Horizon: Zero Dawn Review

Greatness looms on the Horizon

Gorilla games have always had a knack for making breathtakingly beautiful games for Sony platforms. The original Killzone showed off the true potential of the PS2, and both Killzone 3 and Shadowfall set new standards for graphical fidelity when they released on the PS3 and PS4. However, the one thing that always kept them back was always their uninspired gameplay, never really fully taking advantage of all the opportunities they had.

Enter Horizon: Zero Dawn, the first in what Gorilla hope to be a long running franchise. A game that, while still flawed, goes to great lengths to make Gorilla stand out as one of the most prominent studios in the gaming industry.

Horizon takes place thousands of years in the future, after an unknown cause led to humanities extinction and the rapid appearance of robotic animals. The story beings with Aloy, a redhaired orphan raised by a village outcast who longs to see the outside world. After years of training, she takes part in the village ceremony to hopefully learn more about her deceased parents, but things quickly go south when cultists appear and begin to use the robotic animals to kill what remains of humanity.

It’s not long before Aloy is chosen to embark on a quest to find a way to stop the cultists, and hopefully find some of the answers to the questions she’s been asking her whole life.

Horizon’s story is surprisingly engrossing. There are moments when it feels like it’s going to become littered with tropes and generic video game plotlines, but it manages to somewhat find a way to make itself unique enough to motivate you all the way through. It still has some cheesy western open world video game tropes in the mix, but for every dull moment you find, there’ll be an unforgettable right around the corner.

And Horizon is filled to the brim with these moments. The feeling of hunting your first mechanical deer is one you’re likely never to forget, and there are constant stand out moments in the story that’ll leave a lasting impression with you long after you turn off the game. But the most unforgettable thing is the world itself.

Horizon is absolutely massive in scale.

The open world easily compares to the RPGs such as Skyrim that boast monstrously largescale maps to explore. The world is one littered with secrets to find, camps to take over, and settlements packed with people to converse with. It feels like a completely realistic depiction of how humanity would congregate following the apocalypse, and constantly leaves you in awe with its attention to detail.

Exploring the game is simply a joy, and going out of your way to discover what lies at the corners of the world is one is fully expected and rewarded.

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Horizon falls into the trap that many other open world games have started to find themselves in, the issue of having a great world to explore but struggling to give the players anything to actually interact with. And so, Horizon does what many other games do, and litters the open world with menial tasks that fill up percentage bars.

In a way, it becomes a Ubisoft game.

Granted the game does its best to hide the Ubi-fication and makes all the tasks look and sound like new gameplay mechanics you’ve never experienced before. But simply taking a step back quickly reveals the shallowness to it.

Giant giraffe machines are just radio towers from Far Cry, including the parkour. Bandit camps are settlements from, well, every single other open world game in existence. And the hunting missions are just the investigation segments from the Batman Arkham series, where you just follow a path laid out with the games magical HUD, and occasionally investigate something to make the trail reappear.

These open world mechanics are grown so stagnant and tiresome, and just slapping a fresh coat of paint over them isn’t going to save tedium from itself.

If you’ve played any open world games in the past ten years, you won’t find anything new in Horizon’s missions.

With that being said, Horizon is the kind of game that also expects you to find your own fun. The game constantly pushes you to stop following routes on a map and tells you to explore (it normally does this by having the indicators send you in the wrong direction, but it’s something). Getting off your mechanical mount before venturing into the woods to gather materials and forge arrows is satisfying within itself, but then hunting and killing a giant robot T-Rex with the same weaponry you forged is a great feeling.

You can easily find yourself immersed in Horizon’s world.

Horizon: Zero Dawn isn’t the next coming of Jesus like many hoped. It’s still a game with many flaws that relies on a horrifically archaic open world design that plights many modern games, but it’s also a game with heart and soul put into it. The moments that make you moan and groan are easily outweighed by the game’s ability to wow and amaze you. It’s certainly one worth checking out.