Sometimes, you buy a game you don’t know, simply because it has a badass title and cool cover art. I had no expectations going into Guerilla Games’ latest work and boy, was it a ride! Horizon Zero Dawn has a way of sucking you right in the heart of its beautifully crafted world and carefully laid out narrative. You will meet plenty of complex characters, each with its own backstory and life lessons to teach you. The more you’ll learn about this world, the more questions you’ll have. Be ready to embark on a journey of the most epic scale alongside on of the coolest protagonists out there.
First, while Horizon Zero Dawn is solid in every aspect, its greatest strength lies in its storytelling. Characters feel authentic and believable, their motivations, relatable, and every piece of dialogue is either hilarious, thought-provoking, or both. Aloy has to be the most confident, stubborn and sassy female protagonist I have ever seen. Her character development flows smoothly throughout the game, with her becoming progressively more aware of the stakes of her fight. As she explores the world, she uncovers hidden truths about the Old Ones, those beings who left so many relics behind when they disappeared, among which were all the machines. The way their story is brought to the player is so vivid, so gripping, that I found myself eagerly looking for the next piece of audio log. However brilliant were all those dialogues and cutscenes, though, none of it would have been so powerful without the voice actors’ outstanding performance. Brace yourselves, people, because the feels are real!
Second, Horizon Zero Dawn is a breathtaking game. Every environment is more beautiful than the last, every scenery so vibrant you’ll stop and stare in awe. The world feels alive. There are so many machines and animals to hunt, each with their specific strengths and weaknesses to exploit, that you’ll find yourself constantly going out of your way to see what you’ll encounter next. Although there’s not much to do in them, the cities also feel bustling with activity. The architecture and people’s clothes are genuinely intriguing, making them feel like they truly are a part of this world. Aloy’s weapons and armors are detailed and badass, just like every machine. Guerilla Games made a visual masterpiece. Graphically speaking, the game is outstanding, with gorgeous lightings and particle effects. The artists who worked on it have something they can be very proud of.
Third is Horizon’s polished gameplay. The mechanics are tight, the movements, fluid, and the control scheme, efficient. The game is very responsive, with no lag or framerate issue, which makes for thrilling battles that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Without ever being unfair or ridiculously tough, enemies are challenging enough that even veteran gamers will enjoy a hard time during some parts. The weapons at your disposal are creative and the machines are varied. This lets you come up with your own way of dealing with every situation. Stealth is also an important part of combat; beware of some enemies that can turn invisible! As for side objectives, they are numerous and diverse, with scenarised side quests that tie in well with the main story, bandit camps where stealth is of the essence and cauldrons where you’ll get to visit ruins of the metal world that build machines. Hunting grounds are also fun, offering some of the hardest challenges in the game. Overall, there are plenty of things to do, supported by a solid crafting system and an intuitive way of leveling up. At least forty hours of good content that will feel like a breeze (I put in fifty-one hours to reach max level).
In conclusion, Horizon Zero Dawn is an outstanding game in every aspect that falls just short of being a masterpiece. It understands what it does well and plays on its strengths to bring about a world that is complex and beautiful, supported by solid gameplay mechanics and an amazing soundtrack. While resting on well-known, the story manages to avoid most clichés by staying creative. The whole is brought to the player with flawless execution and a technical mastery that is on-par with the industry’s biggest names. For its first foray outside of the FPS genre, Guerilla Games created something incredible. It shows that going outside of your comfort zone and doing things your own way can pay off big time. I am very excited for their next works and I really hope we’ll get to play another Horizon soon!
Final verdict: 90%