It seems like the hot topic of 2017 is going to be the end of the world. Every day we come closer to finding (possibly hostile) life on another planet, North Korea keeps test launching missiles and a certain orange-faced entrepreneur has claimed the throne of the most powerful position in the known world. It’s only natural that the talking point of the coming year – and years to come – is likely to centre around us being wiped out by forces unseen, or worse; ourselves. So how do we take our minds off the gloom and doom? Make TV shows, movies and video games that explore the myriad of ways we are going to annihilate ourselves, of course!
Right off the bat, I have to say this: If the world was coming to an end I’d be spending my final moments furiously trying to complete Horizon Zero Dawn. I usually try to save my verdict of the game until the end of the review but let’s be honest, if you don’t like Horizon you won’t be reading this, you’ll have already been grabbed off the street and shipped to a dark, remote location where there’s no great hulking metal beasts roaming around. Or worse still; no WiFi.
Without giving too much away, Horizon is set on a post post (not a typo) apocalyptic earth. Humanity as we know it is no more. In addition to the remaining humans living in tribes, almost all evidence of modern architecture has been reclaimed by nature. As if that wasn’t harrowing enough, herds of roaming, metal monsters prowl the land. And they are far from friendly. You begin by following the growth and childhood of Aloy – an outcast of the Nora Tribe – as she is raised by another outcast, Rost. Aloy and Rost’s reasons for being cast out of the tribe remain shrouded in mystery for some time. And because I can’t resist a little spoiler – be prepared for an emotional roller coaster.
Horizon’s storyline is arguably the most gripping, interesting, moreish plot I’ve ever come across in a game. There are a lot of games that have recently come out with amazing dialogue and plots, but Horizon takes the cake. In the past I have found myself skipping through dialogue in most games, especially ones that are quest heavy (who cares what they are saying, give me that new +10 agility wrist guard!). Not so with Horizon. Not once have I skipped any of the cutscenes, dialogues or even the brief exchanges with merchants. I find myself wanting to absorb every scrap of information I can get my hands on. It’s in depth; so in depth that I’ve even invested a considerable amount of time to reading through the collectable texts scattered throughout the world. I’ve not put such effort into finding extra content since the dreaded ‘100 feather hunt’ from Assassin’s Creed. Yet it’s not so overwhelming that you forget what you’re supposed to be actually doing.
Having said that, I’ve lost great amounts of time to just appreciating the graphics. At its worst it is utterly breathtaking. At best you will forget what real life is. In all seriousness, it has got to be one of the best looking games (especially one that is set in a dystopian, technically apocalyptic world) ever to grace our screens. Developer Guerrilla Games obviously knew this was going to be a major selling point to the game, which is why there has been the inclusion of photo mode. A game changer for the video game photographers among us, Photo mode allows you to screenshot pretty much anything you want in the game (all of the photos on this review have been taken by me with the photo mode). There are a variety of functions included into the mode, including a colour changer, brightness and saturation sliders and you can even change the time of day to achieve your perfect setting. I should also add that all of the images seen here are during actual gameplay, not cutscenes.
It’s even hard to find fault in the mechanics of the game. Horizon is entirely third person, with you looking ‘over the shoulder’ of Aloy. But when you look closer, the camerawork goes into much greater detail – you will seamlessly switch which shoulder you look over as you traverse different heights of terrain. This allows you to see as much of your surroundings as possible at all times, without really even realising it. Horizon switches between gameplay and cutscenes with a very appealing fluidity; even when speaking to NPCs. Couple that with a really well cast team of voice actors and you’ve got a real recipe for success.
If you’re a fan of games like The Witcher, the Uncharted series, Tomb Raider or even Skyrim, chances are you are going to absolutely fall in love with Horizon. A lot of people are still on the fence about even trying it out, with many fearing that Horizon’s rise to fame (and the amount of hype surrounding it) is hauntingly similar to that of No Man’s Sky. And I get the fear. What I do know is that Horizon Zero Dawn will 100% not suffer the same fate – This is a game that is going to stand the test of time. Unless of course the world ends.