The past is shrouded in mystery and the futures seems lost in Horizon: Zero Dawn. Set 1,000 years in the future, tribes are scattered across the land, with remnants of the past still found not only hidden underground but everywhere with massive mechanical beasts now the biggest threat. Horizon: Zero Dawn not only creates one of the most fascinating open world games but presents a story and world that’s utterly captivating.
As Aloy, you play as a motherless woman who’s been outcast because of this crime. After training for years to complete The Proving which will result in her getting answers regarding her mother, the tribe is attacked by a mysterious cult and she must not only find out why, but discover the secrets of the world she inhabits.
Going into Horizon: Zero Dawn, a lot of the story, world, and backstory was unknown and how things unravel is an absolute treat. You spend a lot of the game not getting answers but things are always unveiled in satisfying moments without divulging too much. The major story and secrets are not revealed until the end of the game but uncovering everything is persistent throughout the game. While you are introduced to some major mysterious moments, they fall to the side to uncover an equally engaging story arc with the major payoff being more of the mysterious world being known.
The uncovering of secrets extends to exploring the world. Nature has reclaimed everything and in the beginning, the world is completely natural with mountainous expanses and greenery everywhere. Very quickly though, you will see many of things that have been left behind by those that came before. The world of Horizon is expansive and features many themed areas with different environments and enemies littered throughout. It’s an incredibly open world that never feels too similar to other areas but everything still feels natural, even if the changes happen suddenly in some places.
The open world in Horizon: Zero Dawn may be one of the best ever featured in any genre. While other games try to fill out every inch of the map with something to do, Horizon allows the player to simply explore. Dangerous enemies are featured all over the map but not to the extent that you cannot visit everywhere from just a few hours in. Should to try to take them on, chances are you will lose but if you want to simply explore and enjoy the stunning looking locations, you can.
Visually, Horizon: Zero Dawn is easily the best looking console game that’s ever been released. From the dense grass to the dilapidated buildings, everything looks stunning either in its natural beauty or devastated steel. The weather and day/night cycles is memirising. There were plenty of times where I was simply exploring when morning broke and the fog and sunrise breaking through the trees gave me pause as I was frozen to the spot and appreciated everything the game was presenting to me on the screen.
Combat is excellently executed also with meaningful fights and adrenaline-fuelled battles. Aloy will mostly use a bow and arrow and although you will upgrade your weapons over time, you will always have a bow in your arsenal, however, with much more variety to combat the different enemies spread across the land.
The enemies lend incredibly well to diversifying the combat. There is a decent selection of mechanical beasts inhabiting the stunning landscape and every one of the require different approaches to best. Watchers can be taken down in a single sit but charge and throw their body at you should you get spotting. Then there are other enemies that need a special approach. You can take them head on and hope that your reaction times are good enough but risk the fight moving and attracting unwanted attention or do you go in setting traps luring them to your location, or do you use the ropecaster to tie the enemy to the ground and take advantage of its immobility. There is an excellent selection of options available to every encounter. On top of all of that, the combat feels incredibly smooth and satisfying with Aloy moving, sliding, and shooting her way around in wonderful ways. The combat is so good that you don’t mind getting spotted when trying to be stealthy.
The world in Horizon: Zero Dawn is massive and majestic in every single way. It may take around 40 hours to do everything but even then, you really wish there was more. You’ll want to know more about the world, the tribes, locations, and so much more. I’ve never played an open world game so captivating and even when it was all said and done, it occupied my mind long after the controller was put down.