Horizon Zero Dawn – Intelligent Design

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If you saw Sony’s E3 press conference this year, you probably saw the unveiling of Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn. You are Aloy, a robot hunter in a post-post apocalypse, 1000 years after the fall of humanity. Where most apocalyptic settings are shortly after civilization has failed, Horizon wants to offer the world as it would be a millennium after the fact, when nature has had opportunity to reclaim the planet. The presentation offered very little by way of explanation on the world or its history, instead presenting the mysteries as a core part of the game experience. We know that much of the fauna is robotic at this point – herds of robotic almost-deer creatures wander the world – but we have no idea where they came from, who or what created them, or why they exist at all.

With civilization being a distant memory, the remaining people have established a tribal system, living low-tech lives, but surrounded by the high tech robotic fauna. The economy in game is entirely based on the mechanical parts that can be harvested from fallen robots. You’ll need to hunt and loot robots for crafting materials (spears and arrows must be tipped with the strong metal of the robots in order to be at all effective) as well as for trading with the locals.

Horizon‘s entire visible world, from the plains to the distant mountain landscape, are said to be explorable. The presentation was largely confined to an area in the plains, but the presenter showed off the gorgeous vistas with a mountainous backdrop, stating that, were you so inclined, you could just wander directly to the distant mountains and explore the area seamlessly, with no loading or delineated zones.

The combat demo against what appeared to be a boss monster of sorts was absolutely fascinating. The creature, “Thunderjaw,” was massive in scale, being many times the size of the character, apparently measuring 30 feet tall and 80 feet long. It was equipped with several different weapons, allowing it to make a dozen different attacks, which keeps combat interesting at pretty much all times. Dozens of destroyable armor plates protect various weak points making it essential that you plan each attack to maximize your effectiveness. Targeting a single armor plate until it is destroyed, revealing the weak spot, seems to be imperative to taking down the beast. A particularly interesting mechanic comes with the larger weapons on the monster. The shoulder-mounted disc launchers can be shot off Thunderjaw’s body, picked up by the character, and then used against the behemoth.
With a huge emphasis on the mystery of the world, its inhabitants, and its history, Horizon certainly has significant appeal to the story-seekers out there. The combat’s focus on strategy and tactics over brute force also offers something a little bit off the beaten path, though certainly presents a great opportunity for frustration among players that might be less interested in repeated attempts to take down a boss.

Horizon Zero Dawn is currently slated for a 2016 release on PS4, so stay tuned for more information in the coming months.

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