Do you know what really makes me happy? Waking up and seeing a previous console exclusives being announced for PC. Even better if such exclusive comers with all the released DLCs. Although, in the case of Horizon Zero Dawn, I had to wait a couple of months since the initial announcement in order to play it. Horizon Zero Dawn has been hailed as one of the landmark titles of PS4 and a game that pushed the capabilities of the console to the very limits. Now, the long wait is over and it is up to me to see if the game lived up to the hype.
“Earth is ours no more”. A tagline that will echo throughout the world of Horizon Zero Dawn. The story is set in the 31st century, in a world where humans live in scattered tribal-like populations with limited access to technology. Their technologically advanced predecessors are remembered as the “Old Ones”. Large robotic creatures, known as “machines”, dominate the Earth. We wouldn’t have a compelling story if things remained peaceful as they are and while such machines calmly coexist with humans, a phenomenon known as the “Derangement” has caused the machines to act hostile and attacks humans. On the other hand, “The Frozen Wilds” DLC story starts after the main game and sends us into a snowy area of the Banuk Tribe to battle new machines, learn new skills and obtain new types of armor.
Considering that humans now live in tribal-like communities and the 31st century is quite devolved compared to now, don’t expect to wield any high tech guns against the machines. You will mostly rely on bow and arrows, traps, and stealth tactics. As you progress through the game, you will learn more and more skills centered on stronger attacks, better stealth takedowns, and the ability to call your own mechanized mount. The key tactic when it comes to taking down machines is to target specific areas on their body, stripping them of their armor and weapons. Remember, you’re rarely in some advantage over them and the guerilla approach is a way to go. The game is also riddled with side quests, collectibles, and optional areas to discover. It is highly recommended to check out some (if not all) side quests since certain ones will reward you with unique weapons or upgrades. For example, a specific sidequest in “The Frozen Wilds” DLC rewards you with an ability to upgrade your own spear, something that’s not possible in the base game ad it is entirely possible to never discover that upgrade if you skip over the sidequest. Yep, going through every nook and cranny in Horizon Zero Dawn pays off. There is also an insane amount of audio and text logs scattered through the game that delves deeper into the history of the world and its lore. My tactic was to just rush through the base game + DLC and then slowly take care of all the optional content. It was like discovering a game inside a game.
Way back before the PC release, if you ever wanted a game to impress your friends in terms of looks, plenty of folks would point you in the direction of Horizon Zero Dawn. And for a good reason. The visual of the port translate well into the PC version, with some new options added to maximize the visuals of the new platform. Although, I have to say that the optimization in this regard is a bit…..puzzling. Upon the first run of the game, I was advised to run the game on low settings in order to squeeze out the most fps. Well, curiosity got the best of me and after fiddling with the high and ultra setting of the game, I promptly discovered that there isn’t much difference between low and high graphic settings. Strangely, the game looks almost the same no matter what you choose (granted with some minor details missing on low) and the fps count went over 60 regardless of what I selected. In any case, weird but I’m not complaining.
One thing that elevates this game above the rest is the superb voice acting backed by a stellar cast of Lance Reddick, Necar Zadegan, and a voice actor veteran Ashly Burch as our protagonist Aloy. The sound effects have received some extra love, notably in the area of machine design. After a couple of hours, as you sneak through the jungle you might not see every enemy around you, but you can definitely guess who they are based on how the sound the noises/growls that they make. The music is cleverly sprinkled as you explore the world of Horizon Zero Dawn, with some tense notes being slowly amplified as you sneak around to the full-blown orchestral arrangements while you’re fighting the machines.
Playing Horizon Zero Dawn on PC made me appreciate the auto-save system of the game and not for a good reason. At the time of bringing this review to an end, I clocked a bit over 20 hours in the game (base game + DLC included). That is without delving deeper into the side content. With that said, at least an hour of that playtime was spent on restarting the game due to frequent crashes. I had a guaranteed crash per hour but thanks to the autosave after completing every mission (story an optional), I wasn’t set back that much. However, such experience was anything but enjoyable and I’m definitely not alone in this. Currently, the game is plagued by a “mixed” reviews tag on Steam, with a good majority of complaints being attributed to constant crashes. The good news is that the developers are working on n upcoming patch that should fix these issues so we have no choice but to wait for a bit. Aside from that, it is easy to see why the game was a defining title for PS4. From the visuals to voice acting and incredible gameplay, Horizon Zero Dawn is one of those games that is well worth the full price even years after the release. Add some decent replay value into the mix (with new game+ and new outfits tied to subsequent playthroughs) and you’re in for quite a ride.
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