Halogen is back with a guest post:
How many more post-apocalyptic RPG overrun by robots could we possibly handle? Can you think of a less original idea? Probably, but still, it’s a pretty overused idea. However, imagine playing a game with any sort of washed up theme such as that, and then imagine it blowing your mind all the same. Imagine this game, regardless of maybe saying, “What? ANOTHER post apocalyptic RPG?”, has totally enthralled and captivated you. Somehow, Horizon Zero Dawn has done just that.
Sure, battling robots feels like old news, but Horizon Zero Dawn lets the player explore this old idea in very new ways. Here’s how.
The plot is unique while still feeling familiar. I often become so engrossed in the tribal elements of this game, such as hunting, crafting, protecting this tribe from that tribe, that I forget that there’s a much, much, much bigger theme going on here. Even the robots that you constantly fight feel so naturally animalistic, that you forget that there’s a huge sci-fi driven plot to this game. So when you’re hit with new information regarding the bigger sci-fi story, it hits you hard. What happened? Where did these robots come from? Why are the robots suddenly blood lusting? What happened to humanity to divide us into tiny tribes that hunt and forage for food?
In many RPGs, I feel like there are serious issues with plot pacing and keeping the player’s interest in the big picture. Usually, I find myself getting very bored of fighting, for what feels like forever, without any plot payoffs. In Horizon, the pacing feels perfect- urgent, but not rushed. My palms are always sweating, my heart is often racing, but I never feel like I’ve been thrown into something that I haven’t been at least a little bit prepared for. Don’t get me wrong, this game isn’t easy, but it’s also designed in a way to set you up for success. There is never a struggle without an appropriate pay-off.
Also, in most RPGs, you are really restricted by whichever class of fighter you choose to become ( i.e. a warrior, a ranger, an assassin, a warlock), but in Horizon, you can be all of it. Actually, you HAVE to be all of it. Within a single battle, a player will likely have to use strategy, stealth, and some good old fashion bashing and smashing to get through it all. And generally, it’s just you. All alone in the big unknown world. And after ever battle, you feel very, very cool.
Let me elaborate on the combat. Generally, the player will fighting mostly these robots, which are very well designed. Not only do they look awesome, they move and perform in unique and terrifying ways. Each robot enemy has a weak point of some kind that is element specific, such as fire, ice, or sheer force. This kind of enemy allows for a large variety of strategic approaches. You could, for example, use one machines’ large tank of flammable gasses attached to its back as a large explosive to damage surrounding enemies. Handy, right? Not always. Some of the more challenging machines have well hidden or heavily armored weak points, but with the kind of flexible combat in this game, any kind of strategic approach is possible.
I would be crazy not to mention the vastness of this game. It’s a riot to stick to the main quests, but this game simply goes on forever. You can go wherever, do whatever, but do so at your own risk. I find it easy to wander around aimlessly while simply admiring the majesty of this big world. Every mountain top is stunning, the weather is constantly changing, the sunsets bring tears to my eyes. And as Aloy, you look natural and cool moving around this world- your movements look natural and smooth. All of this with very minimal glitching. All in all, I tip my hat to the developers of this heavenly world they’ve created.
Alright, let’s talk about Aloy, the character that you must play. One of the best parts of RPGs is your ability to design a rad character just for you. I can spend hours adjusting the features of my characters just for fun. So, being forced to play a character was a bit of a bummer for me, but as soon as they introduce a young Aloy to you, share a glimpse into her backstory, and give you a quick demonstration on how much of a badass she is, I was more than happy to play as Aloy. Additionally, let’s consider the history of female leads in video games. Often times, if you must be a female character, you are a sexy trope of some kind or another. Which, for me, as a woman, is an embarrassment. Do you know how humiliating it is to be choosing armor for your character, and the old heavy breast plate they have for your female character offers only nipple protection? Get real. So on the subject of Aloy, I am not only relieved, but 100% pumped to be playing as a woman who is relatable, badass, smart, and funny. And I like her because she is really a person while still being a combat goddess. She isn’t some game designer’s sexy fantasy with some fighting skills to boot.
Conclusion? This game is rad. The combat is sick, the story is unique while being familiar, and Aloy is my new favorite hero.