I always admire a developer who branches out of their comfort zone to create something entirely different from what us as gamers expect from them. Naughty Dog did this after taking a break from its critically acclaimed Uncharted series to delve into a survival horror type game. Now the Killzone developers, Guerrilla Games, takes a road unfamiliar to bring to us the post apocalyptic game Horizon: Zero Dawn. Horizon couldn't be more different than Killzone. It is a beautifully crafted open world RPG that takes place in a distant and mysterious future that has dinosaur like robots roaming the landscape. Human civilization isn't what it once was as it has reverted back to a primitive state like when Native Americans walked the land thousands of years ago.
Aloy is a young woman who wishes to be accepted into a tribe becomes entangled in a web of mystery that takes her on a journey to find out who she really is, the enemies that wish to cause her harm, and what happened to the ancient and technologically advanced civilization. While the story itself is absent of any surprises or twist, the joy comes from the beautifully crafted world enriched with details brings a level of uniqueness not found in many open world games. The side missions are good enough, although many share a similar formula where you chase down tracks to get to your eventual goal. A lot of the areas feel different from mountain formations, or general changes to the landscape. It is a marvelous game to look at and to appreciate from a technical standpoint. It runs so smooth despite how much is actually going on, especially when you are fighting multiple things at once. I found myself playing with photomode a lot more often just to capture some of the most precious moments Horizon has to offer. The game is also glittered with little details that shows the hard work Guerrilla put in to this game like; water puddles evaporating, clouds formation, rain turning to snow in higher elevations, changing weather and how it interacts with the foliage. I have never seen foliage in a game this good. It reminds me of when I saw how good the water looked in Wave Race 64. Its hypnotic at times. To go a long with this are its soothing acoustics of nature and its tranquil sound track which can pick it up in times of danger.
A few issues that I did have with Horizon came in the gameplay department. The menu felt cumbersome and cluttered with a lot of information. Instead of being able to equip and customize your weapon at the same time, you had to move to a different tab to add special traits to your weapon. The inventory system was also frustrating the manage as foraging for your previous resources became a tiring task coupled with the frustration from reaching your max capacity. Between farming robot or animal parts to help craft arrows, carrying cases or purchase weapons and armor, I was always running out of space. Eventually you get perks that help negate this but even maxing out my resources I still had no room to fit all the collectible resources. There was also the issue of not being able to change weapons on the fly. The weapon wheel only has 4 slots to choose from but you have 8 weapons with different abilities. I also would have liked if the Lance was upgradeable too, but not till the near end do you get something similar to that.
Overall though, when you were not battling the menus, the game played nicely. You would have to use your focus and strategically plan your attack against the more aggressive and towering robots, The focus would highlight weak points on their bodies and you would use which ever element that corresponded with it making it very satisfying when you do. As mentioned with the weapons, they all are unique and have great benefits to help you through a difficult time. Personally the Corruption arrows was the most fun as you can confuse the enemy making them hostile to anyone or thing in the area. Doing this when there is a big group of robots is a blast as you watch the chaos from afar.
Aside from the main story and side missions, there is plenty to do to keep you occupied. There are hunter trials that gives you a specific goal and it must be completed in a certain amount of time, there are plenty of collectibles scattered throughout that will also give more insight into the fall of man, there is also these "tombs" called cauldrons where you can venture off to which upon completion will give you the ability to hack specific machines pertaining that that cauldron. Hacking machines is sort of like shooting those corruption arrows but the effects are permanent. This is very useful for exploration if you don't wish to use the fast travel option and want to see more of the world.
Going down a different a path for the first time at Guerilla Games showed the dedication the developing team has to creating great games, and to nail it on the first attempt is something special. Rarely in this day do you feel you ever get a complete game with DLCs, and season passes plaguing the industry, but from the moment I finished Horizon I was left with a very satisfying feeling. A lot of time and effort went in to making this game and it shows throughout. The game left it open for a sequel and I can only imagine what advancements they'll make with everything now set in place. The Sony brand has another killer exclusive on their hands.
*2017 Game of the Year nominee*