Horizon Zero Dawn was definitely one my highlights of last year’s E3. Unveiled at the Sony conference, the game showed a futuristic world set 1000 years in the future. There was a twist though. The human race, instead of being neck-deep in advanced technology, had gone back to more natural, nomadic way of living. Technology is actually dead for the most part, and society as we know it, has changed drastically.
The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is a wild place, where skyscrapers have either crumbled to dust, or been consumed by nature to form abandoned, lumbering green structures. Animals have changed too. They still follow the rules laid out by the circle of life (see: The Lion King), but they’re a little more…robotic.
It’s no wonder Horizon Zero Dawn captivated me from its very first showing. Who wouldn’t want to explore a world like that? It’s one filled with danger, mechanised enemies, and unusual weapons. Needless to say, I headed into my behind closed doors session at this year’s E3, eager get a small taste of what I might expect come February 2017.
What I didn’t know about Horizon Zero Dawn to be perfectly honest, is that it had a deep RPG system. I expected some light elements of the genre to be sparse throughout the game to be sure, but from what I saw, the mechanics are actually quite complex.
The demonstration starts off in a village – a hub where quests and shops can be found. Our heroine, Aloy, enters it, and proceeds to have a conversation with one of the storekeepers.
When it starts, she is presented with multiple options for conversation. The developer walking us through the demo tells us that players can choose to get to the point if they wish. If they explore the various topics of conversation however, they’ll be able to flesh out not only the lore, but also find out other important titbits of information, such as a creature’s weakness for example.
During the chat, Aloy accepts a quest. She then does some shopping, and based on what she heard, equips herself accordingly (for a price). It was here that I spotted the promise of Horizon Zero Dawn’s RPG system.
There are lots of choices to be made. What weapon should Aloy pick to be most effective? What ammo type should she equip to do the most damage? On top of this, what modification should be selected to optimise the overall build? One for example, will improve her range, while another will aid in tearing through armour.
As if that wasn’t already enough to choose from, Aloy can also equip different outfits, that each come with pros and cons. The one we were shown was weak against freeze attacks, but it was great for fighting corrupted machines, and lowered damage from projectiles and poison attacks.
As you can gather, there’s quite a nice level of complexity in Horizon Zero Dawn. It shows out in the world too. At one point in the demo, after Aloy had left the village, she encountered a shell-walker. It was too high level to be killed, but the loot on its back is valuable, and well worth the fight.
Aloy attacks the creature, and manages to dislodge the cargo it carries. She quickly grabs what’s needed (components that are later used to build a trap), and covers her retreat with the smart use of a concussion arrow.
Would it have been possible to kill the shell-walker? According the the developer, yes. It would have just required a lot more work, and some forward planning however.
I really like this about Horizon Zero Dawn. In many other RPGs, seeing any high level creature is reason to run. Here though, it’s not wise to face them yes, but if a player chooses to, it’s entirely possible (to an extent I’m sure). Besides, it’s not like the kill is needed – that hit and run tactic I saw to grab loot worked beautifully.
I would be interested to see if that very same tactic is applicable to other creatures. I don’t think it would be explicitly per se, but I imagine that each foe has some weakness that can be exploited in a similar way. That weapon that shoots into the enemy and pins them to the ground for example, could maybe be used to down others for just long enough to grab what’s needed.
I loved what I saw in my preview session. I entered thinking that Horizon Zero Dawn was a very cool looking third-person action title with light RPG elements. After having a closer look however, I now know that is possesses a lot more depth than I originally expected.
This makes me very happy, and has me extra excited. Where there’s loot, there’s happiness, and I can’t wait to find lots of it when the game ships early next year.
Last Updated: June 20, 2016