Horizon Zero Dawn Review

What is something everyone likes? Robots and Dinosaurs. Guerrilla Games not only combines those two things but they also deliver an epic story that will keep you hooked and pushing for more in a game genre which is universally loved. After waiting for almost 4 years, I was finally able to play this game with the PC port being finally released, and I am happy to say that it was definitely worth the wait.

A mysterious fog surrounds you

This game takes place in a Post-apocalyptic world where people are now living as tribes. All the giant skyscrapers from the past have been abandoned, and deadly robots roam the area that the tribes must fight back against using bows and spears (yes, you heard it right). In this weird world, we are Aloy who has been an outcast in her tribe since birth with an uncertain parenthood.

At the age of six, Aloy stumbles upon the caves of the Old Ones where we find a gadget called “Focus”. Think of it as a Bluetooth headset combined with AR technology. It acts as a detective mode for scanning your surroundings and also allows you to scan the machines that you are going to fight. This cave is also full of holograms, monitors, and old recordings which you might understand are from our current time, but for Aloy, they are just more mysterious devices that were linked with the Old Ones.

The main quest is driven by two main goals: one is your quest to learn about your biological parents while is where you must save the world from an evil cult. Both of these stories slowly build up while intertwining with each other and also solving mysteries of the past along the way. Alongside these stories, Aloy’s charming personality with witty and sarcastic humor makes you care about the story of our lovable protagonist even more.

The main story won’t let you rest until you know more about this beautifully dangerous world. Every new piece of the puzzle will slowly satisfy your hunger for knowledge. Even while not being as grandiose or deep like The Witcher 3, This one is still a fun roller coaster ride which you will not forget for a long time. Aloy and all the important characters in the story are well-written and with great voice acting, especially Lance Riddick (Zavala from Destiny) and Ashley Burch (Tiny Tina from Borderlands).

On the other hand, some of the side quests alongside their characters can be forgotten really quickly. The action in the side quests was good mainly because the gameplay is really satisfying (more on that later), but the writing of the quests seemed to be lacking and anti-climatic. Thankfully, it never felt like a hindrance to enjoying the game.

Beautiful World with Beautiful Beasts

Visuals are a place where the game excels at. Every mechanical monster you find out there in the world is has a familiar design that allows you to easily identify what real life creature inspired this machine. Every machine have their strengths and weaknesses (alongside weak points) which you can target and craft your weapons accordingly before jumping into a battle.

Some areas of the map have these dungeons called “Cauldrons” which contain puzzle elements with a boss fight at the end, With successful completion of a cauldron you are able to unlock more overrides which allow you to get control of different machines to assist you in combat. Sadly, the ones you could actually ride were limited and I wish more machines are usable in other ways than being a temporary AI Ally in the sequel. (Let me ride the T-Rex, you cowards!)

The mechanic where you climb a tower to reveal the map is refreshing in this game. You have to climb a moving long-necked machine as a tower that roamed in particular paths. You have to find a vantage point to jump on the machine properly while also looking out for dangerous machine around yourself too. This felt more adventurous to accomplish compared to tower climbing in other games like Far Cry.

The world consists of different biomes like snowy mountains, dark forests, sunny deserts, all sprinkled with these mechanical marvels alongside ancient ruins which beg to be explored. Even though the map might not feel as gigantic as Breath of the Wild, The variety we get here is really fun to explore too.

A fun take on the “Stealth Archer Somersault Combat” genre

One can say this game is another addition in the “Open World Stealth Archer Somersault Stab Loot and Craft Detective Mode Tower Climb to Reveal Map then get Side Quests fatigue” Genre as said by Shelby (from ‘Girlfriend Reviews’ Youtube), but it stands among some of the best this genre has to offer. The gameplay is another part where the game shines. From a variety of really fun weapons to use aiding you, every battle can take various directions.

You could approach combat in your preferred playstyle. If you still need more of Solid Snake, you can upgrade skill tree paths which benefit stealthy playstyles and craft electric traps that could stun the enemies, or if you want to play like the Doom Guy you can invest in “Ropecaster” ammo which allowed you to chain down the animal to the ground making them immobile while you rain bombs on them using your Grenade Slingshot (Yup, these tribes aren’t that primitive after all). 

One of my personal favorite and coolest things to do is crafting a “high tear” arrow to knock out a machine gun from the animal’s body and use their own gun to destroy them. Thunderjaws (Horizons version of Machine T-Rex) have these disc launchers on them which you could knock down and then use it to defeat this dinosaur menace which otherwise can be really hard to defeat considering it uses lasers and also has the abilities to detect you wherever you are hiding.

At times after your battles with these magnificent monsters, fighting normal Humans felt a bit boring as they wouldn’t hold up to the creative battles you can do with the machines. Most of these human encounters felt like they chalked up to whether you can get headshots faster or slowly kill them with body shots, so clearing bandit camps was the part where the game could be improved, but thankfully most of the other times you had to fight these humans alongside some machines which felt much more enjoyable and also a challenge in my opinion

Looking to a far Horizon

Coming to the PC port, I have read several complaints online that there have been performance issues and bugs, but they have been putting out several patches trying to fix those issues. Personally, as I am already playing it on a potato rig (couldn’t even use my own 720p 70% render resolution screenshots), they did not affect me that much as it could to someone whose PC was capable of running it at its maximum potential. I hope these patches fix these issues soon and this game does not become like another Arkham Knight or Nier Automata PC port.

I am glad that Guerrilla Games decided to go with this project. Even though it lacks certain things, it does other jobs substantially better than a lot of other games. Their first attempt at tackling this beloved genre is really beautiful, to say the least. I have really high hopes for the sequel and that it will fix the minor flaws that the first game has like forgettable side quests, human fights, few animals to ride, etc. Even with these flaws the game makes up for it with an amazing story, fun gameplay, and a breathtaking open world, Horizon Zero Dawn is a game that deserves more recognition and praise than it is currently being given.

Horizon Zero Dawn can be found on Steam here.

The game is also available for PS4 here.

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