The tutorial missions in the early parts of Horizon Zero Dawn emphasizes that stealth is a key mechanic that players must use to ensure Aloy’s survival. Similar to the Batman Arkham games, Horizon Zero Dawn’s protagonist, Aloy, has a futuristic scanner that allows her to detect important items in her surroundings. What’s unique here is that players can lock-on a machine to track its patrol route, which is crucial in outmaneuvering enemies in large open spaces.
Most stealth games force its players to outmaneuver enemies within confined spaces. This is the complete opposite with Horizon Zero Dawn’s stealth gameplay. Aloy’s safe haven amidst a swarm of robotic enemies in the large lush green landscapes are patches of tall grass. Due to this, there’s always a sense of dread in getting detected considering Aloy isn’t completely hidden from plain sight. The robotic foes can also walk on the tall grass and bump into her.
Stealth is essential in this game because even the weakest enemies can kill Aloy if she’s outnumbered and outmaneuvered. The BitBag managed to play the first few early chapters of Horizon Zero Dawn’s final build. I played on the hard difficulty setting (easy, normal, hard, and very hard settings are available at the start) and one of the game’s weakest foes, Walkers, managed to reduce Aloy’s health in half after it managed to claw-in a direct hit. Foes are also quite agile and may attack Aloy from multiple sides.
However, Aloy can also upgrade her armor and equipment to have a better fighting chance against the machines. It remains to be seen how game balancing works in the latter parts of this action-RPG.
Aside from having tough opponents, Aloy’s ammunition is limited. To make more ammo, Aloy must have the necessary amount of crafting materials. However, the amount of materials she can carry is limited to her pouch size. While Aloy has a spear to melee attack foes, it still isn’t advisable to fight foes when unprepared.
Luckily, aside from hiding in tall grasses, there’s also a noise indicator that shows how much noise Aloy produces when running. An enemy detection meter can also help players gauge if an enemy is aware of Aloy’s presence.
Sneak Or Attack?
So, what should players do to survive in the large open world? Is sneaking undetected always the best option? Lead concept artist of Horizon Zero Dawn, Roland IJzermans, told The BitBag in an interview that players must evaluate their needs when engaging mechanical beasts.
IJzermans said players can simply shoot off the vulnerable parts of foes and acquire the materials from it. This negates the need to completely destroy your robot opponent. Players can also shoot off the enemy’s gun and use it against them.
“It’s your needs that determines if the stealthy approach is the best approach. If you only just want the canister, just shoot off the canister and run off with the canister. You don’t need to kill the robot. Figuring out what you need and want from the robot is a big part of what we wanted for the hunting experience. You sit on the grass, you study the animals, you look at the parts, and you look at the crafting menu and ask ‘what am I looking for?”
There’s also more reason for players to kill their foes. Aloy gains experience points from destroying her enemies. Increasing Aloy’s level is important for players to gain access to better perks and new abilities. Based on our observations, players don’t seem to level up for simply passing by enemies undetected.
IJzermans also said the game can’t be fully played in stealth. Aloy will sometimes be forced to face off against the machines. This means players shouldn’t expect a similar gameplay experience to Naughty Dog’s the Last of Us where it’s possible to finish almost the entire game without getting detected. Players shouldn’t also expect to fully play the game as a pacifist considering Aloy will be forced to kill her enemies.
Going by IJzerman’s statement, players must think like a hunter. Engaging foes is necessary to level up and acquire materials. If the player doesn’t have much materials to engage in combat, it’s better to sneak past enemies until they can stack up on more ammo and healing items. Aloy can also whistle to attract enemies one by one to stealthily melee kill them.