Horizon Zero Dawn
Why It Rocks
- Huge open world to explore and level up in. Guerrilla Games went out of their way to consult anthropologists to understand how the environment would decay over a millennium. The levelling system is balanced in such a way that levelling up doesn't feel unnecessarily painstaking, and learning new skills is reasonably paced.
- Lots of robots (simply known as "The Machines") to take down. You can learn more about each machine type with the Machine Log.
- Awesome combat system with the ability to use bows and arrows to defeat enemies. Combat itself is quite tense, more so with tougher Machines.
- Good crafting system; ammo can be crafted from the menu, or from the weapon wheel so crafting can be done on the fly without disrupting the flow of combat.
- Plenty of side quests to keep the player occupied between story missions, from Cauldrons, to Corrupted Zones, to tons of random side quests that other characters will give to you.
- Taking down any of the larger machines feels rewarding and satisfying; especially the mighty Thunderjaw!
- Top-notch voice acting, especially from Ashly Burch as Aloy.
- New features like Photo Mode, New Game+, and Ultra Hard mode were all added into the game via free updates.
- Absolutely breathtaking graphics and animations with extreme attention to detail, gorgeous visuals, stunning lighting effects and amazing models, which are all thanks to the Decima engine's capabilities.
- The game runs at a consistent frame rate without any noticeable frame drops.
- Traversing the world is completely seamless; the day/night cycles and dynamic weather are all a lovely touch.
- The world map is pretty vast, almost comparable to the map in Grand Theft Auto V in terms of sheer size.
- Aloy can use traps and trip wires of different types to catch enemies off-guard. She also has a device called the Rope Caster, that allows her to immobilise machines.
- The "Focus" scan is a cool mechanic that allows Aloy and the player to see an enemies' weak spots, or discover collectible items.
- The player can cripple machines by detaching their components. Example: braking off a Rockbreaker's claws will disable it's ability to dig underground. What's even cooler is that some machines have their own weapons that can be detached and used against them!
- It is possible to override machines and have them fight alongside you; certain machine types (like Broadheads) can even be mounted and ridden. The Frozen Wilds adds a new skill that allows Aloy to repair a downed ally machine.
- Aloy has access to numerous outfits that can be modified to increase their defensive properties; same thing can be done to her weapons as well. It doesn't hurt that she looks good in some of these outfits too, like the Carja Blazon outfit.
- Compared to most games, this one doesn't outright tell you how to defeat the machines; instead, you learn through experimentation (which is a good thing, of course).
- Phenomenal post apocalyptic science fiction story. It has tones of intrigue, drama, and plot twists to keep you engaged from start to finish, plus a cliffhanger at the end which would easily allow a sequel to be made. It really highlights the juxtaposition between the beauty and dangers of the world. The revelation (no spoilers) towards the end paints a picture of exactly what happened.
- The game offers a reasonable challenge, and does so without resorting to level grinding, or making resources unnecessarily rare. Instead the enemies are very aggressive and pose a real threat to the player, as even the weakest of enemies can be dangerous.
- There is a fast travel system in place so that players don't need to run all the way from one end of the map to the other.
- Has one of the best release models of any game released in 2017, comparable to The Witcher 3; it is a £49.99 ($60) title that gave you a fully functioning game at launch, content updates that added worthwhile features, and had no unnecessary DLC, loot boxes, or microtransactions despite the opportunities to include them. It doesn't even have a season pass, and the expansion wasn't even planned until after the game was released.
- Unlike games like Watch_Dogs, No Man's Sky, and Aliens: Colonial Marines, this game actually lived up to the hype it received, and delivered on its promises.
- The game's expansion DLC, "The Frozen Wilds" adds a substantial amount of new content to the base game, including a separate story with its own side quests, a new environment, new skills, machines to fight, outfits, weapons, and an increased level cap. For £15.99 (roughly $20), it feels like a proper expansion.
- Even if the collectable "Treasure Boxes" can be classed as loot boxes, they are completely harmless, as they can be looted from defeated human enemies, you can't buy them with real money, and the goods found in them can be found in great abundance in the game world anyway. Special boxes obtained from finishing quests contain new and stronger weapons, so they are worth seeking after.
- Great, interesting characters, especially the main heroine herself, Aloy. Not all of them are likeable, but they are all believable.
- Aloy in particular was praised by critics for her characterization, design, and Ashly Burch's voice performance. She quickly became one of the PlayStation 4's most recognizable characters, and was even given a guest appearance as exclusive content in the PS4 version of Monster Hunter Worlds.
- Several distinct difficulty settings to cater to lots of different types of players. The recommended level is Normal, but it has many more. There's Story, which is for players that just want to coast through the game and focus mainly on the story, Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard, and Ultra Hard. Ultra Hard Mode gives players the ultimate challenge, especially in New Game Plus; tougher, more aggressive enemies, Aloy can die very quickly, more expensive goods from traders, and enemy health bars are removed.
- At launch, the character models were a little iffy, with facial animations that didn't quite match the tone of some conversations. This was improved with patches, though.
- In some conversations, the camera placement makes the characters appear as if they are looking slightly upwards as they are talking.
- Some character animations look a little janky as well, often looking rather puppet-like. While not as bad as Until Dawn's animations, it is still noticeable and it does highlight the Decima engine's biggest limitation; it seems to struggle to make motion capture look natural.
- The game is somewhat lacking in originality; almost every mechanic used in this game has been used in one way or another in many other games before it. That said, Horizon uses these mechanics very well.
- Sometimes the game has trouble telling whether you're trying to use your arrows or carry out a melee attack, which can result in Aloy uselessly swinging at nothing while enemies bombard her from a distance.
- Though The Frozen Wilds is a very good expansion overall, its difficulty spikes border on being ridiculous at points, especially considering that it introduces Frost-Claws who have enormous amounts of health and virtually no weaknesses, and often pits you against several of them at once.
- Overriding machines is really cool mechanic, but to actually do so, you have to override the cauldrons associated with that machine's type first.
- You don't get anything when achieving 100%.
- The PC version is pretty unstable with its framerate dropping down to 30fps or below and having its cutscenes stutter. It also has a lot of texture pop-in and graphical glitches that the PS4 version didn't have.
- The concentration ability, which is used to slow down time and aim more accuratly, can hardly even work at times as it zooms in but doesn't slow down time.
Upon its release, Horizon Zero Dawn was met with very positive feedback, averaging an 89/100 critic score on Metacritic, and a user score of 8.4. The graphics, gameplay, story, Aloy's characterisation, and Ashly Burch's vocal performance among other aspects were all met with praise, but facial animations, melee combat, and some dialogue was criticised. Gamers have also praised Guerrilla Games for making a game that doesn't implement shady monetization tactics and was also praised for making a game that is completely different from what they used to do before.
As of February 28th 2019, the game has sold 10 million copies worldwide since its release, and is the best selling new Intellectual Property on PS4.. The game's critical and commercial performance is one of several examples that disproves the false narrative perpetuated by the games industry that single player, story-driven games are no longer viable, and "Live Services" are the way forward.
- First and foremost: treat every Machine like it is a threat to you. Even the Watcher (the weakest Machine) can be dangerous around other Machines. Larger Machines especially, like the Thunderjaw, Stormbird, Behemoth, Ravager, and Stalker are to be feared until you know how to defeat them.
- If you play Ultra Hard mode, do it in New Game Plus and make sure you create a load out that contains the Shield Weaver outfit; not only will it protect Aloy from potential one-hit kills, but as its name implies, it acts as a second health bar that regenerates after a few seconds.
- Get the Golden Fast Travel Pack as soon as you are able to; it gives you unlimited fast travelling, and makes traversal less time consuming.
- Always pay attention to a Machine's strengths and weaknesses, as they will help you save ammunition and resources against tougher enemies. You can check via Machine Log, or using the Focus Scan.
- When you eventually face a Thunderjaw, try to remove its components before damaging it. This will massively weaken its attack power. Same goes for any Machine with dangerous ranged weapons.
- If a Machine has detachable weapons, blow them off with the Tearblaster, then tie the Machine down with the Ropecaster. Grab that weapon and unleash all of its ammo in the enemy to rack up damage quickly.
- Some tips on facing some of the new Machines introduced in The Frozen Wilds:
- Scorcher: based on coyotes, this Machine is extremely agile, and has fire attacks. Use the Tearblaster to remove its mine launcher. Next, destroy the power generator on its rear to stun it, then unload the mine launcher against it to either finish it off, or at least bring it down to low health. When the Scorcher lunges at you, dodge roll towards it to keep it from following up with a second attack.
- Frostclaw/Fireclaw: based on grizzly bears, these machines have hard hitting ranged attacks. Use the Tearblaster to rip off some of the plating that conceal weak points, then use Hardpoint arrows to damage the sacks on its chest and shoulders (triple shot recommended). Eventually, the sacks will explode and do elemental damage (make the Forstclaw brittle), so keep unloading arrows or bombs into it until it dies. Both machine types are near identical, expect the Fireclaw has fire attacks instead of ice, and it has more health than the Frostclaw.