A mysterious past, an unknown future and an enigmatic present is what describes the scenario in the world of Horizon Zero Dawn. If one gets a chance to be there, they would certainly say, that it is a perfect combination of primitive life and futuristic technical advancements. Such, is the balance achieved in the game. It also brings up a puzzling question, on the existence of two opposites of life in the same time frame. This question becomes the backbone of the entire story of Horizon Zero Dawn.
Fast forward by a thousand years, tribals thrive in a precarious condition where the foretold technical advancements run wild in the wilds. They aren’t humanoids with super A.I, but are animoids. They roam free in the jungles and snowy mountains in the form of gigantic boars, crabs and dinosaurs. While the co-existence between the tribes and these animoids seems impossible, the tribes have their own co-existential crisis within their community, by outcasting some of the people. The protagonist Aloy is one of the outcasts.
Born and raised primitive, Aloy finds it hard to comprehend and accept technology into her life. As she comes across the animoids, she becomes curious and feels the need to uncover the secrets of the past of her tribe and her world. She ventures to the farthest areas of the land, while facing different challenges which demand both physical and mental prowess. Along her journey, she sees herself gaining maturity, confidence, knowledge and courage, as she discovers new technical artifacts and learns how to use them to destroy the animoids and to gather information about the past.
Though the story turns out to be good, the gameplay and combat steal the show in the end. At the beginning, Aloy has just a bow and arrows. But down the road, she gains access to elementally charged bolts, slingshots that lob explosives, and an assortment of traps that can surprise or constrict the animoids.
Switching between her tools during a fight is made easy, by a weapon wheel that opens with the tilt of the right analog stick and slows down time to give Aloy a moment to plan her next move. She can still jump, run or dodge while the wheel is open. This aspect of the game sounds more sensible and provides a different perspective to a third-person combat.
Aloy can also do a 360 degree, jump and turn attack, delivering a critical blow. The exciting part is, the draw and aim of the bow is made into a slo-mo. She also does the same 360 degree jump and turn move while roping down from the top of a tall animoid dinosaur.
Defeating each of the animoids gives Aloy, the access to metal shards and other valuable items. She can also find natural items that lie dormant and hidden in the wide lands. Gathering these resources, helps her to craft her own weapons. Although, she is provided with the option of choosing between melee and ranged weapons, there is hardly any use of the melee. The only close-combat weapon she holds is a spear and it comes with a disadvantage too; Aloy cannot block with her spear. This puts her at a dangerous position against enemies and the effect from the spear attacks is considerably less.
The open world and its components are skillfully crafted, to aid for a more logical combat. Aloy is made to use the natural resources around her to guide her in battle and not just rely on her physical abilities. Rocks, mountain walls, tall grass, trees and river water are some of them. The real thrill lies in the process of using them, to take down the mechanical beasts.
Speaking about these beasts, they range from turtles and horses to T-rex and velociraptors. Exploring the wild more and progressing deeper into the game, brings Aloy face to face with animoids with increasing complexity. To handle them, she needs to use her new-found advanced device called Focus. It helps her to see the vital points on a robot, that glow in yellow. Hitting these points will remove a part of their armor, making them more vulnerable.
However, as told earlier, robots with high complexity are powerful and high-paced. It’ll be hard to use Focus on them, while they try to run rampant on Aloy. This is the time, the natural resources of Horizon Zero Dawn come into play. Being mechanical bots, they are easily vulnerable to electric shocks and explosives. Setting up electric trip lines between a couple of trees or rocks and luring them into it, is one of the game’s most used tricks to blow them up. Tall grass is the next sought resource for stealth attacks, which involve setting up traps and hurling explosives while being unnoticed. Though, these are the usual methods to defeat the robots, there is an unusual way too. It is possible to disarm an enemy and use their own weapon against them. Aloy’s weapons and attacks are already sufficient, but who doesn’t like a glorious take down with laser beams?
The game doesn’t make it mandatory to kill every animoid Aloy sees. It also provides an option to tame them. As obvious as it is, animoids are pre-programmed. Hence, their programs can be overridden. There are many alien-like constructs that stay hidden in the ground. The hearts of these constructs contain a device that provides the codes for overriding the machines. To do this, she has to sneek behind them and stick that device in one particular area in their body. The device will inject overriding codes into the machines which will eventually make them non-hostile. Once they are tamed, Aloy can ride them to cover larger ground in short time, which comes handy when travelling. However, one point to be noted is that, certain machines of heavy complexity cannot be overridden. They can only be defeated by battle.
Horizon Zero Dawn’s open world makes it easy to find many tribal settlements. These tribes comprise of merchants and side quest-givers. Side quests doesn’t add much value to the game, as larger part of gaining the experience and knowledge lie in the main quest. Apart from weapons, Aloy can also brew health potions and other valuable items. She can trade these items from her inventory with those merchants. But, the problem with the inventory is, it takes a lot of time to scroll through the items. The open world gamers tend to store more potions and weapons in their inventory because of the ‘Just in case…’ attitude. Hence, it would end up being a drag to read through each and every item and then decide which to keep and which to sell. For a game that manages to handle complex systems in real-time, it’s odd to see something as basic as inventory management feel unhandled.
Now, talking about game detailing, Horizon Zero Dawn’s open world is carefully forged with accuracy. From the light shimmering off the metal robots and the water, to the moon’s dim light filling up an area in the wilds, the game boasts some of the best extensive detailing. Blades of grass and leaves of trees dance like a wave, with the wind gently brushing through them. Vegetation and flora, along with protrusions of the earth’s crust like cliffs, mountains and rocks, make up the beautiful world of Horizon Zero Dawn.
With that note, it is safe to say that this is by far the best open world game to have ever been produced. Play as Aloy and experience the wildlands and the beautiful landscapes of Horizon Zero Dawn through her eyes.
- Amazing combat physics
- Beautiful landscapes and detailing
- Imaginative animoid designs
- A perfect balance of natural and technological components
- An impactful Character development
- User interface is a bit inefficient
- Inventory access becomes difficult
- Melee mechanics are less programmed
Rating : 9/10