Horizon Zero Dawn – Open World Done Right

Horizon Zero Dawn – More than a rental

Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the most amazing games I’ve played in years, in fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s the best games that I’ve ever played. Finally, a company has stepped up and combined their years of game knowledge into a masterpiece, that almost works almost perfectly.

Originally when Horizon Zero Dawn was announced I drooled, the game look gorgeous and really fun, it was almost a no-brainer that if you own a PlayStation this was the game you needed to own/play. But, the as launch drew closer I slowly moved away from my PlayStation and have been playing my Xbox one S much more. So instead of buying the game, I opted to rent from Redbox. Initially, I was thinking I would keep the game 1 to 2 days but as I begin to play each night I found myself pulled into the game. Finally a week later, begrudgingly, I returned the game to Redbox. Debating whether to purchase the game to continue playing, I instead opted to rent the game long-term via Gamefly.

The threat is real

One of the downfalls in most open world games I often encounter is that I tend not to stick to the main missions early in the game (I’m sure I’ve talked about this prior). Instead, I tend to explore and do lots of side missions usually for the first 10 or so hours of the game.

This usually results in my character being too overpowered when I come back to early missions of the game. However, I found in Horizon, my character did get more powerful, but by no means became overpowered. I found that the robots were easier to deal with yet this was more due to my understanding of the weak points and exploiting them rather than me simply being able to cost them more damage.

At any time you turn a corner and run into a robot that could kill you. It is 100% apparent you are not the big dog in this world. You are the antelope in a world of lions, and I love it.

With that said, I still found that not all enemies in the game are treated equally. While the robots seem to be very intelligent, the Humans in this world seem to be on the inverse side of that equation. It would’ve been great to find a good balance for the humans between being as they are in the game and the deadly intelligence of the robots.

The lush environments

The first thing I noticed on my PlayStation (non-pro model) this game is absolutely gorgeous in its visual fidelity – I can only imagine how beautiful this game would be on a PS4 Pro and a 4k TV.

The first time I I ran through the overgrown weeds to hide and noticed the weeds ever so subtly are pushed to the side as I creep through them really pulled me in.

I didn’t actually understand how well the water physics worked until I had chased a boar into the water killed it. The forces of the water coming downstream pinned its body against a rock. As more of the water begin to hit the boar’s body surface area, it slowly pushed the pig against the rock until enough of it had pushed free of the rock and the hog continued downstream. This entire process took around 3 minutes from kill to floating downstream.

To customize or not to customize that is the question

Weapons in Horizon are customizable but perhaps not to the extent of other recent games. For the most part, weapons allow you to modify the base stats by add one to several modifiers an empty slot. In addition, there are several different strength tiers for each weapon.

As far as equipment customization, it’s almost identical to what a far cry game would offer, upgrades require a mix of resources found in the game – usually requiring some sort of animal part (i.e. Bones of a boar).

I found this part of the customization to be one of the most madding parts of the game (as it normally is). Often I would be running around an area trying to find a single boar, only to find out that after killing it I don’t get the resources needed, requiring me to continue the journey of finding another animal.

Ideally, I would’ve liked more customization in the items then offered, I mean every customization for the equipment has already been done in other Far cry games, it brought nothing new to the table.

Resource collection in any open world game seems to be a slowdown. Initially collecting a handful of resources isn’t terrible because you only need a few resources to produce X item, say such as an arrow. But continually having to farms resources becomes tiresome (at best). Especially when you have to wait for the character on screen to kneel down pick something up and stand back up. Granted, this entire action only takes about one second. This action is only one button press but multiplying the action by the number of times you have to do it and suddenly you find you’re wasting hours throughout the course of the game, not to mention completely destroying that button on your controller.

It would’ve been refreshing even if later on the game we were given the option to utilize some sort of friendly robot to do the collecting for us. The radius of the collect robot could’ve started off small and through the upgrades could have then gotten larger. This would have made it much more bearable to collect while still balancing the need for the collecting of resources. For instance, you could’ve made the collecting robot slower in the collection process so you have to guard him while he’s collecting.

The open world conundrum

One of the open world issues that any company can’t seem to overcome in their open world games is long traveling times. Each new open world game built seems to get larger and larger yet the transportation that is often offered seems to be hit or miss, with no one game really nailing it.

This issue will continually pop up as missions have you go from one side of the map to the other side constantly – an almost staple of the open world genre. With that said, you can fast travel to previously visited locations, you just need to have visited that location before and have the available fast travel item (which can be purchased from merchants for 2 Metal Shards, 15 Ridge-Wood, and 1 Rich Meat).

Loading, loading, loading. One of the primary reasons why I didn’t want to fast travel is the loading time. In this game, it can take upwards of a couple minutes to load everything and nothing breaks the immersion more than stopping mid-journey for a minute or two.

Most open world games get around the slow travel by offering some sort of an air travel. However, in Horizon so far there are is nothing (that you can take over) and fly. That being said this is probably going to come out as either an update its free or a paid DLC option later on.

The verdict

Hands down Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the best games so far I’ve played this year and is definitely a must-have purchase in any open world gamer’s library.