Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the most important games on Sony’s current generation Playstation. Apart from selling 10 million copies worldwide, it has also launched a new franchise of sorts. But what makes Horizon Zero Dawn so amazing?
We look at the top reasons.
1. The Post-Post Apocalyptic Setting
We have all played games with post-apocalyptic settings before. There are some amazing names in this genre such as the Fallout series. More recently, The Last of Us showed what a good story in a post-apocalyptic setting do for your game.
Horizon Zero Dawn is slightly different.
The setting in Horizon Zero Dawn is basically post-post apocalyptic. Meaning that it is set so far ahead in time that even apocalypse came and went ultimately ushering in a new era for mankind. Even the remnants of the human civilization (also known as the “old ones”) are vanishing fast. Nature has basically reclaimed everything.
It is in this setting that we begin our journey. And what an epic journey it is as we get a chance to explore what Earth has become long after the current human civilization is gone.
2. The Story of Horizon Zero Dawn
A setting is a key part of the game. However, without a good story, it cannot reach its potential. Typically, it has been seen that games with great settings falter when it comes to stories. Remember Bioshock 3!
However, Horizon Zero Dawn is amazing in its story department. It even bucks the trend that Guerrilla Games is known for with its Killzone series.
Horizon Zero Dawn’s story starts with Aloy (the main protagonist) when she is just a child. Throughout the game, we focus on her journey as she grows up in this harsh environment and learns to hunt, scavenge and ultimately become a warrior. Arguably, the game follows one of the literary fiction’s most reliable arc. The Heroes Journey.
However, the game also trumps everything else in terms of its backstory. As Aloy learns more about herself, she also learns what happened to the ancient world? Where did the “old ones” go and what happened to them?
Much of this story is delivered in the form of audio-files scattered throughout the game world or through holographic videos in primary missions. However, at the end, everything fits together and you feel a bond with both the Aloy and the wider story of the world.
3. Gameplay and Combat
One of the most important thing that make or break a game is usually its gameplay. No matter how cinematic or story-driven a game is, ultimately gameplay is what brings players to it.
Horizon Zero Dawn’s gameplay was definitely not an easy thing to crack. Kudos to the team at Guerrilla games, however, to deliver in such an amazing way.
The primary antagonist in the game are the machines. Machines that look like or resemble real world animals. Each of these machines has a bunch of important components on their bodies that allow them to function in their ecosystem. To defeat them, you need to dismantle those components.
Being a post-post apocalyptic setting, the human race has lost knowledge of most of the high-impact weapons. The primary weapon Aloy has is a bow and a bunch of arrows. Sure there are some technical gimmicks to the arrows like freezing or fire but at the end of the day, she is just a hunter. However, some of the machines are enormous and walk like tanks.
Despite this seeming oddity, the combat in Horizon Zero Dawn is the strongest aspect of the game. Right from the early moments when you as Aloy learn to become a hunter to all the way becoming a ferocious killer of machines, the combat stays fun. The movement is fluid, the difficulty level just correct and there is enough variety on offer because of the changing machine configurations and abilities.
This makes even casual walks through the game-world a particularly interesting activity. Basically, you don’t know what machine you might encounter in the jungle and how you would probably kill it.
4. The Main Protagonist
Is a protagonist really important to the game?
In my opinion, the answer is a definite YES. A great protagonist can be the difference between an average and a good game. And Horizon Zero Dawn is an amazing game even if the protagonist was a dud. But Aloy is definitely not a dud.
Even though initially I was a little skeptical about Aloy as a protagonist. However, she grows on you as the game progresses. Basically, she moves from an over-eager teenager to a battle-hardened woman. Her journey to become strong seems well earned as you learn the skills to hunt bigger machines and solve the bigger problems of the world. So much so that when she is finally saving the world from the ultimate bad guys, you feel like she is capable of doing so. That she is the only one capable of doing so.
It also helps that her story ties pretty well with the story of the “old ones”. I wouldn’t reveal it here because it is a spoiler. The point is that without Aloy being the protagonist she is, the game wouldn’t have been so amazing.
Should you Buy Horizon Zero Dawn?
If you haven’t done so already, I would definitely recommend you to go ahead and buy Horizon Zero Dawn.
As a PS4 owner, you won’t be disappointed. This game has everything that you would expect from the current generation of gaming – a big expansive open world, amazing graphics, innovative gameplay and a complex nuanced storyline that doesn’t seem like a Hollywood ripoff.