There are many great games coming out in the next few months, but one of my personal favourites alongside Mass Effect Andromeda is Horizon Zero Dawn. Delayed from a Christmas release window and pushed to 2017, Horizon Zero Dawn looks to bring something fresh to the PS4 line-up. Being a console exclusive and developed by Guerrilla games (the minds behind the Killzone Franchise) it brings a lot of expectation. So, what can we expect?
1. A Seamless Open World
While other games in the open world genre have tried to do this, none so far have really captured the idea. The idea of a continuous world without loading screens. Horizon Zero Dawn promises to deliver a dynamic world that changes according to your decisions. The decision to farm and stay in one area will eventually result in the exhaustion of natural resources.
The Open World will also have a day and night cycle, which in a similar way to Metal Gear Solid V, can be used by the player to sneak up on creatures that would otherwise see you during the day. The options for hunting are extensive, set up traps and tripwires to lure herds of animals into ambushes and take on the bigger T-rex like monsters. The other feature that makes me excited is the spin on the unlocking mechanic of the world. The ability to unlock the map through the climbing of giant metal giraffes. These giraffes are an amazing 25 metes tall. Revealing new areas of the map will give you new quests and objectives. One of the more difficult challenges implanted in the game that I think will be awesome is intelligent AI. The AI learning from their every encounter and forcing you, the hunter to change tactics regularly. This brings into play the second element that I think will be Horizon Zero Dawn’s greatest strength.
2. Smart Tactics
Unlike other games of the genre, you do not have unlimited resources, bullets or ammunition. Rather you have to scavenge what you can from the creatures around you, both living and dead to craft arrows. These arrows require some time investment and like Monster Hunter, they cannot be wasted on just anything. You can only carry a few at a time and when some creatures, like the T-rex, have armour, this becomes more of a problem. Horizon Zero Dawn looks to encourage good preparation, timing and planning as the keys to taking down big creatures. Setting up tripwires and traps to force the rex to chase you down a narrow gully or using an attractive herd of weaker robot animals to force it into a path you want it to follow. In a similar way to Dark Souls, our hero doesn’t have a lot of health and one swipe from a Rex claw will force your health bar down to zero. This really enforces the notion of a hunter and trapper just as much as a warrior. The crafting system promises to be extensive and deep with a host of customisable outfits, arrows and secondary heavier weapons akin to a spear gun.
3. Setting and Atmosphere
Horizon Zero Dawn also brings a lot of mystery and expectation with its setting that at a first glance had me excited. Set a thousand years after the fall of human civilisation by an unknown race of machines, you must explore the cause. How did civilisation fall? How did a weird host of robotic creatures come to inhabit a post-apocalyptic Earth. Some friendly, others not so much. The mystery of the setting brings a certain flair and a desire to find out more. The world is covered by lush forest and soaring waterfalls opposed to the regular post-apocalyptic trappings of concrete, rust and decay. Aloy, our young protagonist searches for these answers among the other tribes that now inhabit this destroyed world full of mechanised creatures.
From the latest reports, Horizon Zero Dawn has a total of 25 different creatures and variants in the game. Ranging from small beasts, like Zebras to 25-metre Giraffes and finally to the bigger beasts and something resembling crocodile (something I am happy about being Australian). From its gameplay videos, Horizon Zero Dawn gives the impression that some are rideable although whether you will be able to ride the birds is still in question.
In a similar vein to Monster Hunter, I am anticipating that many different strategies will be utilised to take down all the variants. From traps to heavier weapons, different bows and arrow types as well as a practised skill from many hours of play. How upgrades will change up this formula is anybody’s guess.
5. Protagonist Aloy
It is not often we have a female protagonist the star of a video game in a post-apocalyptic environment. I have to say, Aloy looks to be a fascinating character from the short samples of her journey we have been given. Adopted by a tribe but always an outcast, Aloy constantly has to show skills beyond her age. Showing a strong resolve that reminds me of Lara Craft or Ripley from Aliens, she perseveres. Through heartache and pain but eventually leaving the tribe to search for the truth of exactly who she is. Aloy is the strong female protagonist I think we have all been waiting for.
All in All, we can expect a lot from Horizon Zero Dawn. If it delivers, then it could well be a candidate for game of the year. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, so we’ll find out February 28th, 2017.