Horizon: Zero Dawn Impressions

Horizon: Zero Dawn is releasing at the end of February. Finally! If you’re a PlayStation fan, then you know how long this game has been in development and how anticipated it is. After first seeing the game at E3 2015, I knew I needed this game but, as I included in my Most Anticipated Games list, this game as had a couple of delays and I’m getting impatient. Over the weekend, a number of gaming outlets were invited to play a nice chunk of the game. On Monday, 20-minute gameplay videos littered the media showing off many aspects of the game. My expectations for the game were sky high and after seeing all the new footage, the game is better than I imagined. Let’s dive in.

I watched the 20-minute playthrough video provided by PlayStation’s official YouTube page. The video begins with the main character, Aloy, riding majestically on what looks like a mechanical bull and then cuts to her taking on a sidequest. While Aloy is speaking to the person who is giving her the quest, you can see how good the facial animations look and some RPG elements.

 

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Dialogue options

 

Dialogue options pop up that allow Aloy to react to situations on the fly in typical RPG fashion. This is a significant revelation for the simple fact that Guerrilla Games, developers of the game, are known for making linear shooters and for their first attempt at an action RPG they seem to be diving in head first and making a proper RPG.

After receiving the quest, Aloy is on the search for the man’s daughter. The daughter is in a tree surrounded by mechanical beasts named watchers. Aloy shows off melee skills here that I haven’t personally seen in any preview videos to date. The staff she wields obviously has a lot of uses because as you can see in the gif below, she knows how to handle herself.

 

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She knows how to use that staff

 

Since we’ve been shown so much of her impressive bow work, I never wondered about her melee skills. I am impressed by her combos although I’m not sure how extensive her moveset will be.

I also have to comment about mechanical animals that dominate the land. Even though they are robots, they sound and behave just like animals would. I appreciate that level of detail shown. In the gif below, you can see Aloy has a watcher attached to a rope as she attempts to kill it. In true animal fashion, you can see that the beast is behaving frantically not necessarily trying to attack but desperately trying to get away.

 

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Just hold steady

 

It gives the game a very immersive quality that allows you to get lost in the world.

Speaking of beasts, I’m sure you have seen the large mechanical giraffe-looking beast that they have consistently shown off. Now this magnificent machine, called a Tallneck, is an important gameplay element of the game. When Aloy scales a Tallneck, she can hack into the top of its head as seen below.

 

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Show me your secrets

 

When the Tallneck is hacked, all parts of an area become uncovered revealing numerous details including points of interest.

In another section, Aloy’s Focus ability is shown off. This allows her to scan environments and get valuable information such as discovering new machines. The focus also reveals weak points on enemies that Aloy can attack to better bring down an enemy.

 

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I see you

 

Aloy can make great use of her environments to get the drop on enemies. Tall grass is a very useful way to stay hidden and sneak up on enemies undetected. Below, you can see Aloy sneaking up on a group of beasts using the grass as a cover.

 

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Boom!

 

She already used her focus ability to scan the beasts and their backs are glowing indicating their weak spots. As evidenced by the ensuing explosion, these tactics are very effective.

Before we go further, I would be a fool if I didn’t point out how beautiful the game is. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The color palette of the game is beautiful. The game features many different terrain types.

 

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Look at the colors

 

The dynamic weather feature is absolutely stunning where crossing over into different climates can turn your sunny day into a rainy one in moments.

 

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Rain just like that

 

Guerilla Games is known for producing great visuals, as evidenced by the Killzone series, but this is on another level. This is up there with The Witcher III in terms of visuals and that’s saying a lot.

 

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Has a cloudy day ever looked so gorgeous?

 

The playthrough video shows more evidence of a robust RPG system. A meaty skill tree is present providing different gameplay options to cater to your playstyle. Prowler tree offers stealth abilities. Brave improves the Aloy’s combat. Forager improves Aloy’s healing and gathering abilities.

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Other menu options include inventory, crafting, map, quests, and notebook. All elements that are typical of a 21st century RPG are present which has me very excited.

The playthrough video shows off corruption zones that are an exciting aspect of the game and is also important to the narrative. Corruption zones feature corrupted machines that are ultra-aggressive and will attack on sight.

 

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Very dangerous encounter

 

The machines, like real animals, live in relative harmony with humans but once corrupted they become very dangerous. An important plot point is what and how is causing these corruptions. It takes a lot of skill to takedown the machines when they’re corrupted.

The playthrough video ends with Aloy stumbling upon a group of bandits battling with a huge machine called a Sawtooth.

 

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He’s huge

 

Now seeing this machine in action is exciting but what sticks out to me the most is that the battling was already underway when she arrived. This makes me wonder if the world will be doing its own things independent of your actions or was this part of a quest. It would definitely be more exciting if the former were the case as that will create a new level of tension to an already dangerous world.

Guerilla Games is absolutely blowing me away with what they have done with their new IP. The game world is fully realized and seems to have an energy to it that some games fail to bring to life. The gameplay mechanics and RPG elements are deep and from all accounts fit the game very well. It seems they have taken some of the best elements of games like Far Cry, Fallout, The Witcher, and more while giving their own unique spin on the genre. Everything shown they have shown off has been fantastic and this looks to be the next big franchise for Sony. The game has officially gone gold so we only have a few more weeks until it’s out in the wild.

So, what do you think about Horizon: Zero Dawn? Are you excited? Are there things you were hoping to see from the game but haven’t yet? Let me know in the comments. As always subscribe and share.

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