As a self-proclaimed hater of most post-apocalyptic themed media, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a strong love for such a world. In Guerrilla’s game, Horizon: Zero Dawn, a lot of care was put into the environment… and it shows. Big time. Everything feels seamless – from the gorgeous scenery, to the way you organically choose your combat style. The number of times I was pulled out of the world (either due to a glitch or a wonky character interaction) was minimal and generally left me laughing instead of frustrated.
Part of what makes Horizon: Zero Dawn feel like home, is the familiar bits of our current world, brought into this new world. The new world is made up of tribes, but each of the tribes is a mashup of a few different real world cultures. If you take a look at the Nora tribe, for example, you will find Native American style feathers (incorporated into my cake), Celtic knots (also included on my cake), and Nordic broaches (sadly, I ran out of time to put these on my cake)… along with many other popular icons of those cultures.
Just as real as the cultures, is the personalities. All of the characters you come across in this game are reminiscent of people you know in real life… the good, the bad, and occasionally even the boring. And just like the real people, these digital representations make you want to laugh, cry, and just walk away. Occasionally, they go too far and it pulls me out of the game. Lakhir is a good example. The drunken poem he shouts is pretty distracting and got a pretty strong laughing eye roll out of me.
Each culture and person also has a fashion sense. Its great. There needs to be a magazine dedicated to the ridiculous (ridiculously great) Horizon: Zero Dawn fashions. My favorites include Helis’ collar of bullets, Vilgund’s sweet eye patch, and Vanasha’s “armor” (which seemed oddly out of place given this game’s propensity for treating women like warriors instead of eye candy).
I only have two minor complaints about the people.
1) A lot of the women look like they smeared Vaseline all over their eyes. I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be makeup. Was this a glitch? Or on purpose? Either way, it was a little distracting.
2) The dialog was strung together in a way that made a lot of assumptions. Most distracting was a few references to the cauldrons. I completed this game without doing any of the cauldrons, which was clearly not a route that was accounted for.
While I’m being complainy (or at least as complainy as I can get with glitches in this game), the only other wonky thing was twitching robot corpses. Maybe they were just dancing for my success in a swift kill? In the end, much like the other goofy things, it was funny (not at all frustrating) and didn’t effect the gameplay in any way.
My only other complaint wasn’t even the game’s fault. It was my own. In the beginning of the game, I picked up every ridge wood (a component in crafting arrows) I came across. My inventory filled up very quickly with wood, as you can imagine. Naturally, at this point I dropped a few stacks, and stopped picking up wood entirely. Cut to a few hours later… I’m in the middle of a story line battle (I know, you can see this coming. I know, I should have seen this coming too) and ran out of arrows. When I popped my crafting menu up to make more, guess what it told me… yeah… I had to run around like a mad woman trying to pick up sticks while dodging a giant robot shooting lasers at me. I guess I should be thankful – its not everyday you get to experience that kind of excitement!
Other than that the game ran pretty smoothly. It controlled well, and the progression with weaponry felt very natural. I appreciated that they didn’t force you into using weapons that you didn’t want to, and the skill tree is small enough that you don’t have to worry too much about what you’re missing out on (since you know you’ll be grabbing the rest soon-ish). Using tear arrows to knock guns and armor off of my target was oddly satisfying. Much more so than going straight in for a kill via high damage output. All in all, this game was very well done, and it was a true pleasure to play it.
For a numerical overview, go ahead and take a peek at my total rating score and breakdown, right after my quick cake blurb.
… and Cake!
My Horizon: Zero Dawn cake, was a chocolate cake, with raspberry-strawberry cream cheese filling, and chocolate buttercream frosting. I made the Celtic knot style pattern with vanilla cream. I drew the pattern from the carving on one of the poles in a Nora village. I made the feathers out of white chocolate, and the metal flower cake topper out of white modeling chocolate. You can check out the tutorial here, if you are interested.
If there is a game you want to see in cake form, let me know in the comments!
Now, to crunch some numbers really quick…
Visual - 9/10
Graphics, art style, color use
Audio - 8/10
Music, dialog, ambient noise
Environment - 9/10
Side characters, creatures, weather, environmental effects
Difficulty - 7/10
Some mobs should have been more difficult (looking at you, Deathbringer).
Weapons and Abilities - 8/10
A nice range of available weapons. I liked the size of the skill tree but it had too many “weak” abilities.
Excitement - 9/10
I jumped off the coffee table (my chair) numerous times – some victorious, others not so much.
Length - 9/10
If I’m being nit picky, I wish it were a tad longer
Quality - 10/10
The first game in a long time in which I legitimately enjoyed the story line.
What did you think of Horizon: Zero Dawn? Let me know in the comment section below!