REVIEW: Horizon Zero Dawn is a wanderlust wonder for the ages

Who would have thought the end of the world could look this beautiful?

When I saw the trailer for Horizon Zero Dawn during E3 2015, I was a little apprehensive. It was, after all, another game set in a post-apocalyptic world. The market was being flooded with these games in recent years, much like the zombie games were the go-to theme of the 2000’s. Yet over the next year, my doubts were slowly but surly fading away. This was going to be one helluva game. Finally, February 28th 2017 came along and I got my hands on this highly anticipated PS4 exclusive. After putting a little over 10 hours into this game, and losing both sleep and meals, I have enough to give my review on one of the most anticipated PS4 games of 2017.

Use your Focus to find enemy weak points.

Horizon Zero Dawn’s story isn’t as good as I hoped but isn’t boring either. Left on the doorstep, or rather hut step of an outcast named Rost, he raises little Aloy and trains her to win the Proving so she can join the Nora tribe and be an outcast no longer. There was a familiarity to this (mentor and pupil form a bond and become like family) and I saw a few cliche elements in the story, but luckily, the main character was likable enough to keep my attention. I could have done without the religious overtones but I guess it fits within the setting. The would has been overthrown by the “All-Mother” and machines run rampant across the world. It’s a premise that works and is different than most of the post-apocalyptic games of the past. Aloy is also on a quest to find out who her mother is since she was branded an outcast because she was motherless as a baby. As I said, I’m not finished with the story but I like what I’ve seen so far.

It seems like the only people that survived the apocalypse were Starbucks baristas and Andrew Christian underwear models.

What really grabbed my attention were the graphics. Guerrilla Games really pushed the PS4 hardware to the limit with Horizon. From the facial animations of both the protagonist Aloy as well as the NPCs to the dynamic weather, this game is beautiful to look at. Speaking of beautiful, I have to mention the character models in this game… with an emphasis on models. It seems like the only people that survived the apocalypse were Starbucks baristas and Andrew Christian underwear models. Never in all my years of gaming have I wanted to bone a computer generated character as much as I want to bone all the young guys in Horizon Zero Dawn. I had to imagine Kellyanne Conway in a two-piece just to keep myself from messing my pants.

Who watches The Watchers?

After I calmed down and focused on the rest of the characters, they were incredibly detailed with skin flaws, scars, and warpaint. I did notice some floating heads and limbs while the body textures loaded, but it was only for a split second. The environments were highly detailed as well with many different outdoor locals like forests, desert canyons, and snowy glaciers. There are also a smattering of ancient “ruins” throughout the landscape; old dilapidated buildings and skyscrapers from the modern world as well as a few rusted out cars and traffic lights. Everything feels like it belongs in this world that was taken back by nature. That is until you enter the dungeons (called “Cauldrons” in game) and it feels like you’re going to be attacked from the shadows by a Xenomorph at any moment. These dark high-tech “caves” serve as a reminder that this is a sci-fi game.

The music score was just a bit underwhelming for me. I love video game music but nothing has really impressed me yet. Not that the music isn’t great. It does set the tone for the game and shifts seamlessly to a heart-pounding combat theme when you’re trying to take down one of the many mechanized beasts. As far as the voice acting goes, it has actually surprised me that the voices both match their characters and have a nice variety of voice actors for a game this size. I was expecting the same voice to come out of many NPCs the way games like Skyrim do. I hate it when I talk to two different people (who are usually standing next to each other) and I hear the same voice coming out of their mouths. I have yet to find that in Horizon.

Commander Shepard would be proud of this dialogue wheel.

The dialog choices in this game are reminiscent to games like Mass Effect with a dialogue wheel to choose different options to say to NPCs. You are even given different moral choices in some instances. You can choose between an aggressive attitude, a merciful and sensitive demeanor, or you can go about things the smart and logical way. I haven’t noticed if these three different dialogue options affect the overall story or just a few interactions here and there. Only time will tell.

The controls are easy to learn and you never have to go into a menu screen while in combat. You can heal, craft, and equip all with a few button presses. My only gripe is with the camera, but I’ve gotten used to bad cameras in video games. It seems to be the norm. You can hide in tall grass to stay hidden from enemies… but Aloy’s head sticks up above the grass. Either these enemies are blind or just idiots. The AI can be brutal one moment and the next it can be dumber than a drunk twink at White Party. I still had a good time luring beasts and baddies over to me and striking them down with a one-hit-kill stealth attack. You can kill enemies for components and trinkets that can be sold to merchants for either metal scraps (the game’s form of currency and main crafting material) or you can trade the rarer items for better weapons and armor. You can attach mods to your gear to make a more powerful weapon or defend yourself from attacks.

Giant robot spiders are no match for Aloy on her trusty steed… er… steer.

The map is ginormous with many different zones, villages, and ruins to explore. I’m 10 hours in and I haven’t even made it halfway across the map. You don’t have to travel by foot either. After a few story missions you acquire the ability to tame beats and use them as mounts or as battle companions. You have to sneak up on them first though. You also have many different types of weapons at your disposal. You have your standard bow and arrow for ranged attacks, a spear for melee combat, you can purchase a tripwire to surprise the bigger beasts, a slingshot for lobbing explosives at your foes, a crude machine gun-like weapon, and you can get a device to tether your enemies to one place so you can chip away at their health from a distance. I have used all of these techniques in battle… especially during the bigger boss fights.

Overall, this is a beautiful game with a huge map to explore, beasts to hunt, resources to gather, and side quests to take. It’s not perfect but it is the best game on the system so far. I look forward to what Geurrilla Games has in store for us next!


If the camera didn't spaz out, the story wasn't a little predictable, and if the music had more to offer, I would have given this a 10/10. At least I have all of these hot guys to stare at.














  • J.W. Moore

    Editor/Columnist/Retro Game Afficianado

    J.W. has been gaming since he got his first NES on his 5th birthday. Since then, his love of video games has only gotten stronger. An avid collector of video games, he owns everything from the Atari to the Xbox One. With over 1000 console games and just as many PC games, his love for gaming continues to grow.

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