We’re in a land like no other…
Horizon Zero Dawn developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment available exclusively for the PS4, is an open-world RPG with a variety of geographical locations and ecotopes from frozen mountain ranges to hot, dense jungles and all teeming with life and automatons in this postapocalyptic future.
The game’s hero, Aloy, is a young hunter on a journey to find her destiny. Aloy develops her skill set and savage aim to hunt the huge variety of Machines and to defend against rival tribes. She’s also quite the badass. Her fighting dynamics vary from a bow to hand-to-Machine combat with her spear, and even gaining the ability to override certain Machines, upon which she can also ride, making it easier to traverse the vast landscape. As in other RPGs, like the new Assassin’s Creed, our hero also has the ability to upgrade her skills and weapons.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
The map for the game is huge, and it will take the average game player roughly 50 to 70 hours to complete the main story, which is extremely well written. Originally an outcast from the Nora tribe, Aloy completes the tribe’s Proving, where she becomes witness to a massacre and finds herself thrown into a war between tribes and must somehow navigate among them and the roving Machines to complete her tasks and embark on her path of self-discovery. Along the way, she’ll encounter many new friends and quite a few foes. Aloy’s main encounters seem to be with the Machines of the land, and part of her journey will lead her to discover their past and what or who is controlling them now.
Many of these Machines are of the unfriendly persuasion, so for Aloy that means either going around them or confronting them — and at times, there isn’t a choice. Fortunately, she has access to a gamut of weapons. They all affect Machines (and humans) differently, so choosing the right weapon is essential, as is having the right weapons available when confronting certain enemies.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward for this RPG: you target and fire. But there is a great deal to be said about stealth because this is a game meant for sneaking around in the tall grasses that populate the map. You may encounter a Machine that has been corrupted and more difficult to kill, so you may want to plan a route around it. However, in doing so, Aloy may encounter some other Machine, like a fire-breathing Bellowback or those rather annoying ice-shooting Glinthawks. Thanks to her spear (after a slight upgrade), you can also override certain Machines to your side, which will allow you to either ride them or have them battle with you. In total, Aloy can acquire seven different weapons, each very specialized and upgradable: Spear, Bow, Rattlers, Ropecasters, Slings, Tripcasters, and Tearblasters.
Machines aren’t the only adversary in the game. Plenty of other antagonists appear in the game, including bandits and bandit camps to overtake. Guerrilla Games made these tasks a little easier for Aloy by giving her a device: her focus. This small device allows Aloy the ability to “see” where foes lurk as well as informing her of weak points on Machines, giving her the advantage of knowing where to make successful strikes. And there are plenty of Machines to encounter in these lands as well: 26 of them in total, from your basic-level Watcher, to the ultimate T. rex–like machine, the Thunderjaw. My least favorite is the Stalker, which has a stealth generator of its own, so you don’t even know it’s there until you’re being attacked — and it’s seldom just one of these….
There are so many other side objectives/missions, cauldrons, and goals to complete outside the main story, and if that wasn’t enough for you, then there’s the all-new DLC released this month: The Frozen Wilds. The continuing story line for Aloy is set in the Banuk territory, where we stopped in Horizon Zero Dawn. This is an area that appears to be set in Yellowstone National Park. You’ll encounter new Machines, a huge new map to explore, and quite possibly some answers about the mountain and what’s inside it, along with what’s guarding access to the mountain. This also begs the question: will we see other DLCs in the future, opening the map up ever further across the U.S. and into Canada? Depending on where we go from here, I don’t see why not, and quite frankly I absolutely wouldn’t mind the possibility!