By Garrett Smiley
Man has fallen, and his replacement at the top of the food-chain is his own creation; giant animal-like machines.
Horizon Zero Dawn isn’t only a must play, it’s my early favorite for 2017’s game of the year. That’s right, we’ve peaked for the year.
Horizon Zero Dawn is easily in my top ten for best stories of all time, and the gameplay solidifies the game at a perfect ten out of ten.
Guerilla Games has invited us into a world of an outcast, a maternal society in which being motherless earns you alienation and the silence of non-outcasts. The settlement associated with the area is even called “Mother’s Embrace.”
Through and through, Horizon Zero Dawn’s story line feels complete, where big questions you may have as the story progresses get answered.
Where did the machines come from? Why are they here? How does Aloy fit into all of this? All of these questions are resolved as you progress through the game. You even feel accomplished when you do so.
Horizon Zero Dawn’s open world begins with a bearded outcast named Rost, as he is bestowed with the responsibility of raising an infant, or our protagonist, Aloy.
The story progresses and leads us to our first look at actual gameplay, as we begin in Aloy’s childhood.
Aloy is an adventurous kid, she’s ambitious, and based on the decisions you make for her as the player, she can be caring, ruthless or mindful of the people she interacts with.
Her childhood adventure takes you into what will later be known as “the ruins.”
The ruins are rundown caves and crevices in the earth that give you a look into “the old world.” Inside are technologies that are forgotten by the people dwelling on the surface, or at least in Mother’s Embrace.
This is where Aloy finds a relic called a “focus.” A focus is a small, triangular headpiece that goes into Aloy’s ear.
The focus allows its owner to view the world around them in a different way. This is how Aloy will be able to solve various quests in the future of the gameplay.
The focus is even called “second-sight” by others in the story.
This game of the year contender takes the “apocalypse” genre and completely rewrites it. Instead of Man contributing to his own undoing, and subsequently taking nature out with Him, man’s role is minimized while nature and machine flourish.
Instead of your typical “Terminator” or “Mad Max” end of the world plot, Guerilla Games juxtaposes the jaded and cliche wasteland image with a lush and beautiful open world, even though the machines won.
As a whole, the game balances the best of an “open world” game with, what I call, a “roller-coaster” game (where you are always on a track).
While gameplay on “expert” mode can be challenging, it’s not to the point where the gameplay will make you want to quit. The storyline is so compelling that upon being squashed by a machine, you’ll want to come back for more.
The main quest line will keep the player wanting more, while side quests and a beautiful open world allow the player to take a break and explore.
This balance allows the player to to play his or her own way. Each provides the means and opportunity to sneak and finish missions covertly or run in “guns-a-blazing.”
Various weapons to choose from become available as the game progresses.
Guerrilla Games really generated a huge win, the player is able to create a connection with Aloy, Rost and everyone else you meet on Aloy’s adventure (good or bad).
The game lacks in no area, a completely solid effort from its developers, where story, cast and gameplay come together for what is, and should be game of the year.
Out of this year’s first class of games, Horizon Zero Dawn emerges head and shoulders above games like Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, probably its biggest rival upon release.