343: Horizon Zero Dawn

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JaySevenZero
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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

Horizon Zero Dawn does almost nothing new. It is a Far Cry/Witcher-esque open world game with a relatively short checklist of quests and errands. Most of the optional content feels inconsequential. Much of the critical path feels like it needed to be cut down. It has decent combat that can easily become repetitive and, well, let’s be real here, actual arrows wouldn’t have got proverbial sh*** on gigantic motherf-ing robots. While its graphical prowess is phenomenal, Horizon's world, for all its variety, can start to feel samey and shallow rather quickly. The RPG mechanics are generally unoriginal and just kind of “there”, with its progression lacking in purpose and variety. Its story, while fantastic conceptually, has enormous lulls where interest wanes. Nowhere can I call it among the best in class, really, but when it does actually bother to fire on all cylinders, it delivers glimpses of utter brilliance.

The sci-fi story isn't overwhelmingly complex despite its inherently complicated subject matter and is what kept me going throughout, even while slogging through the unremarkable middle chapters: every question it answers is succeeded by a far more intriguing follow-up. Exposition is littered across the main campaign's scenarios and can be easily skipped if one wishes to mainline it. Extra context and depth is quite literally laid down before you in the various ruins of the Old Ones in rather inelegantly spaced out chunks. As the eponymous Project Zero Dawn is progressively brought to light, its mysteries implore you to keep searching until the very end.

Two moments stand out above all others: the reveal of Project Zero Dawn, during which a one-two punch of first despair, then hope is delivered. Billions of people were slaughtered in the name of a lie. Even if they died for a greater purpose, they had not even been given the courtesy of being told what they were actually trying to achieve. The contrast between the inescapable horror of Operation Enduring Victory and Project Zero Dawn hits home emphatically, brought to life by a wonderful combination of graphics, music, and acting. The other brilliant scene is Horizon’s final pre-credits cinematic: Aloy finally meets her quote-unquote mother, at peace surrounded by the new world she helped create. I’m not ashamed to admit it made me emotional, and still does upon repeat viewing.

Guerrilla may have performed a near-miracle by being able to create such a beautiful open world after the cramped corridors of Killzone, but ironically I would have liked to have seen a more focused approach that perhaps even left out the free-roaming entirely. The world tech is awe-inspiring, but this overgrown Colorado isn’t one I’d really like to spend much more time in - overall it lacks the elusive sense that this place is one that exists regardless of you being there, with the exception of the expertly crafted shelters that housed those working on Project Zero Dawn.

If Horizon had been more daring, it would've cut the fat off its 30 hour campaign and forced you into far fewer similar set pieces against the ultimately predictable enemies. Even the largest and most threatening robotic adversaries get found out mainly due to overexposure to them. The final boss is far too weak, bullet (or arrow)-spongey and plainly too dull to earn its place. A bit more inspiration from the likes of Bayonetta and God of War would've gone a long way in this regard.

It's nowhere near perfect, but nothing ever is. What Horizon Zero Dawn is, is a wonderful achievement by a team that had no right to improve as much on its previous outing as Guerrilla Games did. Its flaws are apparent and plentiful, yet they are largely forgiven by those moments it gets everything right, the times you realise that video games have actually been making a giant leap forward in the past few years. I will always hold it in extremely high regard for maturely and confidently addressing and unpacking so much I personally hold dear. History will be shrouded in darkness if not for those curious in what it has to say, a message far too few games seem to tackle. It helps that it's quite fun to play as well.

If this had been a review in the form of buyer's advice, Horizon would presumably get something like a relatively unassuming 8.9 using GameSpot's old and utterly bonkers weighted average score. But this isn't meant to be that. For all its missteps, I rate Horizon Zero Dawn as one of the most memorable videogame experiences I’ve had. The sad part is that the best bits for me where where I didn’t play it...

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delb2k
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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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Jobobonobo
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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 so 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 world. 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 real poignant moments in the game for me and captured the true sense of mourning for 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 can't 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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TheEmailer
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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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