2017's open-world machine-hunting Horizon Zero Dawn now has a brand new PlayStation 5 patch so let's revisit Aloy's debut adventure.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Having recently played the phenomenal Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut, I was delighted to see that Horizon Zero Dawn was getting a PS5 upgrade of its own. However, I never played it before so I figured I'd check out the Complete Edition and let me tell you; I've been missing out on one epic adventure. In fact, Horizon Zero Dawn is rather similar to Ghost of Tsushima in that you explore a large overworld while uncovering fog, stealthily sneak around enemy-infested areas, collect materials for upgrades, and take on enemies with a mix of melee and long-range attacks. With that being said, they're still very different-feeling games yet both are undoubtedly awesome.
Anyway, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy who was exiled as a child so she takes it upon herself to figure out why. Meanwhile, the post-apocalyptic lands are inhabited by vicious machines that kill any human on sight. So, Aloy trains hard to become a powerful warrior in order to traverse the lands and prove her worth. Along the journey, you'll meet plenty of helpful NPCs as well as bandits who enslave the machines and have a cult-like mindset. Dealing with humans as well as machines makes for an interesting dynamic.
I must admit that Horizon Zero Dawn took a long time to grow on me. At first, I was overwhelmed by the number of points of interest on the map and found the combat to be rather challenging. However, as I adapted to its gameplay and learned the ins and outs about how everything works together, it eventually became an awesomely rewarding experience that was hard to put down.
The most striking aspect about Horizon Zero Dawn is the contrast between the gorgeous wild scenery and the malicious machines that prowl around. Many science fiction games simply have everything being mechanical and sterile so what's presented here is truly special. In fact, if you replace the machines with dinosaurs then it would simply be a prehistoric hunter-vs-dino game so to think that it's set in the distant future is quite extraordinary. This is especially true when you factor in the variety of environments that you'll trek through. Whether you're climbing up mechanical ruins, sneaking through a lush jungle, or running around a desert; it's all exceptionally-crafted.
When it comes to gameplay, Horizon Zero Dawn features stealth elements where Aloy can use a focus device to map enemy patterns then strike to perform an assassination move. Whenever she confronts a machine in combat, you'll mostly utilize a variety of projectile weapons in order to take advantage of enemy weaknesses, destroy their armour, and inflict a sort of stagger state where they become weaker. There is a light and heavy melee attack as well but to be frank, close-range combat isn't nearly as fun, especially considering how simple it is. Now that I mention it, that's my main issue with Horizon Zero Dawn; I wish that it featured more complexity in its combat because merely rolling to dodge attacks then firing a bunch of stuff at your foes sometimes didn't quite feel like enough.
Horizon Zero Dawn also has some rewarding RPG elements that allow you to level-up which increases your health meter and grants skill points that you can spend to unlock upgrades via 4 categories. For instance, you can increase the damage of certain attacks, unlock the ability to slow down time when you aim, and expand your inventory slots. There are also weapons and outfits that you can purchase then enhance with modifications. Finally, you'll gather resources that you can use to craft ammo, traps, and potions with.
As if all that isn't enough, Horizon Zero Dawn has a staggering amount of quests to master and completing everything after you beat the story will take even longer than the campaign itself. My favourite side-quests involve climbing huge machines called Tallnecks which helps fill out the map. As of writing this, I still have much more to do and I'm looking forward to playing more. Whether you're hunting animals to expand your storage, using certain machines as vehicles after overriding them, or discovering a new area that's full of unique machines and fresh quests; you're in for one varied adventure that'll keep you immersed in its memorable world for long after the credits roll.
The Frozen Wilds
Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition comes with a DLC expansion called The Frozen Wilds which has you meet the Banuk clan in the mountains who are dealing with a new threat in the form of a virus that they refer to as a daemon that's been infecting machines to make them more powerful. Considering there are a couple dozen machine types in the main game, it's cool to fight them again in daemonic form as well as get to battle a few new enemy types. I particularly enjoyed taking on the Control Towers which remain stationary while healing other machines because it's fun to override them only to watch their allies get electrocuted in the process.
In addition to the new enemies, Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds also includes cool new weapons that allow you to shoot lightning as well as perform elemental attacks with ice and fire. There's a new outfit, too, that has 2 modification slots and allows you to automatically heal over time which I found quite useful. Meanwhile, the environments are awesome as half of the DLC is set on snowy frozen mountains while the latter half is inside a mountain which is basically a mechanised bunker. Overall, the entire expansion will take about 8 hours to complete but just like with the main campaign, there is much more to do afterwards so it's well worth playing.
PlayStation 5 Enhanced Performance Patch
Of course, the reason why I'm reviewing Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition is that it has a brand new update patch for PS5. All it essentially does is allow you to play it with 60fps which ends up making it look fantastic. Heck, it even rivals some native PlayStation 5 titles graphics-wise. When it comes to performance, I noticed that loading times are quite short although not as seamless as most PS5 games but it's nifty nonetheless to be able to fast-travel and not have to wait that long to resume your adventures.
Now, I wish that the DualSense was incorporated in this update, especially the adaptive triggers considering you use them so often in combat but that's probably asking too much for a free patch. However, one actual substantial issue is that I had the game crash many times which oddly only occurred in one particular location. Specifically, whenever I traveled south of Meridian Village. I'm not sure what that's all about but I made note to approach that area at different angles while keeping my fingers crossed that it won't crash again.
Playing Horizon Zero Dawn on PlayStation 5 is such an excellent experience that it made me excited for the upcoming Forbidden West and keep in mind; I rarely get excited for upcoming games. If you still haven't played it yet, I wholeheartedly recommend it.
- + Excellent stealth, exploration, and combat with rewarding RPG elements thrown in
- + Striking contrast of machines and nature
- + Performs beautifully on PlayStation 5
- - Combat lacks complexity, especially melee
- - Frequent crashes in 1 particular area