My Game of the Year: Horizon Zero Dawn

Alright, so now that I’ve criticized Breath of the Wild for being game of the year from certain people. I’ll talk about what I think deserves game of the year:

Horizon Zero Dawn.

No spoilers.

I never played any of the developers, Guerrilla Games, games before. With Mass Effect Andromeda coming out in March and then Persona 5 coming out in April, I thought there would be no way I’d find a game better than either of those two games. I was absolutely enamored with the Mass Effect trilogy and I couldn’t wait for a new chapter in the series. That was a big let down. I loved Persona 4 Golden on the PlayStation Vita and thought Persona 5 would be this year’s game to beat. (It still may be, I never finished it.) Sony’s first-party software, Horizon Zero Dawn, immersed you in an amazing world filled with robot dinosaurs to hunt, track, and kill. You hunted those robot dinosaurs with dynamic and interesting main character, while an at least interesting story drove you to finish the game alongside some lesser side characters.

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I’ll be the first to admit that Horizon Zero Dawn has some flaws. My two main concerns are the story being only interesting and the side characters not really adding too much to the game overall.

However, aside from those two things, Horizon Zero Dawn is fantastic.

Alright, here’s the real info about the game:

We see Alloy develop over a few years and then spend roughly 25 or 30 hours with her in a world filled with robot dinosaurs and mammals while wielding a variety of weapons from bows, ropecasters, and a steel spear. The weapons and skill systems make for an excellent combination that leads to some phenomenal combat. I tended to focus on the strength of bows from a distance, utilizing the different elements to my advantage. I was necessarily tactical as I was sneaky. There are a variety of ways to approach each fight and they will feel different depending on the enemy. You can set up traps while you learn the patterns of enemies. Or you can just run in and stab stuff. The running in and stabbing stuff probably won’t work, but you can do it. Being able to pick and choose how I want to play helps me feel involved and important in the world. Rather than being on a track to game completion, I’m focused on the moment to moment action of the game.

I have a strange affinity for combat revolving around a bow, so I was destined to enjoy Horizon Zero Dawn’s combat. With three bow types, and three, sometimes four, arrow types within those bows, there are many ways to take down enemies if you prefer to stay at range. And the range is kind of the point. The bow is Alloy’s signature weapon.

And speaking of different types, the plethora of enemies all require different strategies to be successful. For example, some enemies are weak to a specific element or specific type of arrow. Then some parts of the enemies are weak to different types of arrows. You can knock off and weaken the robot dinos by breaking parts of their bodies off. Figuring out what arrow to use with what bow and where to shoot the dinosaurs is a major part of my appreciation for the game.

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The world of Horizon Zero Dawn feels alive. I never had to worry about running or riding for too long before things happened. There’s always dinosaurs to decommission, bandits to kill, or camps to take over. The environments vary from place to place, moving from snow and dense greenery to sand and open plains. The transition from each of those areas doesn’t feel odd or out of place. I think many open world games suffer from being empty, whereas Horizon Zero Dawn does not have that issue and should be an example of a great open world game.

The game’s story and length are really well paced. I did feel like it was going on a bit too long towards the end, but I feel like that’s because I was in a hurry to beat it before the prior mentioned games released. There’s no real die down or awkward breaks in the middle of the game, which I find to be common in narrative-driven games. However, I do think the ending is a bit generic and doesn’t really create a compelling setup for a sequel, but I’m really fine with that. Endings are difficult to do, especially when you aren’t sure if you are going to get a sequel. There’s no way this game doesn’t get a sequel though.

I think If I played it now with nothing on the calendar for at least a month, I’d appreciate the game’s story a bit more.

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Alloy, the combat, and the enemies kept me coming back. I finished the original game in around 24 hours and loved every hour. I finished the Frozen Wild DLC in around 8 hours and realized this game represents the best of 2017. It wasn’t until I played the DLC that I remembered the game that fondly though. I was in denial about finishing Persona 5 in time. But, really when it comes to it. Horizon Zero Dawn is the only game that I needed to complete.

Guerrilla Games moved away from the Killzone series, a series they spent 7 years with that spanned 5 games, and onto Horizon Zero Dawn. Honestly, they nailed the transition. I think it’s sometimes difficult for developers to move on and find success with a new series again. I don’t anybody expect an open world adventure game to be this good from a shooter studio. The Guerrilla Games really deserves a lot of respect for creating this good a game.

I’d love to hear other thoughts on the “Game of the Year” talk, I’m sure I’m not alone when I talk about Horizon Zero Dawn, and I’m sure others will disagree since there’s been a ton of great games this year.

Upcoming content:

I’m going to talk about other games I’ve played this year in the following week, December 18th and 22nd, before moving on to games I’m looking forward to in 2018 to be posted on December 25th and 29th to round out the year.

Maybe, I’ll beat a game to have a review prepped for after that. We’ll see since I’ve got a bit more time before the new year.

Thanks for reading.


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