Running Wild, Running Free: First impressions of Horizon Zero Dawn

July 31, 2018

 The first time I came across this game was a trailer during Sony's E3 in 2017. Just from watching I knew I was going to love this game and it became an instant want. Time passed however and I still hadn't bought it, and the more time went on the more my doubts were growing. I knew this game was an open-world action RPG (which was all I did know at that point) and since my initial watching of the trailer I'd played other games of a similar stance, like Skyrim. The problem was that this kind of game didn't excite me and I found myself starting a new save file every time I loaded it up, simply to get to the same place again and get bored no matter how many different avenues I tried to take. I use Skyrim as an example here as it's the most commonly known open world, but honestly I'm not super into it. Open world games are very hard to get right and there's only a few out there that I feel actually do. I always get anxious starting new 'big' games as well as I really don't want to get bored and forget about it, but unfortunately it happens more often than not and (as stingy as it sounds) I don't want it to be a waste of money. 

 

So when the time came that I could pick up Horizon Zero Dawn in a PlayStation sale this past weekend I thought to myself, 'fuck it, I've been dancing around this game long enough, why not give it a try?' I genuinely had no clue what to expect and was just trying to keep my feelings neutral in case this game I'd hyped up to myself for so long turned out to be a dud. 

 

At this current point in time I am about 3-4 hours into the gameplay, so I'm still fairly new to it, but am just now really getting my teeth stuck into the main adventure storyline. I know the combat fairly well and I've had more than enough time to practice it in this initial 'prologue' stage, meaning that I'm now confident enough to venture into the great, wide world without worrying that something is going to sneak up and kill me. It's rare that you see a game of this type with difficulty levels, but it was much appreciated. Of course I selected easy but something I did notice is that it had a 'story' mode, meaning that the player can focus less on the combat and more on the narrative and exploration. This blew me away - how much more inclusive is this that players with basically no experience in games are able to pick this up and play it how they want? I personally thought that was a great feature to see; more games of this type should definitely allow this mode, lest they want to scare off new players. 

 

Something I've noticed while playing is that this game has some really neat little details that I've never seen anywhere else. For example, you could be focusing on a side mission for a while but if you just so happen to complete some tasks that are associated with the main mission e.g. collecting materials, then it lets you know and is counted. This makes a huge difference and makes the tasks/quests a lot less laborious meaning you can actually enjoy completing them. So far the tasks I've had to complete have been pretty fun too - of course there's the usual 'gathering' and 'searching' but sometimes this involves combat or puzzles, each of which are done in a unique way. I'm really looking forward to how the quests develop as I go further into the game and hope that they continue to challenge me in different ways. 

 

It's great to see such beautiful set/character design as well. Horizon Zero Dawn is a very female-centric game and, of course, I'm all for this. Playing as a female lead and dealing with female war lords, leaders and other such characters is so exciting, particularly as it seems the game never questions its intentions of this. It is just as it should be and I love it. 

The wilds are so stunning and full of such rich detail and colour that it gives you a strong incentive to go and explore every nook and cranny. I usually tend to ignore side quests I find along the way as I just want to get the main story over and done with, but this game encourages you to explore and get involved with as many side quests as possible, and in turn rewards you greatly for it. The stark contrasts between the frozen planes and the burning mountains is true artistry, and makes a difference to landscapes made up of about 300 shades of grey and brown. Mixed in with the neon lights of the 'metal world' it really makes for a rich visual experience, and I'm sure I'm going to have a lot more of that to look forward to as I go. 

 There's not much else I can say about Horizon Zero Dawn at this current time as I've barely scratched the surface of it yet. However, my opinion so far is that I really, really love it and can't wait to see where it's going to take me. I don't want to keep comparing this game to Skyrim, but it honestly feels like what Skyrim could have been if it had got its shit together and wasn't essentially just a walking map. (Sue me.) 

 

So stay tuned for possibly another post about this awesome game! I'm hoping my current enthusiasm for it will only get bigger...

 

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