open world action game.
Almost none of these side narratives are wasted time either, as many give you extremely beneficial character or item upgrades, and all of them serve to fill out the world of Horizon with character and meaning. One of the earliest side missions has you tracking down a man’s lost brother. He was outcast from the Nora because he hears voices. He’s a schizophrenic, but they don’t that knowledge in this ravaged timeline.
They just think he’s talking to spirits of the old world. Instead of come back to Mother’s Embrace (the central Nora town) when his outcast is over, he tries to stage his own death and is on the verge of likely killing himself when you find him and can help to set things right in a number of ways. It’s this kind of side quest that gives an RPG its weight, and without them Horizon Zero Dawn would be just another open world action game.
A Hunter’s Trial
Perhaps the most wondrous thing about Horizon New Dawn, aside from the incredibly gorgeous and detailed world Guerilla has created, is its combat. Mind you, it boils down to mostly shooting and whacking things with a spear, but the wide variety of terrifying and deadly machines you’ll hunt is what makes HZD’s fights compelling.
From the skittish horse-like striders to the gazelle-like grazers. From the nasty tiger-esque sawtooth to the towering tallnecks, flying stormbirds, and insectoid corrupters. Every mechanical beast in Horizon strengths and weaknesses, ways to best them, and toys for Aloy to use against them. Sometimes, even dozens of hours into the game, I felt trepidation when approaching a thunderjaw or a sawtooth because I knew how deadly they could be.
Final Horizon Zero Dawn Review Thoughts
Horizon Zero Dawn won’t be remembered for being superbly unique. It’ll be remembered because it’s so well-crafted, lovingly cared for, and downright stupendously executed. It doesn’t chart new territory in gameplay, but it charts plenty of new ground with its world, characters, and more. Guerilla took a major risk shifting IPs and genres, and with Horizon New Dawn they’ve created a universe I can’t wait to explore again. If you own a PlayStation 4, this is a game for you. And if you don’t? Maybe it’s time you bought one.