Horizon Zero Dawn is an open world, Far Cry-esque stealth/action game set in a large and interesting universe. This article will offer a Horizon Zero Dawn review.
|Type of game:||Open-world action adventure|
|Total Play Time:||30-50 hours|
Taking a look at Horizon Zero Dawn shows us an endlessly fascinatingly crafted world and a mysterious main character and storyline that sometimes stumbles to keep interest or be engaging. As of this writing there is only one expansion pack, Frozen Wilds. The game has received generally positive ratings with light criticism from most outlets.
The World of Horizon Zero Dawn
In this first part of our Horizon Zero Dawn review, we will be looking at the main story elements and the general atmosphere and design of the game.
Atmospere and Location
This is where Horizon Zero Dawn truly shines out from the rest. The world immediately presents itself as unique and interesting. The tribalistic society juxtaposed against the futuristic technology immediately captured audiences’ attentions at E3 and that design principle certainly has not changed. While the immediate surroundings remain striking and beautiful, the lore of it all brings the whole package together. It is not a one trick pony in terms of its atmosphere and setting, and features more societies, factions, and creatures than you’d expect.
The setting remains appropriately mysterious while also revealing just enough about itself to keep you engaged in the world. The music is quite good and fits in with the world appropriately but fails to be memorable. The only thing missing from the world-building is more instances of environmental storytelling, which the game feels slightly lacking in. Exploration is the strong point of Horizon Zero Dawn’s environment.
While the crafting system seems a bit cookie cutter and almost entirely lifted from the Far Cry series, finding rarer and rarer items does encourage players to explore the fantastic world and find locations they would have otherwise not gone to. Overall, the world of Horizon Zero Dawn is one of most interesting ones we’ve ever visited and you’ll be missing out if you don’t experience it.
Aloy (voiced by the legendary Ashley Burch) aside from having a unique name almost offers nothing to the world of Horizon Zero Dawn. In a world filled with interesting and unique individuals surrounding the character of Aloy, it seems rather disappointing that the character feels one dimensional and flat. While there is something to be said for “empty-vessel” type video game characters, she seems like she was written for a cheap comic book rather than for a game with an increasingly unraveling and beautiful world. She is constantly on a quest that, while she is personally related to, she doesn’t feel interested in.
Most of the time she plays more like a player created RPG character than like an independent character in her own world with her own motivations. Aloy is presented as someone who, throughout the tale, must undergo hardships and, as a result, go through changes as a character.
However, Aloy remains essentially the same woman she was at the beginning throughout the entire course of the game’s plot. She doesn’t particularly seem concerned with the issues presented to her and the game’s tone suffers from her lack of multi-layered character design. All of the revelations revealed about her character feel cheap and under-delivered and are most certainly not fully integrated with her personality as a character. Overall, this leads to the player not fully connecting with Aloy on any meaningful way. However, her visual design is outstanding.
Her face paint and hair style make it abundantly clear the type of tribalistic hunter that we are playing as. Her character design as a hunter is particularly interesting. It is nice to see a character in modern gaming whose design makes it immediately apparent what kind of character we’re playing as and what their role in the world might be.
SPOILER WARNING: Some minor character elements and plot points from the very early game are going to be spoiled here. Skip ahead to the section with the header: Storyline to avoid it.
Horizon Zero Dawn has us immediately witnessing the skills and coolness of our main character, which is nice pacing. However, the character experiences a near death situation toward the beginning of the game and shows off her vulnerability as well, which is a nice change of pace from some games’ invincible protagonists.
The story mainly revolves around Aloy uncovering secrets of the past and rectifying the mistakes and horrors of the previous generations, referred to in the game as the “Old Ones”. Her journey has her travel to multiple unique and interesting locations. In general, the quality of the story is hit or miss. A good half of the time, the story revolves around the world that we, as the player, are inhabiting.
The other half of the time, it is focused on Aloy as a character. This, as mentioned above, is where the story begins to take a slog. The side quests are also particularly uninteresting in comparison to the main storyline. The story and game-play often do not compliment one another. The urgency of certain events in the story clashes with the player’s desire to go off and explore the rest of the world on their own time.
Often Aloy acts in such strange ways in certain points in the story. Her motivations appear obfuscated by issues with her lack of appropriate dimensional character development discussed above.
SPOILER WARNING: Some aspects of the story are about to be spoiled here. Nothing major, just early game plot points. If you want to go into the game completely in the dark, skip straight to the section titled “DLC & Expansion Packs” below.
The game immediately presents us with the threat of a sinister cult gaining control of the robot dinosaurs, immediately ruining a very special feeling of wildness. There are sime issues with this plot point. While it does flesh out another faction in the world of Horizon Zero Dawn, it also ruins the sensation of hunting wild mechanical beasts, opting to turn them into simple minions of a generic evil group.
DLC & Expansion Packs
The game has only one expansion pack: The Frozen Wilds. The Frozen Wilds shows us a winter version of the world, giving us a new element of it to explore. It also graciously grants us new factions and world-building to experience, which is quite nice. Some reviewers have been liable to say The Frozen Wilds can be better than the base game at times.
This expansion places a mystical element once more into the heart of Horizon Zero Dawn and gives players a refreshing new take on the world that they were introduced to so long ago. The story fleshes out Aloy and her personality into a greater detail before leaving us with a healthy amount of both new questions and answers to old questions. The game play is practically identical to the base game, so if you enjoy Horizon Zero Dawn as a game, consider checking out the expansion pack.
Horizon Zero Dawn gives us a beautiful world to explore, granting us an almost childlike sense of wonder and glee. This world is slightly bogged down by poor character development and a passable story. However, with all these complaints, Horizon Zero Dawn is certainly a joy to play if you love open world games. If you’ve played the game, what did you think about it? Would you agree with our Horizon Zero Dawn review? Let us know in the comments!