E3 2015: Horizon Zero Dawn

examines Guerrilla’s new game of cybernetic ecology

Image: PlayStation Europe on Flickr

Image: PlayStation Europe on Flickr

Each year E3 offers those interested sequels, prequels, remakes and a few entirely new projects. These new projects, while often a gamble, occasionally become the most novel of the games presented. Last year, No Man’s Sky offered a near endless galaxy for players to explore and as such unexpectedly stole the show.

However, this year it was Horizon: Zero Dawn that became the unexpected novelty and caught everyone’s attention. Developer Guerrilla Games (who made Killzone) ventured beyond its usual FPS terrain to develop an open world, action, RPG characterized primarily by large robotic dinosaur-like creatures wandering the earth in a post apocalyptic world.

During the trailer, the game’s bow-wielding protagonist Aloy is seen hunting these creatures for their parts using a variety of different arrows and tools.

These robotic creatures inhabit the planet along side primitive humans and other robotic animals, ranging from small dog sized variants, to enormous, and far more hostile versions. Some seem easily spooked, while others will without hesitation charge at you when spotted.

The gameplay shown so far has a distinct atmosphere to it, akin to Monster Hunter. Players are offered the to-be-expected violent solutions, but the environment offers stealth options, such as tripwires, takedowns or explosives. Nonetheless, the game will not “tell you how to hunt … or interact” but instead “[players] have to go out there and explore these things by trial and error.”

Most encouraging is the combat shown, unlike so many other attempts, it is not a simple matter of ‘shoot it until it stops moving’, instead the robotic creatures are assembled in a logical manner and combat makes use of this. Different weaponry can be disabled, limbs weakened and panels shot off to reveal less protected equipment. You could hope for a lucky shot, or once weakened, restrain it to get an easier shot at some crucial parts.

Crucially the combat and the environment feel natural, which is odd for a game set in a post-apocalyptic wilderness with robotic animals. But these creatures behave almost organically, acting as herds, with watchers and protectors. The landscape can also be used to disguise and protect, or to aid in combat.

Set to come to PS4 in 2016, Guerrilla has produced a rather interesting new IP. If it holds its promise, and the little revealed plot is equally as strong as the gameplay, Horizon: Zero Dawn could feel quite similar to Skyrim. While still early, it is worth keeping an eye on, oh and the graphics look absolutely incredible.

Leave a comment