Thank the stars someone at Sony decided that their prized franchise needed to see a new audience on the PC. I do not usually play more than a couple of open world games in a year due to the time commitment required. And few manage to hook me the way Horizon Zero Dawn did.
Open world games need to pull several aspects together into a neat package. Often though, the quality of these aspects can vary, and a few areas tend to stand out more than the rest. Of course, Horizon Zero Dawn will not be that mythical open world that just nails everything. Nor did it have to be. For me it did incredible things in all the ways that mattered.
Presentation in open world games matters a lot as you will spend hours traversing through its worlds whether it is making your way through its main story beats or just marveling at the world running of its own volition. My rig turned out to be good enough to run the game with all it is bells and whistles turned on. This is not a game filled to the brim with people, but what it has is beautiful landscapes, beautiful central town areas and the ace up its sleeve, those incredible creature designs.
Story and World
The way the story of the game unravels both through the characters as well as the world that begins to unveil itself kept me engaged throughout. The cast includes some A list talent and the lead character of Aloy was brilliantly voiced by Ashly Burch, who I now see regularly on the wonderful Mythic Quest TV series. I love the forgotten civilization tropes and the game blends it’s sci fi and contemporary themes extremely well. Many games use environmental elements like audio logs and notes to supplement their stories and I often end up ignoring them after the initial set. Here I ended up listening to most of them because they just felt so compelling. I genuinely wanted to know the fate of these humans from the past.
In open world games world building and story take precedence over game play for me personally. However, this does not mean that I can make my way through them if the game play is not up to par. Horizon Zero Dawn does well enough in this regard. It is responsive and most creatures were a joy to take down given the arsenal I had at my disposal. Tactics did not particularly vary after a particular point in time. The user interface itself functioned well in most areas. The minor disappointment for me was the requirement to acquire a skill to remove various gems that enhanced my weapons. By the time I ended up looking into it in the skill tree it was too late, and I was riddled with excessive gems that sounded interesting in their descriptions, but ultimately lay wasted. Others who may have played this will probably say it was my fault for not focusing on it first. But anything that prevents you from experimenting with your weapons at any time in game like these counts as a miss for me.