Horizon: Zero Dawn
There is no doubt that Horizon: Zero Dawn is a massive game. So massive in fact, we felt that just one reviewer couldn’t do it justice. So we roped Matt and Paul and sat them together to discuss the pros, cons and surprises of Sony’s latest big release. Were they excited or disappointed by this ambitious title? Read on to find out.
*Editor’s Note* All screens were taken using the in-game photo mode. Paul’s were taken from a PS4 Pro and Matt’s from a standard PS4.
Matt: So Paul, you finally have the game in your hands. Are you a happy man?
Paul: It’s been fairly well documented over the last couple of years that I’ve been extraordinarily interested in Horizon: Zero Dawn, and I’ve wanted to believe that this would be the beginning of Sony’s next big IP given that Uncharted’s arc has concluded (presumably), and The Last of Us Part II will likely not release until at least 2019. Thankfully having now put well in excess of 30+ hours into the game, I’m happy to report that it is truly fantastic and is every chance of being that next great IP that we all hoped it could be. Have you fallen for it like I have?
Matt: I don’t think I was a keen on the game as you were, but I was certainly looking forward to it coming out. The game itself is wonderful and my time with it has been a joy. That being said I can’t really say that it has done anything new. It seems to me it has taken a whole mess of things from other games and crafted it into a big open world dripping with mystery and beauty. There is a touch of Tomb Raider, a splash of Far Cry and even a hit or two of Assassin’s Creed. The fact that there isn’t any groundbreaking mechanic on offer doesn’t lessen how much of a good game this is, it is just not the leap forward in gaming that many have been hoping for since this generation started. It is however a leap forward in the stunning graphics department…. Phwoar
Paul: It’s safe in terms of it’s mechanics, and I don’t blame Guerrilla at all for what they’ve done.This is a studio who for the better part of two decades had their bread and butter earned from what they did in the FPS space, and tackling an open world RPG is no mean feat, even for studios who have always specialised in the genre. What Guerrilla has done is take the best parts of several different games, in several different genres, layered it with an incredibly engaging narrative and then put the highest level of polish on it imaginable. My mind is still boggled by how incredible the game looks given its enormity – it even eclipses the incredibly high bar set by The Witcher 3 in this regard.
Matt: I think for me this game is at it’s absolute best in the unscripted moments that come about just wondering the world. That isn’t to take away anything from the missions themselves because they are excellent but things happen in that wonderful open world that leave me breathless. Sneaking up on a group of Watcher’s to only get ambushed by a Ravager is a frightening experience and to make it out alive with smart use of the many tools available is a wonderfully exhilarating feeling. Guerrilla have perfected this moment-to-moment action and it is a true highlight in a game chock full of positives.
Paul: What you described just then is what only the upper echelon of modern RPGs accomplish. It’s dynamic and the main attraction is constantly shifting landscape that you have to play in. All that said, there’s plenty of traditional RPG hooks that had me going too; what was your take on the game’s many side-quests? I for one felt that they didn’t load us up with an excessive amount, and this ensured that each one felt meaningful.
Matt: Well I think you are right for the most part. There was still a little bit of filler though, things like the hunter trials and some simple “go here, kill this” style quests. That said there was plenty of weight behind most of the side quests and extra activities, just not to the level of the previously mentioned Witcher 3 (but then what does). I found some of the simpler tasks supremely entertaining though. Things like taking over a bandit enclave felt fresh and exciting just because I had so many different tools at my disposal. It became a bit of a game of “mouse trap” with the end result a bunch of dead bandit scum. Speaking of bandits, is it just me or did the humans feel super easy, even heaps of them, to take on, especially when compared to the mighty machines roaming the wilds?
Paul: Agreed, but I think that was by design. It was easy enough to pop a headshot in each and quickly clear out a whole fort of Eclipse goons, but the challenge was in the mastery of the machines. It was critically important to exploit the weaknesses of each machine, especially the likes of the Thunderjaw to firstly give you a fighting chance, but also to ensure that even in the event of success that you hadn’t wiped yourself out of all handy resources in the process. Was there a particular approach that you found yourself taking more than others?
Matt: I liked sneaking around at setting up traps and tripwires. I would then start the attack with a long range bow and guide my enemy towards the traps. That tactic seemed to work on all but the flying enemies. With those nasties of the sky I basically just ran around like a madman with bow hoping to get a hit in. It was very stylish. But we need to wrap this up as I feel like we could talk about this game forever. Was there anything that struck you as out of place Paul?
Paul: Not particularly. I mean, as you might expect from massive open world RPGs such as this there are the occasional visual quirks – these only very rarely reared their heads when I was in conversations with NPCs, their face would freak out weirdly. This is a minor gripe though given the incredible quality of the game. I did have it handed to me on a few occasions, but this wasn’t the fault of the game, only me being penalised for not giving the game enough credit. I also didn’t like the inability to filter what was shown on the map – it was very cluttered and not being able to cut things I didn’t want to see made things unnecessarily difficult.
Matt: For me I think I noticed the fact I was running on a standard PS4 and not the Pro model. Load times were pretty long and I did notice some pretty bad texture pop-in when I was in the bigger cities and settlements. That said those are some fairly minor gripes in the scheme of things and feel like bitching and moaning for the sake of it. In all I loved this game, I think Sony have got their next big “thing” and it the franchise should go on to be a long-running one for the Playstation brand.
Paul: A sequel is undoubtedly already in the conceptual stage, and expect Sony to take advantage of every possible opportunity to keep the brand at the forefront of our consciousness. Realistically Playstation isn’t in urgent need of the sequel, not given the upcoming releases of Detroit: Become Human, God of War, The Last of Us: Part II, Spiderman and Days Gone, but for fans to sit back and know it’s coming should fill hearts with excitement. Guerrilla is going to need time – games as a rule take a long time to develop, but titles of this scope and size take even longer again. Don’t expect the next proper chapter in the Horizon universe until at least 2020, but what we’ve got is a fantastic start!
Matt: Agreed. Long live Aloy!