Narrative and Presentation
Horizon Zero Dawn starts out with a strong narrative, feeding the player bits of information about the protagonist’s ambiguous past and the workings of the world. This is done both through an abridged raising of the main character from infancy. Her interactions with her caretaker as well as the people and world around her provide an organic narrative that helps players not only know more about Aloy, but also gain a sense of empathy for the character early on.
Horizon Zero Dawn has a host of great aesthetics that meld together to build a very cohesive and high quality experience. From the graphical quality to the score, voice acting, and overall visual design, everything serves to draw in and immerse the player in what feels like a beautiful, breathing world. Creature design is top-notch with a host of interesting, haunting, and overall great looking set of enemies, even in the early game, with each new adversary eliciting a moment of excitement and unease.
Overall Horizon Zero Dawn plays very well with world navigation feeling well paced and interesting even when traveling from point A to B and back. The combat and stealth mechanics feel overall smooth and fair. Control is the name of the game with combat, giving ranged attacks and trapping precedence in a world where even the smaller creatures can chunk a player’s life easily. Though it seems more effective to maintain range when quarries are running free close quarters, combat feels very tight with solid dodging mechanics, as well as enough auto-tracking on melee strikes to compensate for the creatures’ high mobilities and lack of a lock-on function.
In the midst of all of these mechanics there are a few minor gripes that I found in my short experience with Horizon Zero Dawn. First off, there have been a few instances of rough collision detection where if a medium sized rock or quartered log is in the character’s path they will hitch on it, requiring either the player to jostle free from the debris or reroute around it. Secondly, the stealth takedown mechanics feel a bit too forgiving, allowing players to be in plain sight for a few seconds while attacking a target before getting back into cover without alarming other creatures nearby, though this could have just been dumb luck on my part.
Horizon Zero Dawn started out strong and the exceedingly minor gripes I had come nowhere near close to inhibiting my desire to pick up the game again and continue to take in all its sights, stalk all its prey, and enjoy what seems to be the beginning of a strong narrative.