Going into Horizon Zero Dawn, I had no idea what to expect. Guerrilla Games has always been known as the Killzone team, and Horizon Zero Dawn was the developers first attempt to making an open-world game.
Their pervious title Killzone Shadow Fall, whilst being a gorgeous game to look at, felt like nothing more than a tech demo for the PS4. And any buzz of Horizon Zero Dawn I would hear always seemed to compare it to other Ubisoft open-world titles. At which point, I had to ask myself if we really needed another open-world game in a market that is so oversaturated with them. However, what Guerrilla Games delivered, I believe, is the bar that most basic open-world games should strive for even if it is pushed in for marketing reasons.
Horizon Zero Dawn does feel Ubisoft-esque (You’ll really get an Assassin Creed and Far Cry vibe from the game), but instead of filling the game with a large to-do list, Horizon Zero Dawn trims the fat by giving a reason and a much more satisfying award for exploring the world and interacting with other characters.
A great example of this is the Hunters Lodge missions. If you decide to do some of the trials at any of the scattered Hunting Grounds, before reaching Meridian, you’ll be told about the Hunters Lodge and what the Sun Marks (the things you’re trying to achieve in these trials) mean to that society. After reaching Meridian, you’ll have the option to join the Hunters Lodge. Doing so will introduce you to Talanah and the Hunters Lodge side-quest arc which, after completing them all, has a small but helpful effect in the end game.
The same goes for the Hunting Grounds that are tied to that society. If you complete each trial and score the best score, not only will you be award with a sweet trophy, but you’ll also earn unique weapons to add to your arsenal. Let’s be honest, earning your weapons is more satisfying than buying them.
A lot of Horizon Zero Dawn’s collectibles and side-quest have that satisfying impact of feeling like you’re building up to something and seeing the result play out in the game. Which, in my opinion, feel like is missing in a lot of other modern open-world games. Most other open-world games always feel like they’re big for the sake of being big, and are then filled with junk that doesn’t lead to anything after collecting them all; other than maybe a trophy.
Horizon Zero Dawn focuses on detail and provides the player with a condense experience, instead of a 50 hour collect fest. And after seeing the ending, I honestly can’t wait to see where the world and story of Horizon Zero Dawn goes in future installments. I just hope it doesn’t fall victim to its contemporaries’ flaws.