Our next podcast recording (27.10.18) - 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

This is where you'll find threads specific to the games we're covering in Volume Six
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JaySevenZero
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Our next podcast recording (27.10.18) - 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

Post by JaySevenZero » December 31st, 2017, 3:27 pm

Here's where you can leave your thoughts regarding Horizon Zero Dawn for possible inclusion in the podcast when it's recorded.

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iHateNumbers23
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Re: 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

Post by iHateNumbers23 » January 8th, 2018, 1:31 pm

I was watching Giant Bomb’s stream of Sony’s E3 2015 press conference. Guerrilla’s Hermen Hulst announced they were finally leaving behind the greyscale hellholes of Killzone. Their brave new world was to be a post-post-apocalypse, full of flora and fauna, tribes and... motherbleeping robot dinosaurs.

“Helghast sh*** got weird,” Jeff Gerstmann quipped. “What a weird game. Looks kinda rad though.”

I was sold. Nearly two years later, Horizon Zero Dawn finally came out. For better and for worse, it turned out to be one of the most interesting gaming experiences I’ve had.

Horizon does almost nothing new. It’s an open world RPG complete with all the expected genre tropes. What I did not anticipate was how painfully dull it all was. The dead-eyed mission givers, the endless checklists - none of it felt unique.

The main campaign’s gameplay wasn’t anything out of the ordinary either. In fact, the final boss is a painfully evident rehash of a previous set piece. Your options in combat are very limited and get repetitive quickly. The Uncharted-style climbing is uninspired. I could go on.

So why do I like this game so much?

Let me preface this part by saying that the story has severe pacing issues, with hours of content that either needed to be cut for being inconsequential or fleshed out to have the impact it needs. Good, that’s all the negatives sorted.

Ashley Burch’s heartfelt performance as both Aloy and Elisabet Sobeck is what elevates Horizon above most other titles in this regard. Lance Reddick, too, deserves an honorable mention for his brilliant portrayal of the mysterious explorer Sylens.

Both characters are motivated by one thing: curiosity. As it happens, it’s what keeps us as players going, too. Aloy’s search for her mother leads her to understand how this world came to be, why the world of the Old Ones perished and what her purpose in life is. Obviously, Aloy being the “Chosen One” need not surprise us, but other revelations aren’t nearly as obvious.

One thing I loved was how the eponymous Project Zero Dawn and Operation Enduring Victory just made sense in a weird way. If you’ve got a runaway self-replicating robot army running on biofuel, that’s trouble. If you tell the world’s population that there is no chance of survival, that’s unworkable. If you secretly work out how to disable that robot army and reboot the biosphere after that, that only makes sense.

The reveal of Sobeck’s Project Zero Dawn is something I’ve rewatched countless times. It all comes together in this cutscene: music, acting, visuals, writing, et cetera. The answers given weren’t obvious or far-fetched, but give this great a-ha moment when it suddenly makes sense to have these odd mechanical creatures roaming around the game world. A more low-profile way in which Horizon excels are the plentiful recordings from around the time the world of the Old Ones, i.e. effectively our society, was destroyed. Faced with imminent destruction, the people still alive in underground facilities reminisced about the past, sang songs, spoke of their darkest secrets - their very being on display to those living centuries later.

I’m a history student. I’ve read a lot of primary sources from Antiquity to World War II. Diaries, letters, wills, reports, et cetera. They can invoke powerful emotions that I will never forget. This experience the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga called the “historical sensation”, a subjective and implausible connection that arises between the long-deceased creator of a source and its reader today. I like to think of it as a one-way conversation between the past and the present. History speaks to us, we just can’t talk back.

Horizon is a piece of fiction, but the voices of the Old Ones echo the harrowing realities of the darkest days on Earth. They’re a believable portrayal of the human spirit in its most vulnerable state. They’re not flashy, or snarky, or satirical. They’re genuine.

The ending sees Aloy finally visit her kind-of-sort-of-mother’s resting place. Along plays the last conversation between Elisabet and her AI Gaia. Sobeck talks about the child she never had, and that she would have wanted her to be curious. Gaia saw to it that she got her wish, creating Aloy to fix a glitch in the system, though Sobeck herself obviously wouldn’t ever know.

The mother who never knew her offspring is as best an analogy I’ve ever seen of our relation to the past. I cried like a baby. Even thinking of that moment tears me up. No other game has ever even come close to doing that.

Maybe its sequels Horizon One Morning and Horizon Two Afternoon can innovate on top of what’s already there. But for all its predictable mechanics and dead-eyed stares, Horizon will always be special. It distilled down to its essence what made me fall in love with the past, and that we ought to listen to what it has to say. For conveying that message so beautifully I can only thank narrarive director John Gonzalez, the rest of the writing staff, and Guerrilla Games.

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Re: 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

Post by delb2k » February 1st, 2018, 3:39 pm

I really liked Horizon's environment, I enjoyed the way it told a story through its big story pieces that developed an interesting narrative and I thought the overall amount of tools that were given to the player in combat was very well thought out and gave a nice variety of options.

It was just a shame that the inhabitants of this wonderful world were the biggest, most infuriating pains I have had to play against in a long time.

More precisely it was that the world was always against you, there was hardly a safe spot to go to or a place you could simply just wander through. The area was so dense with violent robots that the combat, which initially feels exciting, can become a complete trudge. By halfway through the game I was actively avoiding as much of it as I could, running past everything and making consistent use of the fast travel just because I could never stop without a set of red eyes turning my way. The best worlds are those where there is downtime between the ups, a chance to appreciate where you are before it all kicks off. Horizon has a tiny slither of that but it never lasts.

All of which would be OK if the stealth was up to much, but it feels incredibly half baked. You may get one or two stealth kills out in the wild but as soon as you are seen the game is up, its full on assualt at that stage. Which just becomes tiresome after a while.

All of this is a real shame because the lore, the idea and the execution of the story parts provided a fascinating context to a game that got a lot of the fundamentals right. The movement and the combat, at the start, was very good and dynamic with the creature designs and the idea of targetting specific areas lending more of a tactical element than just treating them as bullet sponges. It starts so well, but by the end I just felt like I was trudging through a world that did not want me to be there, repeating too much of the same thing over and over again.

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Re: 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

Post by Jobobonobo » February 3rd, 2018, 11:35 pm

Open world games are usually so large and time consuming that they are a genre I only try out when there is something that truly makes it stand out and from watching the E3 2015 trailer for Horizon Zero Dawn I seen something in this game that just instantly got my attention. A primeval wilderness with giant robotic monsters being taken down by one woman proficient with arrows? It raised so many questions that I was eagerly awaiting its release to find out more. It just looked so different and intriguing from the usual open world fare. It’s beautiful, lush post apocalyptic setting is a refreshing contrast from the brown grimy nuclear wastelands that are the bread and butter of this sort of setting. The graphics are drop dead gorgeous even in regular old HD, never mind 4k. Aloy is fun to control and is one of the better female protagonists I have seen in quite some time. Each mission, even the little errands all contribute some way to learning about the way this world works, the societies built around it and how the world came to be the way it is. Even the cliche of climbing radio towers had a unique spin through scaling Tallnecks, these massive Brontosaurus-like robots with satellite dishes for heads. Speaking of which, the robots are a true highlight of the game. You have a wide range of abilities and tools to tackle them and especially later on in the game; you need to be tactical in how you are going to take them on. The combat system is very rewarding and constantly evolves as the game goes on and the utter adrenalin rush you get when taking on and defeating a true titan such as a Thunderjaw, Fireclaw or a Deathbringer is one of the best feelings I have gotten in gaming in a very long time. One particular encounter with a Deathbringer literally had me with no healing herbs or potions left and I had to take it out with a tiny scintilla of health left, learning its pattern and deftly dodging all its attacks. This hard fought victory was a gaming memory that I will never forget.

I also need to bring up another reason why I kept playing, the story. It tells you the way that the world got to be the way it is through drips and drabs throughout the game and I was always pushed on to learn more. What I really appreciated about the story is that Horizon addresses something that many end of the world plots in videogames rarely touch upon: the true gravity of a complete mass extinction event and how the loss of biodiversity affects humans in an emotional way. As someone who thinks the current mass extinction crisis is one of the most pressing environmental issues on the planet right now, it was great to see a game explicitly acknowledge this and how a less biodiverse world is a poorer, bleaker one. The audiotape of a distraught biologist failing to collect enough DNA samples of the spectacular birds of paradise and realising his failure in ensuring this lineage will not be making a return in the new world created by GAIA was one of the most poignant moments in the game for me and captured the true sense of mourning that the scientists had for the many inhabitants of Earth who were being extinguished due to the short sighted greed of the FARO corporation. It also of course, dealt with humanity itself having to come to grips with its possible extinction and the complete desperation of trying to make sure that they could leave some descendants to ensure that humans may have a second chance and learn from the mistakes of the old world.

Horizon Zero Dawn is easily one of the best PS4 exclusives out there and is essential for anyone who likes open world gameplay, intriguing worlds and clever story telling. My only problem with the game is that climbing mountains can be tricky sometimes due to some parts being scalable and others not and you can end up in a dead end if you climb up the wrong part of the mountain which ended up happening to me on more than a few occasions. Also, Rockbreakers and Glinthawks can seriously do one, easily the most frustrating machines to fight in the game. But beyond those quibbles, I truly find Horizon Zero Dawn to be an absolute must play and a true modern classic. Well done Guerilla Games.

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Re: 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

Post by TheEmailer » March 3rd, 2018, 8:09 pm

The challenging but engaging nature of the gameplay really drew me in, I gained a drive for learning strategies and honing my skills that is really special. With the exception of a few enclosed environment, it rarely felt unfair. Even with an empowered Aloi late in the game ,taking on one of the bigger foes feels like a huge task, the sense of accomplishment was tangible.

I've heard some complain the rpg elements are light. But I like the simple and easy to understand levelling tree and not having 100s of weapons types. It leaves the players to practise and develop new strategies, rather than endlessly tweak loadouts.

Gameplay and setting drew me into Horizon, then out of nowhere I was surprisingly engaged in lore. Sci fi backstories aren't usually my thing, but the personal retelling of Project Zero Dawn drew me in. It's not about the mechanics of what machine did what, but how it effected the human characters and relationships.

Aloi is such a wonderful character. Her life as outcast is not just a plot device, it shows in her character and almost every interaction. The trope of a wanderer without knowledge of the world is entirely justified by her upbringing, the player and Aloi discover the world at the same time, the players reactions are mirrored by the character.

The art direction is just wonderful, I can't give it its due.

Three word review: A spectacular challenge

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Re: 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

Post by Jordonya » August 24th, 2018, 5:50 pm

This game is fantastic. From the start i was instantly brought in by the very interesting world and intriguing story that also followed. I hold this game up to very high regards and it now is my third favorite game of all time ( Behind Skyrim at 2nd and Breath of the Wild at 1st ). As someone who loves open world games this one truly blew me away. World is fascinating and filled with these creatures that have so much minor detail put into them i am shocked. I was surprised on how much small debris comes off these things when you hit them. There AI is one of the first that caught my eye in terms of how smart they can be. I very much enjoyed sitting there stealthly thinking for about 5-10 minutes on how to take on every encounter that ramped up with even more dangerous foes like the ThunderJaw.

This game apart from the fantastic enemy design has very engaging combat that i never got bored with it. I very much enjoyed every bit with the diverse use of weapons Aloy has at her desposal. As someone who very much enjoys bows in video games this game has some of the best bow shooting in a game. I loved all the different options between the two main bows and the different types of arrows you can use. Every time i engaged in combat i constantly was rolling away and dodging attacks and it just kept me doing something unless i was able to successfully take down the enemies without getting detected.
My only issue with the combat is that i personally found frost to be a little too good especially once you get the sling with the frost bomb i was able to make quick work of some of the mid tier to low tier enemies but that never made enjoy the combat less.

Last thing is the visual and art. I played this game with and without a ps4 pro with 4k visuals and in both cases this game looks stunning. There were multiple times i would sit there and just look at this beautiful world shown and just take in the scenery. I would very much enjoy having pictures of the many landscapes and creatures scattered throughout this world. This game is just a stunning technical achievement for a console game and i still think Horizon Zero Dawn is the most beautiful game i ever played.

All in all i very much enjoy this game and think of it highly. The story is not the greatest but i very much enjoyed it since the world itself interest me a lot. I just hope this games sequel allows you to climb more as on my second playthrough of this game after playing breath of the wild i was very bumbed on how much you cant climb in this game which is a shame. And most ways of getting up mountains and paths only have one way to do so. Nonetheless i still very much enjoyed this game and would recommend it as a fantastic reason to own a playstation 4.

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Re: 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

Post by Toon Scottoon » October 9th, 2018, 11:59 pm

I came to Horizon Zero Dawn in the midst of a 10 month long binge of gaming sparked by a gumbo of circumstances involving Super Mario Galaxy and the Nintendo Switch my wife kindly gave me as a Christmas gift. Leading up to the plumbers space opera I hadn’t played a video game in more than two decades that didn’t involve a professional athlete on the screen and a roommate holding the other controller, and yet I knew almost from the first time I saw the commercial for this title whose system I didn’t own, or lineage a didn’t know, that I’d be hunting biomechanical big game in a pixelated postcard from a post-apocalyptic world someday in my future.

After consuming a twenty game chef’s menu of titles mostly curated by Cane and Rinse, I finally rendezvoused with Aloy, the Nora, and the mechanized menagerie Guerilla put together. The problem was that by this point my taste in games had been so recently shaped by some of the best titles of all time that my thoughts on HZD were corrupted by other works. The creatures were neither as interesting in their design nor as engaging to dispatch as the Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus. The climbing and jumping mechanics felt hardly more freewheeling than those presented in Ocarina of Time (the last narrative game I played before my hiatus). And the dungeons were nothing but pseudo-stealth tunnel shooting culminating in a boss, though they did offer a great reward for completion in the bolstered override mechanic, a paintbrush I thoroughly enjoyed using to conjure cinematic battles between sawtooths and snapmaws across the land.

However, even these wild kingdom style skirmishes rarely played out as intended, since the player has no real control over most creatures they align with save the rideable ones. Otherwise these beasts just mindlessly attack one another, and in doing so make a mess of things.

That’s how things are in Horizon Zero Dawn, a game about world building, set in a world that is exquisitely constructed, but fatally flawed by cliche and melodrama. Be it the stock religious zealot Helis, the campy corporate hack Ted Faro, or the ham-fisted ending involving Joseph Campbell by numbers Aloy, the execution of this narrative offers little in the way of surprises, save Sylen confirming both that he is far more Dr. Frankenstein than Professor Dumbledore and that a sequel for the game looms ahead. Here’s hoping that future iteration of this universe does a better job of asking questions that only the player can answer for themselves, rather than cloaking answers in an attractive, but ultimately hollow steel exoskeleton.

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Re: Our next-but-one podcast recording (27.10.18) - 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

Post by PubliusJ57 » October 19th, 2018, 3:46 am

Due to taking a hiatus from gaming for a few years, I missed the rash of open-world checklist games of the current console generation. As a result, unlike a lot of other gamers, Horizon Zero Dawn was a fresh experience for me and sits atop one of my favorite games of all time.

It seems odd, then, that I find it difficult to recall particular characters or specific story beats. Rather, it was the jaw-dropping environments, astonishing graphics, mysterious setting, and fantastic gameplay loop that hooked me. Oh, and the robot dinosaurs...definitely the robot dinosaurs. While I found Aloy's character very likable, the writing, acting, and camera work was nowhere near Naughty Dog levels. Nonetheless, I spent countless hours roaming the vast world skulking around jungles, forest and plains, hunting robot dinosaurs just because it was so fun to do so.

The lighting and environments simply cannot be described in words. Other than perhaps Bloodborne, I cannot recall a game where I would constantly stop only to spin the camera around and soak in the breathtaking scenery. And, the intricate mechanical details of the robot dinosaurs was truly astonishing. While some of the fights with the robot dinosaurs would devolve into bullet sponge slugfests and fighting the human foes was lackluster, I never got bored with Horizon Zero Dawn's moment to moment gameplay. In fact, Horizon Zero Dawn stands as the only platinum trophy in my digital display case.

I can appreciate the undeniable care and love that Guerilla Games put into the project. The Frozen Wilds expansion was excellent and gave me another easy excuse to dive back into the beautiful world of robot dinosaurs. I can't tell you how many times I said, "Holy Crap!" when Aloy discovered the geysers, hot springs, and snowy forests.

While the storyline dragged at times, the overall mystery of the robot dinosaurs and the regression of mankind into prehistoric living was a great hook to keep driving me forward. If this is what Guerilla Games can do with a new IP, I cannot wait to experience the inevitable sequel. Also, kudos to Sony for investing long term into a studio and allowing them to branch out into a new IP. An iteration on a played genre for sure, but an excellent and breathtaking one!

Three word review: Ropecast that Stormbird

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Re: Our next-but-one podcast recording (27.10.18) - 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

Post by ToQi » October 23rd, 2018, 9:07 am

This game was a wonder to me for two reasons: mainly because of the mesmeric outdoor lighting model, best enjoyed when fiddling with the time of day slider in photo mode.

I also became enamoured with the central sci-fi idea of
Spoiler: show
humanity having to devise a plan for revival following a complete cataclysm
. For me, the story peaked with that reveal some 3/5 of the way through and dipped thereafter, but it was a fantastic narrative hook — the idea that
Spoiler: show
there was no hope for survival but for a total biological reset, and a central architect had the presumption to sacrifice the remaining population
.

It's difficult not to compare Horizon unfavourably to Breath of the Wild in terms of freedom of movement, and it does suffer from open-world icon overload syndrome (for some), but its presentation of the natural world is exquisite — a valley feels like a valley, a forest feels like a forest. I'm delighted to see this emulated in Assassin's Creed Odyssey, which clearly has been influenced by Guerrilla's breakout.
-------------
And, after taking 1,000 screenshots, photo mode — seemingly video gaming's best so far — is an integral part of the game, for me. The designers implemented it from launch, made it available during one's first playthrough, and continued to improve it — evidence of the sheer confidence in their environment and character design, and a smart way to encourage fans to promote the game online.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (27.10.18) - 343: Horizon Zero Dawn

Post by The Baboon Baron » October 23rd, 2018, 4:26 pm

My first few hours with Horizon Zero Dawn were like a co-sine wave. At points I was bowled over with the imagination and whimsy but was swiftly followed by frustration and irritation at the tricky combat and stealth. However, after this initial “wobble” I was left with a vast and beautiful open world post-apocalyptic adventure, drawing inspiration from Game of Thrones’ as much as it draws from highbrow allegorical literature.

What begins with hints of a Last of Us style journey ends with Breath of the Wild/ Skyrim style open world including a consistent difficulty curve across multitude of game styles such as stealth, exploration, RPG levelling and action. Tough but fair, Horizon:ZD guides the player by the hand at first, gently allowing experimentation to establish how you wish to play, and how gung-ho you’re willing to push Alloy to be, but by the end is happy to slap that same player with monstrous enemies and full on war’s played out before you.

However, Horizon:ZD is pushed into bona-fide classic territory by its story and world building. Not content with a basic post-apocalyptic mad max style romp of miss understanding and technology worship, Horizon is willing to make not only a profound point, but also to confront the player with the genuinely horrible realities of violence, cultism, isolationism, extremism and the folly of man. Possibly a game I would force Donald Trump AND Elon Musk to sit down and play.

This is all the more remarkable that these topics are delicately handled rather than forced down the players throat, allowing for introspection and meditation on its themes as you canter across the desert on your Robo-pig, merrily spearing Transformer Dino-bots.

The stellar voice cast compliment stunning visuals and gameplay, and I happily Platinum’d Horizon: ZD. I ended my time with it with a sense of sadness that there were no more things to find or places to go, no more trinkets to collect or robots to smash. I look forward to further sequels when they become available with bated breath, this and Bloodborne justify a PS4 alone.

Special recognition has to be paid as Horzion:ZD explains its re-spawning enemies- What an era we live in.

3 word review: Dirty Cup Trophy.

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