E3 2015 – Horizon Zero Dawn: beyond post-apocalyptic

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Sony had two unannounced titles to reveal during their E3 conference. Horizon: Zero Dawn had an incredible trailer with gameplay and is based on a really interesting premise. I got to meet with the guys from Guerrilla Games and they took me through some more detail of the game. It is stunningly gorgeous, and looks like a game I need to own.

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Horizon is an open world adventure RPG. It is set in the far distant future; the developers were tired of the way games explore a post-apocalyptic landscape in the traditional way. Instead, they are looking at what happens after the usual struggle within the cities; Horizon takes place one or two thousand years after the apocalypse. As a result, in the same way that we might know about the ruins in Egypt or other parts of the world but don’t know what life was like for those people, this game is so far in the future that humanity can’t really fathom what life was like for us.

In this new time, humans aren’t the dominant species; the robots are. The game follows the story of Aloy, a hunter gatherer. She is the only playable character and can’t be customised too much to change her basic look. The developers wanted to tell her story specifically, and in the same way that Geralt can only be customised so much in The Witcher, Aloy can’t really be changed past a certain point in Horizon.

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As a hunter gatherer, Aloy will need to gather resources for crafting. For example, she can craft explosive or electrical arrows for her bow. However, these are really hard to get enough resources to make, so use of these arrows is only when really necessary and not to be wasted.

Aloy has two main weapons, her bow and her rope caster. The bow fires various kinds of arrows, while the rope caster is about setting traps. Of course these can be used in all sorts of combinations; she can put down explosive trip wires and heard enemies into them or she can use ropes to slow down baddies, making her normal arrows’ armour piercing less unwieldy in the heat of the moment. It’s all about creativity as Aloy can use the environment as well as a combination of attacks to take down all manner of beasts. These combinations aren’t taught in the tutorial – its up to the player to figure out what works for them and how they want to pursue a specific play style.

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Crafting is obviously important for making weapons and armour. There are two kinds of crafting systems. Quick craft will allow players to essentially just replenish what’s already in supply and known how to make. The deeper crafting is a more details interface that shows possible things to be crafted as well as where to find the necessary resources to make something new.

As an open world game, the horizon truly is open to players. The idea is that if you can see it on the map, you can go there. So, if you want to hunt wild beasts on the nearby mountain, you can get there. If, however, you see some water on the horizon and see if there’s a different biome in the distance, you can move off in that direction. There are even some survival aspects to the game (although I could get details about that). The scale of the game is staggering and it’s all about giving the player a lot of freedom in that regard, while obviously still having an overarching story. That said, the developer did nod and smile when I said that some players might just enjoy the hunting and gather aspect so much that they do way more of that before moving on with the story.

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They weren’t talking a lot about the story in the demo – obviously they need to save some more cool information for upcoming conferences. That said, they could tell me that the story is character driven and that players will be able to make choices that impact the outcomes. There will be a branching dialogue tree, plus depending on side activities that players take on the main storyline could have some different elements.

Horizon Zero Dawn is a PS4 exclusive that truly is visually stunning. Even seeing it again, I couldn’t get over how gorgeous those robotic dinosaurs (or whatever they’re called) looked. Each creature has such unique design and is spectacular to behold. When I asked the developers about their inspiration for the aesthetic, they explained that they love the Studio Ghibli films such as Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke. If that’s where they drew some inspiration, I’m even more excited to hear more about this unique game that feels like something completely different on the market. Plus, I’m curious about Aloy and can’t wait to find out more about her story.

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I like the look and feel of the game the most. It’s an open world adventure game unlike any that we’ve seen. While there are some familiar elements, it feels distinctly different and unfamiliar, which I really like. The fact that it’s gorgeous and features a bow-wielding protagonist definitely piques my interest that much more.

Last Updated: June 18, 2015

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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