HORIZON: Zero Dawn has the characteristics of a soaring eagle, bursting from a cage after years of captivity.
For the past decade, Horizon’s developers, Guerilla Games have rigidly stuck to the First Person Shooter genre, severely limiting their ability to show us what they are truly capable of.
What they have created with Horizon is a true tour de force and further proof that original intellectual properties can shine in a market of Call or Duties and Fifas.
Set a millennium in the future, after our generation took technology and artificial intelligence too far, humanity has been reduced to a tribal structure.
Meanwhile, the crumbling old world has been reclaimed by nature, and beast-like machines wander the jungles, deserts and mountains; remnants of the old world.
In this land you play the tough female protagonist, Aloy.
Aloy is an outcast from the matriarchal Nora tribe, kicked out as a baby she yearns to re-enter the society and find out why she was shunned.
This intriguing opening premise opens up to further and more intricate mysteries that take you on a quest across the beautifully re-imagined Colorado.
Raised outside of a safe settlement, Aloy is a hardened huntress, capable of taking down the lethal robotic wildlife and harvesting scrap.
Her inventory of weapons contains little more than bows and slingshots, but you never feel underpowered thanks to a pulse-pounding combat system.
A device called a “Focus” allows Aloy to target a machine’s weak spots and what would be effective.
For example, the towering Bellowback stores fuel in its throat so by chipping away the armour you’ll be able to take it down with a well placed fire arrow.
This is aided by Aloy’s ability to slow time when aiming, this doesn’t last for long though so you must always act quickly.
I have to give a nod to the enemies, the robotic animals have incredible visual and mechanical designs, meaning each requires a slightly different approach.
If you’re sneaky enough you can hack unwary machines or stealth kill them, but this is never as exciting as taking a robotic T-Rex head on.
There are also human enemies in the game, but most of them can be taken out with one well placed arrow so they are only threatening in large numbers.
Aesthetically, Horizon is gorgeous.
The varied terrain and numerous ecosystems celebrate colour; vivid greens give life to forests and a palette of reds highlight the threat of arid deserts.
The draw distance is also immense, from a good vantage point you can spot massive mechanical creatures going about their business several miles away.
Currently, this is the prettiest open world in gaming and the sort of experience I thought only high-end computers could muster.
The one area where Horizon begins to stumble is when you leave the main narrative.
Side missions revolve around basic fetch quests and follow the footsteps; the combat always redeems them somewhat but it is disappointing to find little narrative drive outside the campaign.
If you’re looking for a rich world to get lost in, and don’t quite want to commit to a Switch for Breath of the Wild, this is the best alternative you’re going to find.
+Thoughtful but pacey combat
+Innovative enemy designs.
Try if you like:
Far Cry series
Tomb Raider (rebooted)
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Elder Scrolls