Horizon Zero Dawn – Easy Allies Review

Since its reveal, Horizon Zero Dawn has been presented as one of the PS4’s flagship titles. We’ve seen a lot of the game in that time, with hints that more secrets lie beneath this desolate look at our planet’s fate. We’ve put dozens of hours into Horizon, and we still haven’t exhausted all of its activities. The latest from Killzone vets Guerrilla Games delivers on a lot of its innovative promises, and despite issues with its story and world, it’s a solid and entertaining adventure.

You enter Horizon’s world as the outcast, Aloy. Early on, it becomes apparent that there’s more to this place after she discovers Focus technology that allows its user to scan and analyze the environment. By using it, Aloy’s insatiable curiosity drags her into disagreements between warring tribes, and the search for the dark truth behind how this crazy future came to be. There are satisfying reveals, at times coming from documents you download that paint a bleak account of how the old world met its end. Thanks to a sincere performance by Ashly Burch, Aloy’s quest for answers is infectious. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t get good until the end. As you learn more about what actually happened, it’s difficult to concern yourself with local matters.

It’s clear where the Aztec-warrior meets road-warrior style comes from, but it’s hard to really connect with any of the cast beyond basic camaraderie. Aloy provides a constant commentary, which is sometimes useful, but mostly detached and monotonous. Although the script is shallow most of the time, the natives are distinct and expressive. Their faces seem to carry more emotion than most people we’ve met in action-RPGs. The majority of inhabitants are voiced by separate actors, giving the population personality. The real reason to finish side quests is to gather as much experience as possible and gain access to Aloy’s menu of abilities and weapons. While there are present-day critters still around, like boar and rabbits to skin for potion ingredients and capacity upgrades, most of the land between villages is full of hostile machines. Hunting these metal beasts makes up the most of Horizon Zero Dawn. It turns out that this is a challenging and enjoyable thing to do. Each monster has an entry in your notebook where you collect research, and map markers track where they can be found.

You can scan them to reveal elemental weaknesses and highlight pressure points. There are 24 different types of machines, excluding elemental variants, and the wicked corrupted versions, so you encounter new threats at a nice pace. Aloy can also override them with her staff, turning Striders or Broadheads into helpful mounts, and larger machines into destructive allies. There are nine weapons you can use to bring them down. A weapon wheel lets you customize a loadout and switch between up to a dozen ammo types instantly. A few weapons are indispensible, like the immobilizing Ropecaster, but each caters to a specific playstyle. If you like to get in close, there’s the Tearblaster to remove armor, and the Rattler to spit out elemental damage.

If you prefer to stay in the shadows, there’s the Tripcaster and three types of traps you can put in a target’s path. We like to stay mobile, using one arrow-type on humans, another on machines, and another for the purpose of knocking off equipment. There are weapon combos that are more devastating than others, but it’s fun to experiment, and you can place mods on some weapons to adjust their stats. Fights can either end quickly or drag on, depending on your weapon selection and accuracy. You have an ability on a cooldown that slows combat when you zoom in, helping you place one or two arrows where you want.

It’s rewarding to get familiar with each machine and become more efficient in dismantling it. It’s the little moments within a battle that really shine, whether it’s watching a machine get enraged when a key component blasts off, taking a piece of their own weaponry and using it against them, or cracking open giant canisters of flammable liquid. The world map is smaller than we anticipated, but there’s a lot going on within its borders.

There are corrupted zones to clear, hunting challenges that teach you to use the environment, bandit camps to raid, Tallnecks to climb, and training missions you can finish each time you buy a new weapon. Then there’s all the stuff we can’t talk about yet, which is unlike anything shown so far. To survive this harsh business, you have to harvest, craft, and trade a lot of materials. This will make you better at destroying machines, which will get you more parts, and the cycle continues. Slaying these creatures is a good time, but it does make up the bulk of the game. If you’re not excited about investigating the arsenal, obsessing over looting each metal carcass, and picking up every glowing object, you might get fatigued of the loop before the end. We don’t mind the grind thanks to Aloy’s gratifying skill tree, which increases silent attack damage and lets you shoot up to three arrows, among other perks. We played Horizon Zero Dawn on a PlayStation 4 Pro, but a patch that adds all the graphical upgrades of the new console had not been applied yet.

Still, Horizon is gorgeous. These mechanical monsters spark electricity and erupt in fire with a brilliant glow, amplified by the always changing time of day and weather effects like sandstorms and blinding rain. The actual horizon showed a fair amount of pop-in, and the environments got glitchy once or twice, but it was a pleasure to explore and conquer the diverse terrain. Horizon Zero Dawn feels like a franchise in the making. While not packed with narrative high points, it’s still a compelling introduction to a world in turmoil that answers a lot of questions, but still gestures toward a more climactic future.

Its primary element, squaring off against mechanized animals, is such a success, it makes up for the ongoing repetition of the game’s activities. When we look into Horizon’s future, we see a sequel that can take this world and make it into something remarkable. Easy Allies Reviews are made possible by generous viewers just like you. If you like what you see, check out patreon.com/easyallies to see our other videos and consider becoming a patron to help us make more..

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