Part Time Gamer, Horizon Zero Dawn

[TL;DR]

PROS:

  • Strong female lead. As a guy, this seems odd to list as my top Pro. But as the dad of two daughters I really hope they end up playing this game some day because of the light it shines on gender injustice and how to combat it with grace.
  • Strategic combat system. You never run in guns blazing, nearly every encounter requires tact and forethought to be successful.
  • Strategic combat progression. Not your typical "level up and hit things harder" RPG. As you progress your enemies become more complex and and your toolkit becomes more expansive.
  • Great storyline. Movie quality stuff over here.

CONS:

  • Side quests are so deep and expansive that you can get caught up in them. Most would consider this a pro, but I got overwhelmed with the amount and ended up ditching them to pursue the main storyline.

[RANT]

Out of the gate let me just say this is easily one of the greatest games of 2017. Graphics are 10/10, the story is captivating and unfolds in such a natural way. Side quests are fleshed out in such an engaging manner. Combat is based around increasing strategy through options rather than "hit em' with a bigger sword" like most other RPGs. That's pretty much it, but if you want to go deep then keep reading - otherwise go buy this game immediately.

You can really tell when a game has been thought out from beginning to end. Usually within the first hour of a game you'll have a feel for the quality and play style that you're in for. So my wife was out of town for a few days so I decided to play through the first hour of Horizon: Zero Dawn and go to bed at a decent hour. Yeah, that didn't happen. I was a zombie at work the next day with every spare thought focused on the complete destruction of mechanical beasts.

Aloy vs. Sawtooth

Science, Religion, and Equality

You control a strong female lead named Aloy whose story opens with a primitive tribe surrounded by wildly futuristic technology. From the very beginning the tribe seems to worship this unknown technology as a god and you soon realize there may be more to this world outside of these tiny walls.

As Aloy travels along you're constantly making decisions that place emphasis on a wide variety of topics. Some of the most prevalent themes are the benefits, drawbacks, and overlaps to Science and Religion, and the equal treatment of women. Trying to blur the line of ethics when technology goes too far, finding strength and hope in religion during strong adversity – all in a compelling and interactive way.

As the father of two daughters the first thing I noticed was how Aloy was actually dressed for her mission and not blatantly hyper sexualized and half naked like most female characters are in games. This trend continues when, as a male player, I was highly confused when people were hitting on her in the game and felt weird having to brush them off. Seeing how objectifying and weird it makes you feel was pretty eye opening.

There are also numerous times where male characters will talk around Aloy, or about her as if she isn't even there. A few times I noticed characters getting called out for treating Aloy like a lesser individual just for being a woman. I think extreme feminism and being offended by every little thing is a bit obnoxious, but this game does a fantastic job of paralleling inequalities in a subtle but obvious way that made me excited for my girls to grow up and play this game some day.

Aloy v. Mech Falcon

Slow-Mo Raptor Headshots, need I say more?

I have played more RPGs in my life than I can even count. Like, a sickening amount. For a long time the traditional turn-based JRPG smack-fest was enough for me, but as technology progressed and the market got more and more saturated, I craved something different from my games – strategy.

Never have I played a game like Horizon where you progress and instead of simply getting stronger you gain more options and your enemies do too. You can decide between a stealth approach, going in guns blazing, laying the smackdown with a spear, capping enemies from afar with a variety of specialized arrows and bombs, or, my personal favorite, scouting out your enemies and laying a series of intricate traps that they inevitably will fall into.

This variety in play style is what kept the game interesting encounter after encounter. Not to mention the use of slow-motion/bullet-time whenever you were jumping or sliding. It led to many moments of tightly gripping the controller as you slide underneath a pouncing mech only to fire an arrow into it's weak spot and close out a battle. Then you sigh as Aloy heals up and happily move on to the next one.

Again?

10/10 would play again. They just confirmed DLC for this winter!

 
Shut up and take my money
 

Evan Lemmons

Lemmons Creative LLC, Alpharetta, Georgia, USA

Husband, father, musician, gamer.