There is something about first-party games that makes them special. The fact that they are (usually) exclusively released for a single console makes publishers very careful when choosing the developing team to work on these titles. As a result, we usually have games that provide hours of fun and Horizon Zero Dawn is no exception. Sony trusted the Guerrilla Games development team, who you probably know from the Killzone franchise. They exceeded all expectations and, after working for over 5 years in the game, provided us a brilliant product called Horizon Zero Dawn.

Meet Aloy

The civilization is nothing as we know it now. Everything is in ruins, and hulking machines now control the wilds. You will be playing as Aloy, a young girl with an adventurous nature. She was raised by Rost, who took her in while she was still a baby and raised her as if she was his own. The Nora tribe shunned Aloy as an outcast and, after getting an opportunity to prove herself worthy of the tribe; her group gets ambushed by some mysterious fighters that take away a crucial item from her. Enraged and disappointed, she sets off into the wild determined to get her revenge and find out why the tribe shunned her at birth.

The plot

The plot of Horizon Zero Dawn is nothing but brilliant. It is a deep, profound story about love, loss, acceptance, confusion, and self-discovery. Horizon manages to make a connection between the player and the main protagonist regardless of player’s gender. For example, in the beginning, Aloy wanted to play with the other kids, but one of them threw a rock that scarred her face. At this point, you can choose whether you will hit back with a rock, defend yourself differently or still be a good girl.

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You start the game as a little girl when you first find out about the so-called “Focus”.

Emotional connection

Things like that make you feel the connection with Aloy from the first moment you play the game. You will be sad when Aloy is sad; frustrated when she is mad, and you will be celebrating victories like they were your own. She is not your classic hero, but just an outcast that seeks understanding and acceptance. Guerrilla Games team worked on the plot for a long time, and we are glad that the result is a brilliant story with an admirable main character.

Aloy steals the show when it comes to characters, but she will also meet some interesting people along the way. The dialogues are often and intriguing, and occasionally you will have the option of choosing which answer to provide. Your replies may be intelligent, aggressive or passionate and will have consequences, although they don’t drastically change the story.

horizon zero dawn grown up aloy
The actual playable character is a bit grown up.

Horizon Zero Dawn combines the Man vs. Self, Man vs. Nature and Man vs. Society in a brilliant way. The main quest is pretty long, and it will take you more than twenty hours to finish it. The game does have one main villain, but truth to be told, he isn’t written as brilliant as our protagonist, although he manages to take the atmosphere up a notch whenever he shows up. The good news is that Horizon is a game that good that it doesn’t even need a villain. Your journey will be filled with unusual twists and surprising revelations about Aloy and the world she is in.

Explore the huge open world

The game is set in an open world setting which is incredibly vast and detailed. There is a wide variety of beautiful locations to visit, including lush forests, tropical paradises, sunny deserts, snowy mountains and cities in ruins. Each of the settings provides a set of side quests which bring certain awards. These quests are also crafted with attention, and your task will usually be to help people you meet along the way. If you put aside the fact that everyone in Horizon Zero Dawn expects Aloy to solve their problems, you can focus on the fact that objectives are diverse enough to make you want to play the side quests and not just to feel obligated to play them.

Climbing tall robots

To enable new map areas, you will need to climb to the top of a Tallneck, a creature that is a mixture of a giraffe and brontosaurus. That will remind you of the tower-climbing concept applied in many games, but the twist here is that the tower is a living thing. You can also try your luck on the Hunting Grounds, where you will have to use your hunting skills.

horizon zero dawn open world tallneck
You can climb that creature! How awesome is that?

Collecting items

The most intriguing part is collecting Glyphs and Datapoints, which contain valuable information about the world. Gradually discovering valuable bits about the Horizon Zero Dawn’s reality will leave you wanting more. This makes it really hard to stop playing once you take the controller in your hands.

Making use of the “Focus”

Aloy has an important asset that will help her during her journey. It is a tool called Focus, which helps her identify enemies and highlight their weaknesses, as well as display their patrol paths. Focus reminds of an augmented reality headset, and it is a valuable asset to have. You might feel that it provides you a considerable advantage over your enemies, but the developers made it tricky. While wearing Focus, Aloy can’t move fast or attack her enemies. That is why she can only use the tool for planning an attack, while the execution is left to the player.

The right dose of RPG

Horizon Zero Dawn is an adventure at its core. However, there is a bit of RPG that will make this game attractive for fans of this genre. While traveling the game’s open world Aloy will collect various resources, including traps, ammo and other equipment. You will need to craft various items and improve Aloy’s skills, making her better equipped for challenges to come. The trick is that you will need to think your decisions through. One kind of weapons brings additional ice damage, while another deals more blunt damage. You won’t get many opportunities to swap your weapons, so you need to think about the situation your character is in to choose the appropriate equipment.

The array of weapons won’t surprise you. Aloy will use the bow as a standard way of attacking. Sharpshot bows will come in handy for long-distance hits, while rattlers remind of shotguns. Aside from that, you can use a ropecaster to bring the machines to the ground or set tripwires, which can also cause high damage. Pay attention to the weapons that bigger enemies drop as they can be very useful in the next tricky situation.

As for the combat system, it treats aggression and stealth equally, which makes it tempting for both types of players. Those who like battling in open areas will love the fact they have a lot of covers to use. Stealth players will enjoy the tall grass and the challenge to find the perfect position to shoot their arrows from. Not being careful can cost you and, aside from dodging the enemies, you will also need to prepare and bring appropriate weapons and healing items to the battle.

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Aloy riding a monster and fighting a badass machine gun robot!

Why does she go right when you told her to go left?

The platforming is an important part of Horizon Zero Dawn. Unfortunately, it is the area that uncovered the only important issue of the game. Horizon will, in most cases, clearly show you where you can jump or climb and where that is not an option. However, jumping is not always accurate, so you can expect things like sending Aloy in one direction and seeing her moving straight into the death in the opposite direction. Experienced players will get used to this weird occurrence in the game, but it still doesn’t change the fact that it is annoying.

On the plus side, the game comes with state-of-the-art graphics. There are day/night and weather cycles in the game, so expect blazing sun, snowstorms, and rainfalls. Roaring streams, amazing vegetation, and other details will take your breath away. Aloy is not only superbly written, but superbly drawn, too, and she and all the other characters look very realistic. The enemy machines are also extraordinary and feature animal-like animations and numerous destructible parts. Some tiny collision detection issues might annoy stealth players, but they are rare.

We particularly must applaud the fact that Horizon Zero Dawn might be the first game using the real potential of PlayStation 4 Pro and its powerful hardware. The game is not native 4K, but it is extremely impressive, and you should try it on Ultra HD TVs. Overall, Horizon might be the most beautiful game we will see in a while.

Final words

It wasn’t an easy task for Guerrilla Games to abandon the Killzone franchise and start something that might develop into an entirely new franchise. Fortunately, they succeeded in creating another brilliant game. Horizon Zero Dawn is an open world adventure that has a deep and incredibly intriguing plot. Mysteries, twists, and shocking revelations are all part of Aloy’s journey to discovering her place in the world. The success of the game is confirmed by the fact that the developers announced that they are already working on the expansion of the story. If you are a PlayStation 4 owner, you should give Horizon Zero Dawn a shot. Trust us; you will love it.