Guerrilla Games is famous for its work on the popular first-person shooter franchise, Killzone. The developer is the owner of six different installments in the brand, but following their work on the PS4 launch title, Killzone Shadow Fall, a switch in franchise development was in order.
Guerrilla shifted its focus from a more linear style of storytelling to an expansive, deeper form. Cue Horizon Zero Dawn, the newest PS4 game to come from Guerrilla Games. This open-world game is one many have been hearing about for years, and with good reason.
Horizon Zero Dawn casts gamers into an expansive, gorgeous, deadly and intriguing world that is filled with secrets, rewards and satisfaction. Its storytelling is intriguing and characters are diverse, but more than that, they’re worth caring for. The game’s lore lures you in to learn more about why this world exists as it does. Narrative themes are true and relatable to real-life today. Gameplay is wildly entertaining, with a progression system that’ll have you foaming at the mouth for more.
Everything about Horizon Zero Dawn is rewarding and satisfying. When you look at everything this game does, it is clear, Horizon Zero Dawn is the best PS4 exclusive of this generation.
Let’s start by talking about the game’s narrative for a bit. Aloy is the main protagonist and she is raised by a mentor or father figure, Rost. He teaches her the ways of the wild and how she can fend for herself. The two are outcasts in the eyes of her tribe, the Nora, and are looked down upon at every turn.
Gamers have moments where they choose how Aloy deals with trials or in some cases, betrayals. Is she forgiving? Vengeful? This is a facet that makes the narrative of Horizon Zero Dawn all the more endearing. The act of being able to project your own reaction and feelings into the game itself is excellent.
The relationship between Aloy and Rost is warm at times, but mostly cold. Rost understands the path Aloy is on and he is sure not to become too attached, except he does anyway. His role in Horizon Zero Dawn sets up a peak that is surprising and heroic. The dynamic between the two felt precise and real, something that makes the early times in Zero Dawn a joy to experience.
From there, Aloy journeys out into the absolutely vast world of Horizon Zero Dawn. When I say this world is vast, it is astounding how large it is. Most gameplay demos we saw before launch mostly focused on a green, lush, mountainous region and did a great job of keeping the rest of the game’s regions unseen. As you progress, you gradually see how diverse the world is, with Meridian being one of the greatest examples of this.
The town reminds me more of a place I would find in The Witcher. Meridian possesses plenty of secrets in and of itself. Each town or city you enter doesn’t just have main missions for you to complete. There are a slew of side missions or objectives for gamers to complete, and just about all of them further enhance the experience.
Horizon Zero Dawn‘s story unfolds nicely over the course of 30 hours, and Guerrilla answers the big questions of this world in a very intriguing fashion. How this world came to be is one of the most interesting questions and its reveal is one of my favorites. Main missions present a compelling, fascinating world. For those who delve into the game’s side content, that only enhances things even more.
I mentioned earlier how massive this game is. Guerrilla Games made the choice to implement fast travel, but implemented it as a resource or something you need to acquire. Purchasing fast travel credits is cheap and necessary for some of the longer journeys you have to make. Fast travel is done through the many camp fires scattered around the world. Anytime you see one, you must do a quick or manual save in order to be able to travel to that point later on.
Scavenging is one of my favorite parts of Horizon Zero Dawn. Whether you are looking for wood, medicinal plants, animal skins or animal bones, pick up everything you possible can. Resources can be sold to merchants around the world, but they can also be used to craft ammo like arrows or bombs. They can also be used to upgrade your gear and increase carrying capacity.
Anytime you slay an enemy, make sure you loot absolutely everything. It is easy to utilize or drop something if you have too much of one item, but most players will use resources quickly, making the pick and choose form of looting impractical. Weapon modifications are one of the items I found quite frequently. Whether it was from a dead enemy or a treasure chest I purchased from a merchant, weapon mods are aplenty and crucial to making your arsenal more deadly. Horizon Zero Dawn has a skill you’ll have to unlock first in order to move weapon mods around, but mods are essential when it comes to combat.
Shards are the main form of currency in Horizon Zero Dawn. They can purchase new gear, ammo, weapons, outfits and more. I used them frequently to pick up more powerful weapons and diversify my arsenal. Having all types of weapons is key if you want to take part in the Hunting Ground Trials that are scattered throughout the world. These trials ask you to perform great feats, like killing a certain amount of enemies while they are frozen or tying down Glinthawks using the ropecaster. These are fun and can be very, very challenging.
Progression is an addicting part of Horizon Zero Dawn. Guerrilla Games does a fabulous job of making each kill you net feel earned and worth it. While its true that a kill of a Watcher doesn’t go that far when you are a level 30, the game still makes it worth journeying through the world and killing machines as you encounter them. Cheapening the XP reward when taking down enemies in free-roam is something a lot of RPGs do. Horizon rewards you for stopping to take on a Broadhead, Sawtooth or Charger. You can actually level up and progress quite far when free-roaming, and this is absolutely refreshing to experience.
Combat is challenging and extremely rewarding. All enemy archetypes have unique move sets and patterns. Players must learn what those are and adjust accordingly. Taking down some of the higher level enemies turns out to be remarkably rewarding. The Thunderjaw is of course the crem dela crem when it comes to killing machines. That said, Corruptors are intelligent and extremely agile, making them tough to kill as well.
Gamers have a variety of weapons at their disposal, but knowing how to use them is important. Certain weapons work better on some than others. Being able to recognize when to use a fire arrow versus a frozen bomb is essential in surviving and thriving in combat. Aloy can learn a variety of skills that enhance her move set and damage. It is extremely entertaining how powerful Aloy becomes when you fully upgrade her attack skills. Combat turns out to be extremely satisfying and addicting. Whether you go in stealthily or arrows blazing, Horizon Zero Dawn empowers your playstyle.
Now, I have not really talked that much about the open-world of Horizon Zero Dawn, but what is there to say? It is absolutely stunning and magnificent. No matter where you travel, the world feels alive and is immersive. Whether it is the sound of birds chirping nearby or the conversation of town folk, the world drips with life. Horizon Zero Dawn begs plays to take screenshots of its world constantly, and thankfully, photo mode is there to enable your photography addiction.
Horizon Zero Dawn is easily the best exclusive PS4 has seen so far this generation. It is one of the most intriguing worlds of this generation, with a lore that is impossible to ignore. The combination of futuristic and primitive concepts create a wonderfully unusual dynamic that can only be experienced.
Horizon Zero Dawn is a smash success and it’ll be very interesting to see where the series goes from here. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on Horizon Zero Dawn. Sony Interactive Entertainment provided We Write Things with a copy of Horizon Zero Dawn for the purposes of this review.