Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition

Well, there were a ridiculous amount of great games released last year, and we’ve finally had time to confirm that Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of them. More so when you take The Frozen Wilds DLC into account; which is brilliant, hosts many improvements, and quite handily is part of the complete edition.

Horizon Silly Title stars Aloy, which sounds a little/a lot like alloy. Aloy begins her journey as a child learning from her fellow outcast and father figure, Rost. As outcasts of the Nora tribe, they have to hunt in the wilds of the Sacred Lands, but are shunned by most of the other superstitious Noras (who are not, as you might be imagining, a group of elderly ladies). Fast-forward a few years  – and about an hour or two in-game – and Aloy is all growed up and ready to prove her worth as a Nora, and find out why she was outcast as a baby. Fast-forward even more and she’s after some unruly sorts and trying to understand why the animal-like machines are attacking more and more each year.

So, Horizon’s biggest draw is fighting these machines. Great lumbering beasts made of metal, various elemental canisters, and an aggressive disposition towards humans. Don’t worry, you still get to fight squishy humans too, but your main focus is taking down various sorts of mechanical foe.

Armed mainly with a bow and arrow and a few similarly low-tech weapons (which have fairly high-tech ammunition), you’ll be able to pick apart machines price by piece. Think Monster Hunter but with more shedding of skin and far more explosive external organs. You’ll also get to harvest all these and use some of them in the creation of better equipment. Most of it will end up being sold or scrapped, as you’ll likely overestimate how much of everything you actually need, even for crafting. You can also hunt animals for resources, with their meat being of particular use in health potion making. Yum yum, meat smoothies!

Slowly dismantling the mechanised beasties is the second most delightful thing in the game. Picking off core components, or armour protecting vulnerable pieces (think Binary Domain), is almost as much fun as digging into those newly naked areas and watching the process play havoc with them. The elemental canisters are the best bits because of the wide area of effect on their explosions. There are games that do this a little better, but not by much. It’s always satisfying to be able to quickly take down machines through good knowledge of their weaknesses.

The most delightful thing is also one of its more frustrating elements at times – exploring the world. It’s a beautiful world without a doubt, especially on a PS4 Pro, but for all the exploration there is in this open world, you do spend most of that time very firmly at ground level. Specifically, we mean that you’ll mostly be walking or running about. The climbing sections are alright, but we found that they’re often quite subtly defined visually; enough so that areas that looked climbable actually weren’t, and some of those probably should have been. Then there are the faux-tense moments during a climb where jumping between two hand-holds slows everything down as though there were any chance at all of Aloy falling to her death.

There’s always plenty to do, the map shows you that there’s almost as much as any Assassin’s Creed game. Luckily most of the markers are bits of information rather than actual defined things to do. There are still a wide variety of quests to get through, many of which will be the standard ‘go here and kill some things’, but there are some more investigative quests that’ll at least catch your attention narratively. It’s when you go into the expansion that these go from good to great.

Everything is done to a “realistic” level graphically. We encountered many issues in the Nora area, where things took a very uncanny valley vibe, as mouth movements have next to nothing to do with the words spoken. This was very jarring, and made it really difficult to get into the story. After leaving the Nora Lands it seemed to clear up and become a non-issue, but the Frozen Wilds is where the developer really began to pull out all the stops. The rigid and very stationary character model acting is replace with much more movement, which makes the characters feel much more alive. The second half of the main game is by no means bad for not having this, but the expansion’s extra polish is definitely on another level. Both have some phenomenal voice acting, but it shines all the brighter in the expansion with its more expressive animations.

It’s very easy to recommend. It’s a delight from start to finish and, while there were some small hitches along the way, it never made us think much less of the game. Animation issues aside there’s simply nothing that’s straight-up bad. Everything we had issues with in the main game were either addressed, or at least improved upon, in the expansion. The Frozen Wilds are very much the dessert to the main course that is the original game; it’s better in almost every way, including a more focussed story. Though it’s also substantially more difficult.

If you have even the slightest interest, get it, it’s a very likeable game. It gives a plethora of options too, so if you’re only in it for the story then pick that mode for less and easier combat. If you’re all about the tough fights, then the higher difficulties will serve you well. Should that not be enough, then there’s New Game + with even higher difficulties. Whatever your preference, it doesn’t change the fact that it was one of last year’s best games.

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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