Come for the Game Play, Stay for the Story
Humanity has reverted back into a primitive, tribal way of life. Lush vegetation has conquered tattered ruins of what was once our thriving cities. Mechanical beasts that resemble creatures of prehistoric times roam the lands. This is Earth now and we follow Aloy, a charmingly strong-willed redhead, on her journey to understanding her existence and how she fits the mold of this world, with the many faces she’ll meet along the way. Some less memorable than others. But I’m more forgiving in this regard as your main focus is the development of Aloy. The ones that truly matter and affects her the most are well done. I’d be more disappointed if none of the characters you meet added the least bit of color to your adventures. To date, I don’t know of any console game that is as visually stunning as Horizon Zero Dawn especially if you have a system that can run it in its rendered 4k.
The story may be at first, slow, but the aesthetics of the environment that the game walks you through is distracting enough that you really won’t notice. After about 2 or so hours in, the story picks up, piling on more questions to the questions you already have to grip your curiosity. It is an open world and, as such, offers many distractions. The game, however, delivers enough sense of urgency that you are compelled to stay focused and not wildly distracted like you would be in oh–Skyrim, for instance. Depending on one’s efficiency, that main quest line can be finished in 30-40 or so hours.
Of course, there are dangers lurking beyond that hill cresting the sunset; most of which will be machines. Perhaps some bandits roaming the trails looking for their next meal. Fear not, Aloy is trained in range combat with various bows, slings, traps, wires, and ropes along with a spear should the fight come close. A wide enough array of strategies can be employed against different types of enemies. What worked for your current adversary may not dent your next challenge. You can approach situations stealthily if a more frontal assault is not to your style. There are plenty of patches of tall grass to ambush unsuspecting robotic lizards from. It is refreshing and keeps the game from going stale too soon out of sheer repetitiveness–something that plagues a lot of action RPG’s of late. You can even arm yourself with weapons torn off from certain enemies.
Usually, games with aesthetics of this caliber, fall short on either combat system or storytelling. Guerrilla games exceeded expectations, if not lived up to the hype, with this game; especially for their first title that is not their usual genre. But it’s not all praises and accolades for Horizon Zero dawn. The game offers little to no incentive at all in terms of replayability. Everything can be achieved in this game, from the plethora collections of data logs entry to enrich oneself in deeper lore of this world, to sidequests, ultimate equipment, and trophies in the first playthrough. Unless you want to just have another go at the storyline to see how NPC’s would react through different dialogue options but that is really nothing a quick “save and reload” trick couldn’t remedy. That is not to say, you can’t continue your adventure after the main storyline. By all means, go out and hunt more challenges. Parkour your way above mesas and cliff tops and take a moment to enjoy and immerse yourself in Horizon Zero Dawn’s breathtaking vistas, if nothing else.
So, buy or rent? This one really boils down to personal choice. I’ve come to love collecting the games I play. This may have been influenced by the fact that I work a lot and my time is stretched thin between that, family, and life in general. I like the convenience of having my copy, digital or otherwise, ready to pop in for some play whenever I get a bit of free time. As I’ve mentioned before, the main storyline itself can be done in 30-40 something hours. If you have a long 3-4 day weekend saved up, you can easily binged play through this. But with quality this good, best to make room for it on your shelf.