Horizon Zero Dawn or Beauty close to Perfection

Horizon Zero Dawn is a masterpiece. Without question. Rarely has a game looked so beautiful, has the gameplay been so addictive, or has the setting been so intriguing.

And even more importantly, Horizon Zero Dawn doesn’t only shine with the grand things like graphics or gameplay mechanics, the finer details like the vantage points that show doors to the past or the names of contemporary daily items like coins or watches highlight the attention to detail that has gone into the game.

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Darkness and fog also look good in Horizon Zero Dawn.

Probably the only thing holding Horizon Zero Dawn back from GOTY awards aplenty might be the fact that is by no means a casual game – sneaking isn’t too hard, but fighting enemies openly is lethal even on normal – and that is a one-on-one fight against tough bosses, with conveniently forgetting there are also weaker enemies around! You cannot really fight casually often, but the mechanics open up once you realise there’s always another way to fight – the ropecaster might well be the unsung hero of Horizon Zero Dawn – binding enemies for a short time gives you exactly the room to breathe you need, and traps are always Aloy’s best friend.

When comparing Horizon Zero Dawn with other system sellers like Uncharted 4 or Zelda – Breath of the Wild, it becomes clear that the other two games pretty much combine elements from all over the gaming world and combine them to fun-filled experience. Broken down into the single parts, there don’t seem to be that special (except for the nature physics in Zelda – that sounds great). True, the same can be said for many things in Horizon Zero Dawn – stealth, crafting, climbing or fighting humans with a bow is nothing new.

But it is fighting robots where Horizon Zero Dawn requires a unique way of thinking – all the tools and traps at our disposal, only The Witcher 3 and Geralt’s arsenal of potions and venoms is comparable here, but both games handle things way differently; The Witcher’s mechanics are rather based on a (thankfully) easier Dark Souls system, while the clue to downing the massive beasts is tearing apart different components, especially the combustible ones first, or laying traps, or pinning them to the ground. Even breaking line of sight and then playing hide & seek works! Or why not hacking one robot and sending it to weaken the others? And then there are many different robots – from deer to birds to fire breathing monsters and the mostly invisible Stalkers, Horizon Zero Dawn doesn’t hold back in throwing various opponents at us, and eliminating them effectively requires creativity, a bit of patience and sometimes also luck.

And then the graphics … you don’t have to be a graphics whore to gaze in awe at the screen at times. Be it snow, desert, ruins or dense forests, it all looks amazing. And seeing the sun rise over ruins or snowy summits is truly a sight to behold! One thing is for sure, the photo mode in Horizon Zero Dawn is a great addition, as you can edit your screenshots easily. Especially dusk or dawn look breathtaking if you happen to be there at the right place (the right time is not needed, as you can forward or rewind time for your picture).

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Dawn and the horizon.

But gameplay and graphics only complement the beauty of Horizon Zero Dawn; it’s the curiosity and individualism of the protagonist Aloy in a superstitious and fearful world, it’s the eerily overgrown ruins of civilisation, the contrast between nature and machine, and humans caught in the middle, the different tribes all lost in different way. All the while you only find fragments about the past, Aloy’s past is one of the biggest mysteries of the game. And the pacing is also almost perfect – from the start of Horizon Zero Dawn to the Proving, you’re introduced to the world from the eyes of an outsider (literally), making a good introduction into the world. And the plot only thickens from there on.

Horizon Zero Dawn also delivers the best sets of side quests since The Witcher 3 – while there are usually not many options to finish it, there’s often a bit of lore and a bit of drama included. Even taking over bandit camps comes with the help of a mysterious stranger …

Oh, don’t listen to the right-wing trolls claiming Horizon Zero Dawn has a feminist agenda and is a “SJW nightmare”, or whatever bullshits these morons are spouting. At least in the first 20 hours, neither men nor women are depicted as either good or evil; instead, everything is depicted in a darkish grey. So don’t listen to the alt-right political trolls poisoning gaming forums these day please!

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A Tallneck in its habitat.

Rabidgames cannot stop playing: Horizon Zero Dawn is surely one of the best looking games ever – both in terms of aesthetics and pure graphical technical terms. But beyond visuals and the great gameplay, it also tells a fascinating story about a future full of mysteries and wonders. It is a very ambitious game, and it might well go down into history as one of the best games – unless the machines take over soon …

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