Mar 25, 2017

07: Open World done right

Back wen Horizon: Zero Dawn was first announced I was sceptical about it. Part because I´m always sceptical when it comes to so called AAA games, part because it is the first Open World game from Guerilla Games and part because I don´t like most Open World games. You can blame Ubi Soft for at 2 least of these reasons. I still picked it up on day one because I liked Guerilla´s Killzone Series and because Horizon´s unique mix of primitive Tribes and high-tech machinery looked very interesting to me. And I´m really happy that I did play the game because in my opinion it turned out to be one of the best games ever made. I´m not joking here, Horizon is one of these rare games that hooked me right from the beginning in a way that I just had to finish it ASAP, heck, I even cared enough to get all of those stupid Trophies. Yeah, making a better Open World game than Ubi Soft is probably not that hard to do and having the combat being focused on ranged weapoms helps to keep at least me interested. Ever since I first played Turok 2 back on the N64 I really enjoy using Bow´s in Videogames, and your main tools of destruction are indeed a variety of Bows. Yes, Horizon isn´t without flaws, but most of it is leaning towards the territory of nitpicking. One of these Nitpicks is, shockingly enough, the basic Story setup.

Don´t get me wrong, the Story is presented in a very interesting way because neither the player character, Aloy, nor anyone else knows who the "old ones" where, why there are these machines and why they are a threat to humans. Probably everyone who has seen a couple of Sci-Fi movies can easily guess that humanity itself created the machines, screwed up in the process and the machines took the world over. And while this Story setup isn´t exactly anything new, the execution of it is still amazing and there are even a few twists and turns thrown in for good measure. In Addition to uncovering history you have to deal with religious extremists and prejudices. A lot. If you feel like taking a break you can always play one of the mostly really well done Sidequests, I only really disliked the majority of everything that has to do with the Hunters Lodge because it felt mor like busywork than actualy doing something worth your time, and the only reason this sticks out so much is because unlike Ubi Soft´s Open World Games Horizon isn´t filled with truckloads of busywork. Other than the Main- and Sidequests you can do some optional content like climbing the Tallnecks (these huge Giraffe-like machines) to uncover the map faster, clear out Bandit Camps and Corrupted Zones to make travel safer, enter the Cauldrons to be able to override more machines (override turns machines friendly for a while and they will fight against other machines) or do the busywork of grabbing all the collectibles.

Luckily the world itself isn´t stupidly large for the sake of being stupidly large, it actualy feels like a fairly small-ish map for an Open World game, however when not using the fast travel system you are mostly traveling on foot. And you have to visit a place once before you can use the fast travel to that location. You visit deserts, a dense jungle, snowy mountains and areas that will remind you Northern Mythologies by just looking at them, so all your landscape bases are covered here and everything is insanely beautiful.  The Soundtrack while being really good lacks any really memorable pieces. I could listen to any piece of music from the game right now and I probably wouldn´t even know that it even is from Horizon, but that´s a problem that I happen to have with a lot of more modern games. What is a bit unusal is the Photo Mode that is implemented into the game. Outside of Racing games I very rarely, if ever, see any sort of dedicated tool for Screenshots. And it is a mighty powerful tool at that. at any point during gameplay that is outside of cities or settlements you can make full use of all features, you can move the camera around, change the FOV, decide weather or not you whant a dept of field, adjust the focal plane and what f-stop to use (yes, they use some proper Photography-terms here), play around with exposure settings and various filters and it even gives you control over the daytime so you don´t have to wait for the proper lighting to make your Screenshot extra cool. This is all the proof I need to whant this in each and every game now.

One of the weakest things about Horizon are the pointless crafting and Skilltree "features". You can craft pretty much all consumables you may or may not need during the game, this ranges from multiple ammunition types to traps and potions, but I don´t see the point of even having this when the gaming is throwing out so much crafting recources that you have unlimited acces to everything. At that point you might as well lock the traps & potions behind cooldowns after being used and make the ammo capacity bigger and make the player buy them from merchants or at least make the recources more limited. Skilltrees can be a great way to offer different gameplay styles if done right, however when the game throws at least a dozen possible skillpoints more at you than you will ever need to unlock all skills the whole system becomes useless. If you happen to have a PS4 you should own this game, It´s a really great experience and probably the strongest new IP in recent years and I think that every gamer that complains about most games being sequels should support this game to show that we whant new IP´s,