From the time its first trailer dropped at E3 2015, Horizon Zero Dawn always looked like it would be something special. Even though it was something of a departure for Guerrilla Games, with their last release being Killzone shadow fall, the setting and graphics that were showcased captivated gamers everywhere.
When I first saw it, I was extremely interested but had to quickly temper my fluttering heart as my only gaming system was my poor base Xbox One (poor because it would never get Horizon, I still loved the console). Then in 2020, the game was released on PC!!!!!! A former PlayStation exclusive on PC and little did we know at the time this would end up being something gamers would see more of going forward
Fast forward to me in 2019, I started to take my first steps into PC gaming and knew that the time would come that I’d get to experience the world of Aloy and her battle against the machines. Although this took more time than I’d hoped due to the chips shortage and scalper issues that have plagued the tech world, in early 2021 my mid to high-end system was ready for anything.
One Steam sale later, I was ready to rock and jumped into Horizon Zero Dawn. In short, it’s one of the best examples of a compelling 3rd person game I’ve ever experienced but it’s also not without issues. Horizon is still one of the best looking games I’ve ever played even 5 years from its original release and is also one of the greatest new IP’s that has arrived in the gaming scene in years.
Although the PC release was affected by some port issues when it first came out, PlayStation and Guerilla Games deserve massive praise for the fact that the game was fixed and is still receiving updates (meaningful ones as well) 2 years from its PC release. In late 2021 DLSS was added for lucky owners of RTX Nvidia graphics cards and from my experience, this has allowed me to take a refresh rate of around 80 to nearly 100 FPS at max settings.
The main character Aloy and the future take of the states of Colorado and Utah, as well as sections of northern Arizona and a small portion of Montana, are instantly lovable, but the combat can be a little repetitive. Likewise, the dialogue can be hit or miss, and come across as a bit cold at times.
For anyone looking to jump in now, the biggest tip I could offer would be to make sure and scan enemies as you encounter them. Scanning reveals an enemy’s immunities, vulnerabilities, and weak points, and allows you to tag them and see their walking pattern. Tagging an enemy means an arrow will constantly flash above their head, so you can stay aware of where they are.
As well as this, it’s important to make sure that you use the right ammunition or weapon for the right enemies. Scanning will confirm this, but once you are experienced enough, you’ll know better what to use effectively against the relevant enemy, this will become almost second nature.
I’ve spent about 40 plus hours in the game in the last year or so but have taken great pleasure in the fight against some truly beautifully crafted enemies. However, it’s also a game that I tend to play for short periods. By this I mean I might get obsessed with it for a week or so, before then not revisiting for a few months.
If you’re just looking to complete the main game you’ll be looking at around the 30-hour mark, but this being an open-world game completion will be closer to 80 hours. Quests will help to encourage the player to explore more of the beautiful world on offer, but later in-game, this can revert to familiar fetch quests: go and find this thing, kill some things, return, collect the reward.
Most open-world games can tend to feel like they are filled with bloat, like this, Horizon Zero Dawn tends to offer great versions of experiences that we’ve already had, rather than totally new takes on the genre. This means the game can feel quite similar to other open-world third-person games albeit, offering some of the best visuals you’ll find recently.
As I mentioned earlier, combat is good, but now so far into the game, it feels like it could have been expanded on and I’d like to see more animations or moves. As a personal note, I love a good bow and arrow in a game (FarCry 3 offers one of the best tbh), but Aloy also offers a great take and the numerous ammo types and upgrades and are great fun to play around with.
The world map falls into the same issues as many other games with it falling on the side of being slightly too big. Fast travel is available, but this is only available for places that have already been discovered by using fast travel packs. Later in the game, unlimited fast travel can be unlocked but it requires the Golden Fast Travel Pack. This can be purchased from most Merchants outside of the prologue area, particularly in and around Meridian. It costs 50 metal shards, 1 fox skin, and 10 fatty meat.
This leads me to the biggest downside of the game. I’d like to see the RPG and collectable side of the game scaled back as it’s here that I seem to bounce off the most. There are SO many collectables and items that I find that I need to retrain myself on what to do or what to look for, after any considerable time away from the game. Games have got so big in the last few years that they can be hard to experience in full, paired alongside the number of high-quality releases means this can be difficult for gamers to experience in full (It’s even worst when you try to review games as a past time 😉).
Nevertheless, Horizon Zero Dawn and Aloys journey is a story that I’d love to know more of, and with the sequel due for release on PS4 and PS5 on the 18th of February 2022, I desperately hope that we get more news shortly regarding a PC release. The first game is great and offers a fantastic game and experience that many others could only hope to replicate.