Horizon Zero Dawn by Guerilla Games beautifully combines open world exploration with tight gameplay mechanics. The game’s side quests also aren’t typical mundane fetch quests that are usually found in the open world genre. Despite all of the things Horizon Zero Dawn manages to do right, there’s still plenty of room for improvement that Guerilla Games can work on in a possible sequel. In no particular order, here’s five ways how Guerilla Games can improve on for Horizon.
Fixed Camera Angle
Horizon Zero Dawn is arguably one of the prettiest and most polished game in this console generation. Exploring the huge open areas with lush foliage is something Guerilla Games should be applauded for. The game’s photo mode also helps players pause and re-angle the camera to capture a breathtaking image. Sadly, this experience is lost once the protagonist, Aloy, starts climbing on ledges and doing other similar activities.
When Aloy starts climbing and scaling on steep ledges forces, the camera angle still frames Aloy in the same manner as exploring open world areas. Climbing atop waterfalls didn’t feel satisfying because all I could see was a huge patch of soil on the screen. This has made use of Photo Mode a requirement if players want to better appreciate the scenery.
Guerilla Games possibly refrained from having unique camera angles when scaling atop high areas to avoid confusing players from the change in perspective. This move also gives the impression to players that they’re always in control of the action. However, there are plenty of areas in the main missions that could benefit much more from fixed camera angle
Aside from a better view of the scenery, good use of a fixed camera angle can help players easily direct their attention to where they should go to next. Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series has done this to great effect.
Better End-Game Content
There’s plenty of content to be found in Horizon Zero Dawn. It took me over 50 hours of game time to finish all the side quests, acquire all collectibles, and finish the main storyline. Once the Platinum trophy popped up on my console after I finished the final main quest, I didn’t feel compelled to explore the game anymore.
Unlike most action RPGs, Horizon Zero Dawn doesn’t give players enough reason to continue playing the game after completion of the main quest. There’s no new missions to engage in and no new items to collect. At the end of the game, Aloy is also strong enough to obliterate most foes with ease, especially if players can collect the Shield-Weaver armor.
At the least, Guerilla Games can introduce a new game plus to allow players to replay all the memorable battles and story sequences. A higher level cap and enemy scaling in the new game plus mode is also a huge improvement to the game’s longevity.
Sneaking Exp Gains
Pacifism or opting not to kill a single living being is something that can be done in games such as Dishonored and Deus Ex Mankind Divided. Those who choose to do this playstyle tend to miss out on using unique skills and abilities available at their disposal. This is undoubtedly impossible to do in Horizon Zero Dawn. However, the lack of a pacifism playstyle isn’t the biggest omission, it’s the lack of experience point rewards for simply sneaking past enemy lines.
The first few missions emphasize the importance of sneaking past and detecting each enemy’s patrol route. However, it’s unwise for players to do this frequently in both main missions and when free roaming due to the lack of experience point rewards.
Better Human Battles
Fighting against human enemies is arguably one of the weakest aspects of the game. Not only do human enemies unrealistically flinch at Alloy’s melee and ranged attacks, they also have a huge health pool that can make battles with them feel like a chore.
Aloy only has two ways to attack her foes: a strong attack and a light attack. Landing any of the two melee attacks on the machines feel satisfying due to the loud mechanical ‘clang’ after each successive strike by Aloy. Aside from this, most machines actively engage Aloy with both ranged and melee attacks. None of this magical experience happens when fighting against the dumb human AI enemies.
Better Melee Combat
One of the biggest flaws that appears during human battles is the lack of variety in melee attacks and combos. Human enemies barely flinch when struck by Aloy’s spear and melee wielding foes immediately retaliate with a slash attack, rending Aloy’s successive light attacks useless. One of the best ways Guerilla Games can improve this is by emulating the cinematic hand-to-hand combat in the Uncharted series.
The side quests in Horizon Zero Dawn are brief and exciting. Even the simple fetch quests in Horizon have some interesting dialogue, lore establishing content, and exciting enemy encounters. However, there’s barely any layered side quests to make players fully appreciate a particular tribe or character.
An example of one of the many interesting one-off side quests is “A Moment’s Peace”. In this side quest, Aloy ventures far into a snowy mountain to confirm rumors that a certain tribe is able to live peacefully with machines. It’s interesting to know how the tribe thinks their own songs can calm down the machines. Like most side quests however, Aloy simply discovers not everything is how it ought to be and a big battle caps off the side quest, offering no more interesting quests to explore that particular tribe.
While there are plenty of one-off quests, there are also quests where Aloy gets to spend sufficient time with a certain NPC. One of the most interesting of these is engaging in bandit camp side quests with Nil, a bloodthirsty Carja who enjoys slaughtering bandits. There’s some interesting conversation with Nil whenever completing before and after obliterating bandit camps. Nil is a well written character and its amusing to see Aloy sassily respond to his weird pleasures. Going out with Nil is akin to a loyalty quest in the Mass Effect series, and that’s a good thing.
The sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn needs to focus more on investing players on a particular character or tribe interesting through several side quests. While the enemy encounters and tasks in the game’s one-off side quests are interesting, the amount of one-off quests ends up feeling like Guerilla Games is simply shoving one quest after another, which can feel overwhelming at times.
What’s on the Horizon
Previously, several Guerilla Games staff told Game Informer their ideas for a possible sequel for Horizon. Art Director Jan-Bart van Beek said they’re keen on adding more interesting machines. Meanwhile, game director Mathijs de Jonge said “some parts don’t shine quite as brightly as others” and they’re “looking closely at critiques” for their future plans for the IP.
Meanwhile, Guerilla Games senior producer Angela Gillespie told GamereactorEU that Aloy might not headline the sequel considering the number of characters and diverse tribes the game has. “We spent years developing these tribes, so there is a possibility for other characters in the future, but Aloy will always remain in Horizon Zero Dawn.
Currently, Guerilla Games is busy working on a story expansion for Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s still unknown whether they’ll explore the cliffhanger ending of the game or another thing entirely. There’s still no release window announced but it’s possible it’ll come out sooner rather than later since work on the expansion is already in full production.