I know I’m a bit late with this, but bear with me; I haven’t had a ton of time to write lately (I still have other posts to get up and out of the way and I’m also working on voice overs for a Fallout 4 mod) but I wanted to at least shout out Horizon Zero Dawn – the game that has had a monopoly on my spare time.
Horizon Zero Dawn – at a first glance – seems like a generic game with lush landscapes and a rugged female lead. While playing it, it has common ground with games like Tomb Raider (the reboot, at least) and Uncharted. Don’t let similarities fool you – this title stands on its own and shines for miles.
Aloy (I keep wanting to call her ‘Alloy’) is an incredibly strong and charismatic female lead. She has been cast out of the Nora tribe since birth with no known reason. She lives with another Nora who was cast out, Rost, and he raises her like a warrior, but also treats her as if she were his own flesh and blood. They have a beautiful father-daughter relationship, and the facial expressions in this game are so well-done, you can practically see the love in his eyes as he watches Aloy while she goes off to do her own thing.
As you learn how to play the game through a very innovative not-tutorial as young Aloy, she stumbles into an underground ruin and finds a nifty bluetooth-like device called a ‘focus.’ You learn that years ago, mankind fell and in order to survive, had to revert back to a primitive way of life like the tribes live now. While life is simpler without technology, rituals, goddess worship, and tribal laws rule the land, and banishment is a thing.
Aloy wants to know why the tribe shuns her; Rost offers no answer, but has a possible solution – train and win The Proving. Not only will she be welcomed back into the tribe’s graces and no longer shunned, but if she wins, she will be able to make any request she wants – including asking why she was banished to begin with.
She wins The Proving, but that’s when things go poorly. Instead of going back and celebrating, she and her peers are attacked – along with the rest of the Nora tribe by another mysterious group.
Recouping from the atrocities committed, Aloy is made a ‘seeker’ – meaning she is allowed to venture out to find the answers the tribe seeks – who attacked and why. Along the way she meets new tribes and forges relationships, but it isn’t easy. There is much standing in her way.
There are animals, such as foxes, boars, turkeys, and rabbits to skin and use for materials, and then there are robotic creatures reminiscent of prairie animals, such as horses and bison, and more terrifying creatures, that for lack of a better term, are robot dinosaurs.
The Tomb Raider and Uncharted undertones are the action, stealth, climbing, material collection, and weapon creation, but it isn’t a carbon copy of the others. Horizon Zero Dawn manages to utilize concepts we’ve seen in previous games, but makes these concepts its own. In addition to the action, the story is impeccable. The player is left to wonder why was Aloy shunned as a child? What happened to the civilization we knew? Who murdered the Nora? Why is life primitive, but the larger animals are robots?
So in addition to being an action and stealth game, Horizon Zero Dawn also manages to weave in a deep and intriguing mystery.
It’s also a mystery you won’t be able to solve so easily by just running through the game. They make you work for it. You have to level Aloy up along with her weapons. There are also various articles of clothing you can purchase throughout the game from merchants, and they all have different attributes. Some protect against certain elements or all, some help with stealth and some are just stylish.
If you’re a fan of Tomb Raider and Uncharted, you’ll definitely enjoy this. If you’re a fan of intricate and deep stories accompanied by a lush landscape, you’ll fall in love.
I highly recommend giving Horizon Zero Dawn a shot. You won’t regret it.