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Horizon Zero Dawn Review: After Hype Impressions

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Horizon Zero Dawn Review from The BitBag
A regular battle with one of the many menacing machines in Horizon Zero Dawn

Guerilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn borrows plenty of features from the best of the best triple-A games and pieces them all into a finely polished experience. The combat is tight for an open world action RPG, it’s the best looking console game to date, and it has a likeable sassy protagonist. Despite everything it manages to do right, there’s something holding back Horizon Zero Dawn from becoming one of the best games this generation.

A Great Foundation

From gameplay mechanics to simple open world exploration, bits and pieces of influence from Far Cry, The Witcher 3, and other acclaimed games is apparent in Horizon Zero Dawn. While Guerilla Games should be applauded for making all of its inspirations’ features jive well in one game, Horizon fails to improve on them.

Each side quest in Horizon tells an interesting tale about a particular tribe or person and most quests end with a satisfying battle. However, they are all one-off missions unlike the deeply layered quests in The Witcher 3 and the Mass Effect series that allow players to spend enough time with a particular character to care about them.

Horizon has a large world where players can find themselves in lush jungles, snowy mountains, and a scorching desert within a few minutes of exploration. However, there’s little to no reason for players to get lost in its sprawling open world. There’s some collectibles to collect as well as interesting text and audio dialogues, but there’s nothing unique and interesting to discover unlike in games like Zelda Breath of the Wild.

I spent countless hours simply taking images with the game’s photo mode.

Platforming looks fluid. It’s also refreshingly enjoyable and easy to pull off as players simply need to hold the directional sticks to make Aloy climb atop mountains and jump from one steep ledge to another. However, performing these feats doesn’t feel as satisfying compared to the ones in the Uncharted series due to Horizon’s ease of platforming.

The sneaking aspects are serviceable and it’s neat that Aloy can detect patrol routes of enemies. However, there’s no depth to the stealth gameplay. There’s also barely any alternate routes to bypass enemies due to the game’s large areas. Worse, enemy patrol behavior is unaffected once enemies halt their search for Aloy.

Vantage Points are one of the more interesting collectibles as they show you a glimpse of the past while providing an interesting narrative.

Clinging to the Past

The game’s main story also fails to keep things interesting and simply delays important plot reveals several times to leave players with something worth anticipating. The game also focuses too much on establishing the game’s world by narrating what happened in the past. These plot reveals only come in the form of audio dialogues and holograms.

While the events that happened in the past are interesting, it’s hard to sympathize with them. Apart from one to two character in the past, there’s not much people you’ll get attached to. Due to this focus, the game lacks enough time to establish majority of the characters you really spend your time with.

Despite all of these complaints, Horizon is a solid title with a great combat system barely found in open world games. There’s plenty of machines in the game, each of which must be approached differently due to their unique attack patterns and behavior. It always felt satisfying to hear the loud clang of metal ring whenever Aloy lands a melee attack. Even the simple animal-like groans of each machine whenever they do a charge attack sounds nerve-wracking and has made me jump in panic multiple times during my 50 hour playthrough.

There’s a variety of weaponry in Horizon Zero Dawn, including some guns.

Sadly, the same can’t be said when fighting against human enemies. Not only are they dumb, they all feel like bullet sponges. Additionally, it feels awkward to use melee attacks considering Aloy has no combo attacks and enemies barely flinch to Aloy’s spear strikes.

Verdict

Horizon Zero Dawn manages to turn all the good qualities from well-known titles into an enjoyable and finely polished experience. However, it doesn’t provide anything new for those burned out from playing triple-A games.

There’s only a few interesting and memorable side characters in Horizon. One of the more memorable ones is a bloodthirsty Carja named Nil.

Pros

  • Tight gameplay system
  • Almost everything is polished
  • Side quests are interesting
  • Gorgeous qraphics
  • Over 40 hours of hameplay
  • Each machine is fun to fight against
  • Excellent sound design

Cons

  • Horizon Zero Dawn Fails to improve on the games that inspired it
  • Terrible Human Battles
  • Lack of end-game content

Final Score: 8.5/10

Note: This game was reviewed on a standard PS4. The copy of the game was purchased by the reviewer.

The Bitbag is a contributor for OpenCritic, one of the leading games-only aggregate site in the industry. A pool of other Horizon Zero Dawn reviews can be seen here.

Also Read: Horizon Zero Dawn Thunderjaw Battle Took More Than A Year To Create

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