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Horizon Zero Dawn

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22 hours ago, davejm said:

This is a bit good innit?  Having come from finishing Witcher 3: Blood and Wine; and the end of my 191 hour Geralt adventure I was expecting a slight drop off in enjoyment for my next game.  No such drop off; and the combat is an improvement so the moment-to-moment gameplay is more fun.  Really enjoying it.

 

Furthermore; the music is incredible!!

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Cheers. I left that cauldron in the end but I managed to complete a lower level one, and then funnily enough the next mission I did had a thunderjaw so I used that method.

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I found the easiest way to fight thunderjaws was to tie them down, tearblast all their weapons and armour off, then freeze them and use the sharpshooter bow to hit them in the massive red weakspot on their side. Once you get the 'fire three arrows at once' skill, you can do about 3000 damage per shot with that.

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I'm really into the overide mechanic now that I can use it on more machines. It'd be great to see it expanded on in a sequel, similar to how Shadow of Mordor does it, allowing you to command whole armies. That game was so ahead of its time.

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In addition to @Gorf King's comments about varying play styles for tackling the machines, I believe the developers deliberately left it open so that you could select how a mission or encounter should be tackled. There aren't even any tutorials from them to assist if things get rough. It really is up to you in how you get past.

 

I will say that upgrading the weapons and therefore ammunition (by default) you'll have far more hitting power than the basic weapon group. These will make life a lot simpler in conjunction with selected skills, as you'll be facing steadily bigger and more machines at the same time.

 

If you do find that too many of them are coming at you, use an old zombie fighting technique, make a run for it and recuperate. They'll stop after a distance and gradually return to a calm status and grazing.

 

As Gorf King suggests though, if the whole scavenging, crafting and skill tree process isn't appealing, maybe the game isn't for you. RPGs aren't everybodys cuppa but luckily there ar many different types out there. Be glad it's not like Borderlands 2 where you need to tune your character's skill tree up differently for differing types of encounter - now that can be a major pain :D

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So you'll all be pleased to find out I've now completed Horizon Zero Dawn. 

 

Final thoughts: 

 

The cauldrons help elevate the game towards something slightly fresher than  a fairly straightforward and simple open world brawler. Not the simplified dungeons themselves, although the change of pace and indoor locations they offer is refreshing. But the ability they afford you to overide bigger, more fearsome machines, and then command those machines in combat against other hostile machines, and sit back and watch it all kick off. It's like an especially vicious version of robot wars, and it's quite addictive. 

 

So why didn't they incorporate these cauldrons into the main quests? They're not optional dungeons in the way that the tombs in Tomb Raider are. I'd argue that those were pretty essential too mind, just because they're really enjoyable. But in Horizon they fundamentally alter how you play the game. Using the machines against one another is absolutely essential in just getting from A to B. They're everywhere and they're unavoidable at points, making it an absolute slog at times. The overide function injects life into what should have been the games core feature, not some optional sidelined extra. 

 

But it should have been expanded on even further. You should be able to give overridden machines simple commands such as follow, stay and attack. Instead they just become docile, only springing into action if other hostile foes start attacking. So you end up trying to sneak around cajoling the aggressive enemies into battle with the overridden ones who just sit around doing nothing in their hypnotised state. 

 

And, of course, they should have taken it even further than that. You can ride some machines but, strangely, not others. Imagine riding a sawtooth or thunderjaw into battle, or perching on top of a deathbringer. And why not go even further and command a whole army of them into battle? It's a system rife for opening up and changing the game play dramatically . One which would have been a game changer, in fact. And the technology is robust enough to cope, it's all already there. At present it feels disappointing and unfinished.

 

Melee combat. It's atrocious. You've got, what, two attacks, light or heavy, and that's it. In the heat of battle it's difficult to make out what's even going on never mind use it effectively. The ranged stuff is great and works very well. But close up it falls well behind other third person games - I mean compare it to Batman, Shadow of Mordor, Dark Souls etc. It just feels like an afterthought in comparison. 

 

Which brings me to the stealth. It's so basic and binary. Why is it that the only place in the entire game to remain absolutely hidden is in the red tall grass? You can remain unseen by hiding behind structures, objects etc, also, but the only time the game indicates you're hidden is in that one particular type of grass. It's quite bizarre really. Even other shrubbery of a similar height doesn't work. It's largely broken as a stealth game anyway because you can't outright kill all but the smallest machines, immediately blowing your cover. Perhaps it's also why I enjoyed the human encounters more, because I felt like I had options other than fight or avoid. Stealth became viable.

 

Overall I found the story the most enjoyable part, but even there it pales compared with the branching storylines of Witcher III. The conversation options have no meaningful impact, and I ended up not bothering a lot of the time, or just skipping through the dialogue. 

 

The presentation and technical side of things are top notch. Although I did feel that when things were kicking off I was struggling to stay in control at 30fps, the combat was just too fast paced at times. But it's hard to think of a more impressive technical achievement, visually. 

 

Obviously I'm disappointed. I was hoping it was going to be a lot better, and I felt like I was constantly trying to play it differently than how the developer expected me to. But imo if you're designing an open world game you're doing so in order to offer the player more freedom. More often often than not I felt constricted and frustrated by its design. I stand by what I said earlier, it would have worked better in its current state as a wide linear action game than an open world one with RPG stuff shoehorned in.

 

A technical tour de force which acted as a great proof of concept, but the gameplay felt underdeveloped. 

 

6/10

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You didn't often not bother with the text/audio logs either, did you? Because the story of what had happened leading up to the present day - or rather, the stories of the individuals concerned - was by far the best part of the narrative. It's that part of the storytelling that impressed me, because it was really well-written, and quite compelling.

 

It's funny how people's takes can vary so wildly on a game, especially when it comes to its core mechanics. For me, the stealth aspect didn't need to be expanded; it needed to be toned down, because it (along with the ability to control machines) was a bit broken - it was far too easy to just magically hide in most encounters and render the enemies a non-threat by controlling them or just ignoring them altogether. When you can do that to the most powerful machines it's ripe for abuse and makes the combat almost pointless (or at least optional). In NG+ I avoided it altogether and didn't control a single machine or do any of the vaults, so I don't think an essential skill for traversing the game.  If anything, it sticks out as a mechanic that's nice in theory but too easy to apply (or the AI is too dumb) to make it satisfying to pull off - when you wear a stealth suit in this game you're almost invincible in most encounters. I think they have to downgrade that in the sequel, or ramp up the AI to make the enemies less easy to fool and keep fooled.

 

But in a way I suppose it goes to show how the combat can be approached from so many angles. I just wish the stealth aspect had a bit more substance to it though, something more to play with, instead of often feeling like an 'I win' button. Funny that you mention Dark Souls, because unlike that series what I felt was lacking here was quite enough of a threat to make the combat satisfying unless you discarded some of the mechanics on offer. That'd be my main criticism, except that I wouldn't expect or want the combat to be so frustratingly difficult as it sometimes is in that series. It just needs to be beefed up in a couple of areas (the ease of stealth/control, and the dumb-as-shit AI of the humans in particular). The combat's still a lot of fun as a playground, mind, and I guess that was the devs' main aim.

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I read quite a few of the text logs, and listened to pretty much all the audio/video logs I found, and I didn't go out of my way to avoid them. Like I said, I did enjoy the story a lot, especially all the stuff from the past. And Sylens was a brilliant character. Absolutely my favourite in the whole game.

 

I just think it's a game crying out for a nemesis like system. Facing off against other war chiefs with their own army of machines would be amazing, and totally fits into the the whole tribal aspect of the game. 

 

Also, Aloy, in particular, her name.

 

Spoiler

ALOY, YOLA - you only live - again, always?

 

Although perhaps a reference to the Eloi, from HG Wells Time Machine?

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eloi#In_H._G._Wells.27s_The_Time_Machine

 

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The DLC is out November 7th.

 

Quote

Back in June, we announced an expansion for Horizon Zero Dawn called The Frozen Wilds. Set in icy territories to the north, this new chapter of Aloy’s journey adds a new area to explore, new mysteries to uncover and new, highly lethal machines to take on.

Today, we’re happy to share that the release date for Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds is November 7th, 2017.

We look forward to sharing more information about The Frozen Wilds as we get closer to the release date. In the meantime, there’s an exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn avatar available for those of you who pre-order the expansion from the PlayStation Store.

 

https://blog.us.playstation.com/2017/08/07/horizon-zero-dawn-the-frozen-wilds-launches-november-7/

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I loved it but that's a great review. I disagree that the present story and characters were completely dull - there were several who I really liked, especially the machine gun woman from Free Heap - but I agree that it was totally eclipsed (no pun intended!) by the backstory, both the main plot about Ted and Elizabet and all the little glimpses of real life during the end times.

 

I liked the fact that the present day tribes often based their belief systems on the fragmented and misunderstood knowledge they had. Like the Nora worshipping the mountain as the mother of all people, which of course seems primitive and ridiculous, until you realise that yes, an automated bunker inside the mountain did indeed give birth to the ancestors of every human now living. So they had a glimpse of the truth on which they based their entire religion, which I thought was a great commentary on how our own religions and creation myths came about. But more could have been made of this in the story, with different tribes clinging to different "facts" and their conflicts being, like our own, dressed up as arguments between fundamentalists who see each other as heretics, when really they're about land, resources and power, same as always.

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On 19 August 2017 at 13:38, Majora said:

So exactly two months after I first started playing it, I'm done with the game. My save file says 60 hours and honestly, the fact that it took me two months to put in 60 hours on the game really says a lot about how I repeatedly drifted away from it for a week or two at a time. I broadly enjoyed it when I played it but it didn't capture me enough to play it often or for long periods at a time. 

 

It's a game which I found succeeded admirably in some respects but really floundered in others, and nowhere is this inconsistency more apparent than in the narrative aspects of the game - the characters, the world building and the plot. 

 

For my money, the present day narrative of Horizon is a colossal bore. There is nothing inherently wrong with the present day story per se, the main plot beats being competent if unsurprising. But the characters are so crushingly dull and the world (and main settlements in particular) so devoid of character that I found it impossible to feel invested in the tale being told or the fate of the characters and the world. 

 

At its most basic level the main narrative is a 'save the world from the evil tribe' deal, but in order to make the player care you have to give them something they want to fight for and protect. All the very best examples of this type of narrative give you some combination of characters you bond with and want to protect, a overarching world and interesting locations you want to see escape unravaged, and antagonistic forces you love to hate and really want to destroy. You have to make the 'save the world' plot matter on a personal level as well as an epic macro level. 

 

So, for example, if you go back to the original Mass Effect Trilogy, it's a basic save the galaxy type deal but it really gives you reasons to care. You don't just fight for some faceless galaxy. You're fighting for that amazing cast of characters. You're fighting for Garrus and Tali and Jack...ok maybe not Jack. But it gives you stakes, it gives you personal investment by drawing a broad cast of intriguing, deeply drawn, unique characters with distinct personalities. At least part of the reason the ending of three was so reviled was because it forgot this and forgot what players really cared about in favour of pseudo-intellectual naval gazing. 

 

You're also fighting for those amazing hubs you visit, most notably the Citadel of course. Locations you spend hours in, full of nooks and crannies and side quests and comedic minor characters and memorable moments. 

 

Essentially, it's not enough to say save the world. You have to create a world, and characters in the world worth saving. This is the single biggest failure of present day Horizon, which has the dullest world and cast of characters in recent memory, and it's a crying shame. 

 

In Horizon you aren't fighting for a brilliantly drawn cast of nuanced characters. You're fighting for tedious, expressionless exposition dumps. You're fighting for leaders like the Sun King and his assistant that are completely devoid of charisma or anything that could be called a hint of a personality trait. You're fighting for forgettable bit-part characters like some guy who Aloy helped as a kid who disappears from 95% of the game and then pops up at the end like we're meant to care, or girl with a brother with appallingly conveyed mental illness. At the final battle when you're joined by other characters you've met throughout the game that should be a triumphant moment, not a shrug of the shoulders wondering who the hell that guy was again and apathy at generic tough female leader appearing at your side. 

 

Why the characters are so devoid of character and interest I have no idea but it's like the writers set out to make the present day cast as worthy and bland as possible. Not even the bad guys can save the day. They barely feature, barely do much of note to make you hate them throughout the game, and frankly I couldn't tell you a single thing about the leader I killed in the first part of the final battle. 

 

Then you have the settlements, and in particular Meridian. Now, the settlements in any open world game or RPG are generally my favourite parts of the game. I love reaching a town or city and spending ages talking to everyone, soaking in the atmosphere, exploring every alley and corner, popping in the shops, searching out side quests and simply observing the NPCs going about their business. I was excited to get to Meridian and was greeted with a large space that, with the possible exception of the lodge, contains absolutely nothing interesting whatsoever. 

 

Meridian is, like most of the game's characters, heartbreakingly bland. It has no atmosphere, no real points of interest, nothing worth exploring, no NPC routines worth casting more than a cursory glance at and no personality. Save for several merchants, the lodge and a couple of side quest givers, it's a sprawling waste of time ruled over by a personality void. So when Meridian is under threat, why should I care? 

 

That Horizon fails spectacularly at giving the player stakes they care about in the present day story is all the more baffling when you consider that the story told in the past is....really good. Were different people responsible? I can only speculate but, despite an over-reliance on stuffing locations full of audio diaries that force the player to stand around a lot, it succeeds. 

 

The writing in everything related to the past has verve, it has personality, it has humour. Characters do not simply vomit dry exposition at the player in large chunks in lieu of having character traits. The best, most rounded and developed characters in the game, are all those you never even meet. The conflict between reception and other departments over herbal tea availability, translator availability and sound proofing are more interesting than the actual tribal conflicts in the present day plot. 

 

Travis, a minor bit-part player you never meet, is funnier and more developed than anyone in the main game. The story from the past has a villain of sorts I could actually name, who is not a faceless flatly evil entity, who shows character development and nuance throughout the stages of the story. The characters, even ones who only appear in 2-3 audio diaries, in the past are complex and have distinct, engaging motivations, hopes, fears and personalities. 

 

Then you have Aloy herself. Now, she's fine but she's also not particularly interesting. She's very much the archetypal spunky determined young woman who takes everything in her stride and doesn't take shit from her elders or superiors. But there's not a great deal going on beneath that. Almost never does she express fear, doubt, surprise or anything other than unwavering determination and self-assurance, and that makes her a trifle dull. She discovers incredible secrets about the past no-one else has ever heard of, about technologies and a world completely beyond any possible comprehension she could possibly have had, and she greets it all with barely a shrug of surprise. She falls into the classic trap, most overtly seen in survival horror games but often seen elsewhere too, of simply taking everything in her stride without hesitation. She is a largely likeable character but not one with much depth. 

 

Above all else, this failure of the writing and world building in the present day is the primary reason why I struggled to stay engaged with Horizon. Despite the beautiful graphics (that green glow at night never failed to stun me) and the slick combat and interestingly designed robots, I found it a curiously bland and characterless experience most of the time. Without the hook of discovering what happened in the past I doubt I would have completed it. 

 

The combat is fast paced, slick and provides a decent number of options against some entertainingly aggressive enemies but it runs out of tricks about halfway through. New weapons and ammo types stop appearing and you start noticing a lot of similarities between enemies. 27 (?) enemy types sounds like a lot but by the end of the game it didn't feel like enough considering that the actual gameplay is almost entirely combat based. I fought some of those enemy types way more times than I would care to count and by the final third or so of the game I was a bit bored by the whole 'oh this one also has an electric canister you can shoot with an electric arrow' type formula. I felt like the game never quite delivered the level of variety in enemy behaviours and weaknesses that I hoped for. The less said about the human combat the better. 

 

It's an interesting game but it never gelled into anything more than very pretty visuals with slick but repetitive combat and an intriguing backstory for me. Some good individual elements that just don't cohere into anything greater. I feel like there's the seeds of something potentially very good here but this first attempt just didn't quite do it for me in the end. 

 

 

 

On 19 August 2017 at 18:52, Darren said:

I loved it but that's a great review. I disagree that the present story and characters were completely dull - there were several who I really liked, especially the machine gun woman from Free Heap - but I agree that it was totally eclipsed (no pun intended!) by the backstory, both the main plot about Ted and Elizabet and all the little glimpses of real life during the end times.

 

I liked the fact that the present day tribes often based their belief systems on the fragmented and misunderstood knowledge they had. Like the Nora worshipping the mountain as the mother of all people, which of course seems primitive and ridiculous, until you realise that yes, an automated bunker inside the mountain did indeed give birth to the ancestors of every human now living. So they had a glimpse of the truth on which they based their entire religion, which I thought was a great commentary on how our own religions and creation myths came about. But more could have been made of this in the story, with different tribes clinging to different "facts" and their conflicts being, like our own, dressed up as arguments between fundamentalists who see each other as heretics, when really they're about land, resources and power, same as always.

 

And finally finished myself, game clock says just over 51 hours and I still have a few side quests and errands outstanding but to be honest once I played the final sequence of story quests leading up to the final conflict I was ready for the end (FWIW I'd done all the bandits, all the cauldrons and all the Tall Necks before I got into the final reveal of what went on prior to Zero Dawn).

 

So yeah, 51 hours and although it has been about two months most of that play has been in the last 3 weeks (game got interrupted by the arrival of my Switch and an Arms and then Splatoon 2 fixation) and well I still kind of think its the best thing I've played this year.

 

I can't disagree with much of Majora's review, and whilst I agree the conceit of how religions rise and belief systems are established was clever n the various tribes of the present world it can't be denied quite how dull most of the present day story is; the game does massively lack a backdrop of interesting supporting characters, beyond Aloy herself who is an engaging lead only Sylens is an interesting ally/frenemy, everyone else - well poof and they may not as well be there (probably doesn't help that pretty much every side quest ends in massively bitter sweet tragedy).

 

But the past story, well that might well be the best realised tale of an apocalypse that I've seen in almost any media - its a genuinely great plot that is gradually drip fed into the main narrative, its dark adult and all too possible and as mentioned earlier populated by some genuinely interesting characters who really would have benefited with some more time to breathe.

 

So the game itself, well its such an amalgam of Ubisoft open world, big helping of Bioware RPG with plenty of smatterings of the Tomb Raider/Uncharted and all combined with a central clever combat mechanic that is really compelling one can't help but say yes that was enjoyable.

 

I'd had my fill by the end and I have to say no massive interest in the DLC unless it moves the main plot on (good sequel baiting ending mind, do like) but yeah certainly going to be high on the GOTY list for me so far.

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@Majora good review. I wonder how much the backstory was better because they didn't have to manage interaction, conflict with the player's view of Aloy (they use blank slates as characters for a reason), or set up some other fetch quest.

the most meaningful present day interactions I can remember, three or four months later, are some guy whose family had been kidnapped and some nutter in a shack who liked eating robot batteries. The first felt kind of flubbed, the second was a poor attempt at comedy.

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On ‎19‎/‎08‎/‎2017 at 14:47, dr_manhattan^ said:

Couldn't disagree more with @Majora I could not put Horizon down.  Still my GOTY so far, and the DLC is my most anticipated game.

Yup GOTY by a comfortable margain for me, so far

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Played some more (about 9 hours in) and while it looks out of this world (like, seriously impressive) I can't help but feel like it's mostly a "been there, done that" affair. It's all serviceable stuff and I'll definitely see it through to the end but so far it's been a bit by the numbers.

 

Probably doesn't help that I played BotW earlier this year...  

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1 hour ago, VN1X said:

Played some more (about 9 hours in) and while it looks out of this world (like, seriously impressive) I can't help but feel like it's mostly a "been there, done that" affair. It's all serviceable stuff and I'll definitely see it through to the end but so far it's been a bit by the numbers.

 

Probably doesn't help that I played BotW earlier this year...  

 

You're not the first to say that.

 

Funny thing is, personally I couldn't put horizon down, where as BotW isn't holding my interest much.

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