Very Late Reviews: Horizon Zero Dawn

by Chris Camilleri
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As any other respectable gamer out there, I have been building my backlog of games over the years. Having multiple consoles definitely does not help, and being impulsive to pre-order games just for the collectables they come with definitely is no aid for the cause. This means that there are always a number of games which, unless a worldwide pandemic envelopes the world and constricts everyone to stay at home, will never be played.

I had already decided to try to clear out as much of my backlog as possible as my New Year’s Resolution, and now I even had the perfect chance to do so. After searching a little for it in my room, I found my copy of Horizon Zero Dawn in its beautiful Steelbook. I had played the game for quite a while when I received it, but for some reason, I put it on the side and never had the will to pick it up again.

That is until a couple of weeks ago when I questioned myself why I did never manage to continue playing it. I loaded my last save file, the date of which was probably around three years prior and continued off from that point. It took one or two hours to get the hang of controls back, but once locked in I was well strapped in for the ride.

The game was as beautiful as I remembered it, starting with the main character herself, Aloy. She looks gorgeous ingame, steady resolve in her eyes, the silky copper hair flowing behind her as she is chasing her prey through the immense world map. You start the game when Aloy is still a kid, and see her mature and grow up into the fine woman who players will have control of when venturing across the map.

Apart from Aloy, the main stars in Horizon: Zero Dawn are the mechanical dinosaurs who you will be killing (and sometimes running away from). These mechanical dinosaurs, referred to as machines in the game, come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the small and relatively weak Watchers to the giant and glorious Thunderjaw that players will be admiring later in the game.

Unfortunately, given that humans are pricks, they help themselves to being antagonists to the game too, so you’ll have to kill those as well. They do not pose as much of a threat as the metal beasts but tend to be in greater number so you’ll have to watch your quarters very carefully.

Horizon Zero Dawn robotic dinosaur
The Thunderjaw. Good luck taking down one of these. You’ll need it.

The scope of the game and Aloy’s mission will slowly and firmly be more clear the more one ventures through the main storyline, which may sound obvious but when you’re lost side questing for hours on end, you may find it quite hard to return to something which will cut your enjoyment short.

Horizon Zero Dawn does brilliantly to fill the world with lots of things to do, from clearing out bandit camps in Far Cry style, to destroying Corrupted Machine areas. Doing the above tasks requires precision and execution, so they might be a little daunting at first. Once Aloy becomes a powerhouse however, she can definitely take these on.

Vendors can also be sources of quests themselves too, in the sense that in order to purchase a weapon or armour, you’ll need to bring the ingredients yourself. Ironically, I found out that the harder ingredients are wild animal skins and bones, such as Boars and Foxes, so if you spot some in your travels, be sure to kill and loot them as you never have a clear indication of where these will be found.

Machines, however, have camps in which they are expected to be found, meaning if your Hunter Bow needs some part of a machine, you’ll need only check out the map to see the closest gathering of the machine you need. With all this being said, I loved the main story a lot. Personally, this has been the most satisfying I’ve felt with a game’s plot in ages, if not ever.

I cannot remember a game with a story that kept me asking questions and seeking out answers as much as Horizon Zero Dawn, and in an age where multiplayer games take all the credit for being immersive and replayable, Horizon Zero Dawn takes a bold step towards showing the importance of storytelling in video games. Sony studios all seem to look in that direction, as other titles such as God of War or The Last of Us can prove as well.

Zero Dawn‘s story seems to be taken out of a best selling sci-fi book; it is written exceptionally, and I was really curious to continue learning about this universe.

Horizon Zero Dawn environment artwork
The city of Meridian, one of many locations Aloy visits through the main story.

One of the things I loved most about the game is how Aloy’s character evolves throughout the game. Without spoiling too much, I will say that you definitely see how much she matures the more you progress in the story. Her sarcasm is something I adore about her, and I am sure players will love it too as it comes out really naturally and very close to what players will be thinking at that time as well. She really is a loveable character, and I have no doubt that anyone playing the game will feel a tie to her while playing.

If there was something I disliked about the game, it has to be that you are always the target when you are attacking as part of a makeshift group for a specific mission. You can even not attack and you will still be on the receiving end of whatever you are hunting. Group missions are not very frequent in Zero Dawn, so it will not have a major impact on the game as a whole, but I do feel these battles feel more frustrating because of this.

Even if this is three years after release, this is ironically the best time to get into Horizon: Zero Dawn probably. The rumors about it and the PS5 are going around like crazy at this very moment, and I will not be surprised if in some future unveiling conference Guerilla Games were to bring the second title in the franchise to light. That would definitely be met with pleasure from my end as I thoroughly enjoyed Zero Dawn, so I will be sure to throw money at whatever new title from the series.

Horizon Zero Dawn roundup

I absolutely loved Horizon Zero Dawn and questioned myself why did I drop it halfway through. It has everything – a compelling story, the great main character and incredible environments to explore, as well as a lot of content. Coupled with the Frozen Wilds DLC, this could easily be around 40 weeks of content, and the game is very much replayable to achieve 100% too. The game is definitely a great 9/10, and I recommend anyone who loves games to go and buy this masterpiece, you definitely will not regret it.

Horizon Zero Dawn is developed by Guerrilla Games and is available to play now It has been for a while. Hence the Very late Review title. We don’t just do retrospective reviews though, check out our latest reviews HERE.

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