Wrapping up Horizon – Zero Dawn

Another 20 hours later and I finally managed to clear out everything in the land except for the final main quest. After neglecting the main storyline for so long, I had quite a few main quests to do in a row. After finally seeing the meat of the story, I was left with mixed feelings. I won’t spoil the details, but I did find it a little strange that so much of the story was delivered in the form of big info dumps.

To be more specific (but still not spoiler-y), a lot of the main quests involve exploring various underground sci-fi ruins, and oddly enough the further you get into the story, the less interactive each of these ruins becomes, leaving the story to be told by piles of text, audio, and hologram logs. There are times where you’re literally just sitting there listening to audio logs for almost an hour. It’s a very strange choice, and I imagine that the pacing here is probably the subject of a lot of debate, but somehow I didn’t find myself minding all that much. I get bored really easily, but the writing and the voice acting in all this exposition was so good that it all managed to retain my attention.

As for the plot itself, it’s pretty hard to get into without giving things away, but let’s just say that the history of how exactly the world ended up in this strange state and the secrets behind Aloy’s mysterious past are all revealed, and they’re all really fascinating. There was a lot of thought put into this world besides just “let’s blow up some robot dinosaurs!”.

Before it all ended though, there was still The Frozen Wilds to be conquered. This was another nice surprise. This is not one of those modern day cash grab DLCs that just give you another 1-2 hours of content made up of recycled assets, this is a full on real expansion, the way expansions used to be! There’s a whole new huge area with a really impressive winter theme. It’s not just more of the same, but all re-colored white, this is an incredibly detailed winter wonderland with easily the best looking snow effects and physics that I’ve ever seen in a game.

There are also new quests, outfits, weapons, and enemies. Enough to keep you busy for another 15 hours or so. These new enemies are no pushovers either. Even if you’re coming into this area at the previous level cap of 50, you’re still going to have to work hard to survive these new guys. You’ll have to learn all new tactics and make good use of the new weapons provided, and you better have saved up a lot of money in the main game because these powerful new weapons blow through a ridiculous amount of ammo.

But now it’s finally all over. 66 hours to nearly 100% the main game and expansion (I seem to be missing a few text logs that are randomly scattered around the gigantic world, oh well). It was a hell of a ride, one that I would highly recommend to just about anyone who likes games (and don’t worry, there are several easier and harder difficulty levels too). I would definitely now call this one of the top 5 games of last year (sorry Evil Within 2…), and if (when) a sequel comes out, I think I’ll have to pick it up immediately next time instead of sale-waiting.

I see that this developer was also responsible for the Killzone series, another one that I’ve never gotten around to. Guess I’ll have to move those up the list…

Chipping Away At Horizon – Zero Dawn

Finally got around to starting Horizon – Zero Dawn! To put it simply, this game is modern Tomb Raider mashed together with Mass Effect. Honestly, the majority of the gameplay is incredibly derivative, but…that’s not always a bad thing.

Running around at night

While a lot of the gameplay mechanics are ripped straight out of other games, Horizon sets itself apart mainly through its great enemies and an awesome main character. Aloy faces a constant stream of asshole NPCs who all just can’t help telling her how much she sucks for being an outcast or a Nora or a woman or etc. This has made up most of the story so far, just people being total dicks, but she doesn’t listen to any of them, she just makes them look stupid by outsmarting or outfighting them and gets back to her business of annihilating all the robots in her way.

It’s a decent enough story with a handful of great moments, but it does seem to suffer from the same problem that pretty much all big open-world RPGs have, where the world is so big that the main story ends up being stretched pretty thinly across all the piles of other optional content that keep distracting you if you’re a completist type. There could be more story than I realize though. I may have explored most of the world already, but I still haven’t actually touched much of the main quest (the two main quests I have right now say level 12 and 19 and I’m almost level 40…oops!).

Hiding while I pit 2 tough enemies against each other like a jerk

Luckily, much like the other games it resembles, the gameplay is just so much damn fun that I don’t much mind the thin story. I think the enemies really take center stage here, as their variety and complexity really makes you feel like a hunter instead of just an invincible god-being that can easily headshot everything in sight.

See, the robosaurs can’t simply be mindlessly blasted away (well, maybe the wuss horse ones in the beginning can), you need to approach them carefully, scan them and study their weaknesses, and carefully strike their weak spots and use the right weapons to do so. The further you get, the more complex and deadly the enemies get, and this makes being careful and smart about your attacks even more important.

Sneaking past as 3 groups of robots fight each other for some reason

You can be extra tricky by trying to sneak up and do stealth attacks, but it isn’t long at all before the enemies become too tough to be killed this way. You can also stir up trouble by sneaking up and hacking enemies (if you can increase that skill enough) or sniping guys with corruption arrows, but you won’t get experience for kills accomplished by enemies or any other NPCs.

Naturally, things don’t always go as planned though, and so you’ll find yourself in some furious firefights, surrounded by deadly machines without any fancy quick-firing guns to blast your way out with. You’ll need some quick reflexes to get out of those situations alive.

And then just when you think you’ve finally become overpowered and capable of handling anything, you finally make your way into the second half of the land where you find yourself surrounded by hordes of even tougher enemies, including some nasty super-robos.

Oh, the horror and excitement when I entered this new land, saw a mysterious thing flying in the sky, shot an arrow at it, and found a 20 foot super-robo-bird descending upon me, shooting lightning all over the place. He beat the shit out of me that first time, but in time I learned how to take even these nasties out (though they’re still not easy).

BIRDOOOOOOOO

So yeah, it’s pretty fun stuff. This all occurs in a huge world map, with piles and piles of sidequests and other optional areas like Hunting Grounds, Corrupted Zones, Cauldrons (which are totally not the Vaults from Mass Effect: Andromeda), and etc. There’s just so damn much to do. As of right now I’m still only at about 60% complete after 30-something hours, and I don’t think that percentage probably even includes the Frozen Wilds expansion.

What a beautiful world too. It’s a big, crazy, 4K world with a nice variety of location types ranging from grassy plains, to deserts, to frozen wastelands, to futuristic cyber-caves, and more. Again, I’m still not actually finished with it yet, but I can already tell you that if I’d played this earlier it would probably have made me make a tough choice in regards to the top 5 games of the year. I think this probably would have edged out Evil Within 2.

Maybe I’ll have some more to add on the subject later, as it seems that I’ll probably be working on this for another few weeks still!

Black Friday Haul

Got some good stuff. Held back and didn’t go as crazy as the last two years since I still haven’t even gotten around to all the stuff from those times. Also the first Xbone game I’ve bought in a few years.

Also grabbed this at great price. Maybe I’ll even watch it someday. I’ll put it right next to the dust-covered complete series’ of The Shield and Damages.

So what crazy deals did everyone else get?