Horizon Zero Dawn came out back in February of 2017 and instantly became one of the best selling PlayStation Exclusives of all time. Guerrilla Games, an Amsterdam based Dutch video game developer known for the linear first-person shooter Killzone, made a huge gamble by diving into the open-world genre, something that the studio's Managing Director Hermen Hulst has openly accepted in the past but it was a gamble that paid off more than anyone could have imagined.
Right off the bat, the pitch for Horizon would have sounded somewhat unconventional and uncanny, a post apocalyptic world with human tribes and mechanical dinosaurs? Doesn't sound right, does it? Actually today it sounds like a pitch for the 5th best-selling PS Exclusive title with numerous awards for its immersive narrative, rich open world & memorable characters.
The game at its core is about exploration and mystery with the prologue introducing us to Aloy of the Nora tribe, a red haired protagonist with unmatched determination to discover her past. Horizon beautifully sets the mood for discovery with Aloy seeking answers to her origins, a personal quest following which we soon discover a mesmerizing plot. Right from the beginning Horizon's spectacular open world forced me into adapting a slow paced play-style where I would prefer walking from one checkpoint to another over choosing fast travel. The details capture your attention like none other, from the first time encountering a mechanical velociraptor to engaging with random NPCs who offer you side quests, the game pulls you in and keeps you glued to your screen for the next 30-40 hours.
The prologue introduces us to Aloy of the Nora tribe, a red haired protagonist on a quest to discover her past
Meticulous quest design ensures combat and puzzle variety always stay fresh and each new encounter keeps you immersed. Honestly, players can spend hours inside the initial sand-boxed area which has a ton of side quests, artifacts, story information through collectible items, audio clips, variety of wildlife and environment to observe. Then there are monuments, structures and old world relics which gives rise to a lot of questions and it will be the thirst for those answers which force you to leave your tribe and wander out into the world where you are let loose to discover and approach quests, stories and discover the world of Horizon whichever way you find suitable.
One thing is for sure, you will never feel satisfied or willing to stop. As you complete main story quests, each piece of the puzzle you discover will give rise to a much bigger question and your desire for answers will grow steadily. Although initially I adapted a slow paced play-style allowing myself to take in the beautiful world but continuing with the main story-line started making me restless and my desire to discover and obtain answers grew just like Aloy. At a certain point, the game felt like a series of climaxes occurring in concurrence.
Crafting and upgrading systems are easily accessible and resource tracking makes it more simpler for you to identify and source the items needed for an upgrade. Guerrilla Games' seven years of meticulous work on their Decima Engine (on which Horizon Zero Dawn was built) did not mean they compromised on narrative, character development or any other aspect of the game. From the in-game weapon wheel to the instant ammo crafting interface, everything flows together perfectly and provides the player with a much better immersive experience.
Guerrilla Games' Decima Engine is one of the most advanced game engine with 2 AAA PS Exclusive titles under its belt. It streams the vast post-apocalyptic open world of Horizon Zero Dawn
While majority of post apocalyptic games provide unsettling environments in which you would feel uncomfortable venturing out on the map alone, Horizon on the other hand provide a post apocalyptic world in which you would totally want to exist. The game keeps you guessing and presenting you with chunks of answers one at a time which allows you to remain immersed in the game even if you turn off your console for a break. I found myself powering my console back on because I couldn't resist waiting until the next day to find out what happens next.
On the downside although Aloy is a very like-able protagonist with a compelling reason for her actions and dialogues, sometimes dialogue selection can get cringey which may pull you out of your immersive experience which Horizon aims to deliver. However, Horizon's brilliance and tremendous character-cum-story development is such that by the end of the game you will feel a deep connection with a character you never meet during your 40 hour gameplay. With an immersive narrative, industry benchmark open world graphics, solid character development and attention to details Horizon Zero Dawn is a solid 9 in my book. If you haven't played it, pick up a copy today because the sequel has already been announced for next year (2021).