It’s only March and 2017 has already proven to be a stellar year for games, hopefully it keeps up. Last week, Horizon: Zero Dawn launched as well as a new The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the Nintendo Switch.
I managed to get a copy of both games and what happened next was a fight for attention. Both games are similar in a few ways: open world structure, protagonists with bows, an underlying mystery that is waiting to be solved, and the list goes on. But they each try to accomplish different things in ways I didn’t think I would enjoy.
I’ll start with Horizon because it’s the one that is really taking up my time and my affection.
Horizon takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. Not something immediate like The Last of Us or entries in the Fallout series but say, oh I don’t know, 1,000 years later where civilization is in ruins and humans have somehow gone back to being cavemen. The world is now dominated by robotic creatures that have taken the form of many prehistoric and savage animals. The open world contains many collectibles and side quests players can find as a way to uncover the mysteries surrounding these machines. Of course, following the main path will probably answer some questions as well but Horizon offers a type of collectible called ‘Vantages’ that show off the past in an interesting way. I was running around this forested area full of debris when I noticed a weird purple light emitting from the ground. Upon scanning it a hologram appeared in front of me and it showed off what I assumed was a stadium as it once stood many years ago. Then, a voice recording started to play of a guy detailing his time there. When the recording and hologram were closed I took another good look at forested area and realized I had been running through a derelict city for some time. I could see rusted cars, street lights, and destroyed buildings all covered with plant life. It was a lot to take in and since then with every new area I walk through I have to give it a few seconds to figure out what the environment might have looked like 1,000 years ago.
And that is just one of the many collectibles in the game that slowly uncover the mysteries of the old world. I spent thirty minutes looking for another collectible only to find out it was a cup! A stupid cup. I was so enraged by that I didn’t even bother to read the description if it had one.
But if I’m not scouring the world looking for stuff, I’m hunting…or being hunted. I think there are a total of 26 mechanical beasts in the game, I’ve seen/fought/been killed by 23 of them. These beasts range from the small Watcher which I think is the equivalent of a Compsognathus to the massive Thunderjaws (Tyrannosaurus Rex) and Stormbirds (mechanized versions of the legendary Thunderbird). These beasts are designed in such a way that almost seem comparable to their real life counterparts. Each one has to be handled in a way that makes running up and pelting them with arrows a very poor choice. In Horizon you are encouraged to exploit their weak points. Shooting them will cripple the enemy and in the case of knocking off a weapon from them, will prevent them from firing at you. Extremely useful if you want to stay alive against the larger foes.
Last night I was making my way to a nearby bandit camp but I stopped when I noticed a pair of Longlegs (human size Roosters) and a Lancehorn (cattle with an attitude). To the left of me there was a lake and on the other side of the lake were three Snapmaws (giant Crocodiles) minding their own business. I could go for either robot first but I prioritized the Longlegs as they have this screech move that can immobilize Aloy for a few seconds. Longlegs have weak points on their wings and chest. The first Longleg went down without a real fight but to be fair, I got a sneak attack on it. The Lanehorn began to charge at me but I remembered that shooting its horns can disorient them. I shot both off and it fell to the ground where I used the ropecaster to tie it down, temporarily immobilizing it. Now, the final Longleg was doing that dumb screech I mentioned above and I was not having any of it so I shot it…a lot, I didn’t care what I hit just as long as it stopped with the screeching. Each arrow that made contact with the robot Rooster moved it closer to the lake, I thought nothing of it. Until a Snapmaw appeared, grabbed the Longleg with its teeth and dragged it to the bottom of the lake. I guess it wasn’t having any of that noise either.
And that was just one of many encounters I’ve had with the robots in this game. I have watched as the robots have fought each other until they noticed me then, in some weird robo-agreement, they put aside their differences and try to kill me.
Fifteen hours into Horizon: Zero Dawn and I am still finding ways to be enamored by this open world, the collectibles, and the dangerous inhabitants that run loose. I haven’t enjoyed an open world like this since…uh, Spider-Man 2 maybe?
Once I put more time in Breath of the Wild expect to hear my thoughts on the way that game tackles its open world.