It’s been a week now since Horizon first launched. It took me around 20 hours to finish the main story, it probably would have been less if I had only focused on that. That’s the thing you’ll quickly learn when you start playing Horizon, it’s really hard to focus on the main story when there’s just so much to do in this world. The landscape is vast and you can’t go very far without coming across something new or a new side quest to take on. Guerilla has outdone themselves with this one. The graphics are gorgeous and some of the best on the PS4, period. It really feels like a living, breathing world. It’s really hard to talk about the robotic beasts and the regular beasts without just putting them in the same group. These robotic beasts are alive, and each have a purpose in this world. They are as much a part of this land as the turkeys and foxes walking around. Without going into spoiler territory, what starts out as your typical end of the world story evolves into something really cool and different that you just have to experience yourself. Even some of the side quests feel like full blown story missions and actually have a direct impact on what happens at the end of the game. If I was you I would take your time and explore every nook and cranny before reaching that point. I know I’ll be spending a lot of time going across the map and finding everything I missed. The cast of characters is vast and the voice acting is well done. The main character Aloy is the standout, as she should be, being the main hero and all. She’s dependable and has a good heart. Aloy can hold her own, usually she just says she’ll do things herself because it’s more efficient (what a badass). It’s nice to see a strong female lead. My daughter is fond of games but 90% of the time you’re a guy in them. It’s always good to have a change of pace and hopefully this becomes more prominent in the future.
The combat is extremely satisfying. There’s nothing quite like going into Concentration (essentially Max Paynes bullet time) and taking out multiple enemies with headshots, or sneaking up on an unsuspecting Sawtooth and systematically taking out it’s vital areas, crippling the beast in seconds. There are different ways to go about these fights, you have access to a variety of weapons, a trip wire, which when enemies run through it get electrocuted. There’s a spear launcher that can pin enemies to the ground depending on how many you attach to them. For me though, most of the fights just revolved around shooting arrows at the weak points. I know that may not sound too thrilling, but when you have a giant Thunderjaw (looks like a robotic T-Rex) charging at you and attacking relentlessly, sometimes you just go into full panic mode and shoot like crazy. All of the creatures have something unique about them, and each fight brings certain challenges to the table, it’s up to you to figure out the best way to take down the beasts. Some of the weapons come in handy for the bigger ones, but once you start reaching the higher levels I found they really don’t matter. It’s a great combat system though and it made me go off the beaten path every now and then just to take down creatures and cultists for the fun of it. The level system is pretty basic but it does let you go about your own play style, stealthy or aggressive. If you level high enough you can just become a combination of both. Initially though being stealthy is much more advised when you start out. Aloy does level pretty quick though. By the time I had finished the game I was about 10 levels above the recommended level for the main story mission. If I would have avoided the side quests the main story probably would have posed a much bigger problem.
Horizon Zero Dawn is one of those games that I really can’t recommend enough. The story and side quests are engaging and the combat is intense and satisfying. You’ve got a great female lead in Aloy and the world is so vast and expansive I can’t wait to dive further into its mysteries. If you have a PS4, this should be a no brainer of a purchase. If you don’t have a PS4, well maybe this could be the game that pushes you to buy one. In an already crowded year for games (We’ve already got Resident Evil 7, Zelda, Nier:Automata comes out today and next month we get Persona 5!). Horizon stands out as one of the greats and is definitely worth your time. – NVJ