I finished Horizon Zero Dawn a few weeks ago, and I absolutely loved it. I could totally write a formal review for it, but I’m kind of in a pros and cons phase since my ME: Andromeda review, so I’m going to try that again. The thing about Horizon though is that it’s mostly positive things, so this format might not make as much sense… Oh well, let’s how it works out.
Pro: where do I even begin.
Pro: the concept of a post-future tribal culture that wear old pieces of machinery as medallions and jewelry.
Pro: what their culture describes as “ancient” we actually know as “futuristic”.
Pro: a Rolex found on tribal grounds is referred to as an “Ancient Bracelet”.
Pro: Aloy has imperfect teeth.
…I think this is going well.
Pro: Aloy is not sexualized at all; she is a person and a good character way before she is a female.
Pro: the combat
Pro: the combat
Pro: fast-traveling is not as easily accessible as in say a Bethesda game; you have to work for it.
Pro: the combat
Pro: the machine designs are not typical what-you-would-first-think-of kind of designs; they are creative and densely visual.
Pro: okay, I cannot stress enough how good the combat is; it is dynamic and mental enough to always be compelling; the variety of machine attacks/weaknesses/strengths/mobility/size mixed with the variety of weapons and approaches makes any encounter something to debate, consider, and approach creatively.
Pro: there’s that ever-important Dark Souls-esque feeling that you are actually improving rather than just leveling-up and getting better items; once you hit your stride and start to get a feel for the fighting, it’s a blast, but you have to learn how to get there.
Pro: on a similar note, the combat is extremely intimidating at first, but that’s a good thing; unlike most games, where I feel like I could pretty much attack anything, there’s an paralyzing fear of dangerous creatures for low-level players, which keeps the experience engaging.
Pro: the game has an amazing pace regarding your skills; it took me along time to finally reach a point where I felt confident enough to survive an encounter with certain machines; player skill eventually reaches a very rewarding level of rapport with the game’s natural difficulty.
Con: although, eventually I felt too comfortable with machine battles; I had to bump up the difficulty because I realized that slight anxiety going into battles is crucial for them to be as enjoyable as they can be.
Pro: the trailer surmises this as an open-world action RPG, but is that all there is to it? NO! It’s got a wonderful story to go along with it, and wonderful lore to go along with that.
Con: I’ve literally never experienced so many audiologs, holologs, and text documents in one game before.; it’s too bad that that is the only way they could think to tell this story.
Pro: maybe it just seems like there were so many audiologs and documents because I was so interested in what they had to say, which I don’t get from games very often; they really do tell a compelling story with well-written, well-conceived, and well-voice-acted pieces to an much larger, awesome puzzle; the term-story rich definitely applies here.
Pro: the crafting system and gathering system feel so natural; very very good.
Pro: you know how games like Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls and Fallout tend to re-use faces and voices for NPCs and it gets to feeling annoying like you’re dealing with the same person over and over? It never feels like that in Horizon; I can’t say definitively that every NPC looks unique, but I can honestly say I did not meet any two people who looked remotely similar; tons of different face designs and outfit designs.
Pro: this might be the best looking game I’ve ever played; faces look incredible, the environment looks incredible.
Pro: Aloy’s animations are terrific as she climbs and runs and slides and shoots arrows and such…
Con: although I wish she would stand normal sometimes; she’s always at the ready.
Con: clipping on the environment can be frustrating sometimes, especially when trying to run away from a mean, scary thing.
Pro: there’s a variety of characters in the story: Teb, Sona, Sylens… all very different; I really liked Errend.
Pro: in Mass Effect, it always annoyed me that all the voice acting is performed without any space in between words, like the character is trying to get their sentence over with as fast as they can; in Horizon, there are some very natural pacing of speech to flow with the emotions of the conversation; it boils down to good voice acting and good voice direction.
Con: although they are still just standing face to face every time there’s a conversation, like in every other RPG; take a lesson from Law & Order, couldn’t someone be doing laundry or tossing bricks as I talk to them?
Con: as good as all the different weathers and times of day look, it bothers me how fast the shifts happen; it’s very unnatural to see it shift from nighttime to a bright red sunrise in two seconds.
Con: the Longnecks are a good idea, but I wish there were more of them; there’s only like four in the whole map.
Pro: that feeling of discovering new environments for the first time.
Con: but this does feel like one of those games where the developers want to make sure you experience everything they put in it, rather than just putting it in and letting you find it if you get lucky; I felt like when I did explore strange areas in search of secrets or special things, I was not rewarded; I get the feeling there’s nothing very secretive to find.
Pro: the story is a good length.
Pro: side quests actually have emotional weight, which is like a dream come true.
Pro: you’ll eventually figure out what the heck “Horizon Zero Dawn” means.
Pro: the tutorial section of the story feels more natural here than in most adventure games.
Pro: the stalkers
Pro: that feeling of wandering through the jungle on the lookout for machines hiding in the leaves
Pro: the inevitably epic battles with the biggest machines
Pro: the cauldrons; the cauldrons are awesome; that’s all I’ll say about that.
My rating for 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn for PS4 is…
It was a tough call between 4 and 4.5… I have a general rule that whenever I have a hard time deciding, I go with the lower of the two ratings. But depending on what mood I’m in, I could justify this game getting a 4.5.