When the PS4 exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn was pushed back to late February this year, it was met with a mixed response as the E3 conference in 2015 led the game to have a fan base even before release. However, now that the game has been released, it was worth the wait. The small kinks Guerrilla Games, the developers, fixed in those extra months made the game what it is today: PS4’s next great exclusive.
Upon first playing the game, what immediately stands out are the graphics in the beautifully crafted open world environment. The world is to be marvelled at as the design is of a post-era dominated by robots. Essentially, the world and concept of the game is a mashup of historical ideas through the view of the future. The robots that have decimated the world give off the impression of futuristic dinosaurs. The idea of Horizon Zero Dawn is one that more games should follow in the future; in the video game world, marrying the past and the future is best for the present in regards to fan appreciation and dollar value.
While the environment is key to craft a story, an intriguing plot and characters ultimately determines if a game becomes a timeless success, one that is playable multiple times over, and Horizon Zero Dawn certainly fits that description. The story revolves around the life of Aloy, who is an outcast to her tribe, and the mystery surrounding her birth. It progresses parallel to the main quest. The game continues the trend of the strong-willed and skilled female heroine, such as Emily Kaldwin (Dishonored 2), Evie Frye (Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate), and Lara Croft (Tomb Raider). In her journey, Aloy comes across other characters and their tribes, all of whom have their traits mastered. The characters are as detailed as the surroundings they live in.
However, a flaw within the characters is the voice acting, which at times sounds contrived and forced, and the game gives away too much information at once in the dialogues that characters share as well. It would have been much better if the game gradually gave information in regards to the background and storyline as it progressed, rather than stopping the game for a dialogue and giving it away all at once.
Guerrilla Games kept the flaws of Horizon Zero Dawn to a minimum though, and instead of letting the gameplay lag behind the stellar environment and plot, it in fact shines. The game plays out as a combination of Rise of the Tomb Raider and Uncharted 4 but it isn’t a negative that it took inspiration from elements of other games. If there were any two RPGs to base a game’s gameplay on, one would be hard-pressed to find two better. Like Croft, Aloy primarily uses a bow and arrow, and her gameplay movement was like that of Croft and Unchartered 4’s Drake. Furthermore, Aloy’s focus feature which allows her to see the weaknesses of the mechanical creatures and much more is merely a different version of Croft’s survival instinct and Drake’s thief vision. Though the game took elements of other games, it is by no means a copy, or else it would not have been critically acclaimed.
Horizon Zero Dawn is Sony’s biggest new franchise launch on PS4 to date, beating No Man’s Sky, and the biggest launch for the console in general since Uncharted 4. It’s not difficult to see why. The game is beautifully balanced between its breath-taking environment, well-developed plot and characters, and refreshing gameplay that will never let the feeling of boredom set in while playing it. Although the dialogues can be a bit extensive at times, they can be thought of as a break from Aloy’s long journey to learn of the answers to the questions she has been asking her entire life. And most importantly, the game is definitely worth switching consoles for.