E3 2016: Horizon Zero Dawn Hands On

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Described by its writer, John Gonzalez, as an open-world, action, role playing game, Horizon Zero Dawn seems poised to be one of the biggest upcoming games on the PlayStation 4. It’s set on Earth about 1,000 years in the future. Something has happened and humanity is no longer the dominant species as machines have taken their place.

The main protagonist, Aloy is a tribal outcast and her origins are, for the moment anyway, shrouded in mystery. Her story will take her into direct conflict with some of the biggest mysteries and dangers of the game’s world.

She was raised by her adoptive father but never seemed to fit in with her clan. Aloy is searching to understand her origins. While most people have a reverence for ‘the goddess’ and a fear of the machines, Aloy is different. She’s a fearless, fierce hunter who tracks and destroys machines to collect parts and metal shards which can be use for currency.

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Searching for the answers to why this all happened has been forbidden. Aloy is leaving the tribal valley for the first time and heading out into a much more dangerous world than she’s ever known. There’s been a recent outbreak of infected machines that are more aggressive and attacking people and no one knows why it’s happening. We were told that you will learn the answers to these questions and the name of the game will also make sense, as it’s not some throwaway “cool” name. It actually has a purpose.

In all honesty, in terms of gameplay it looks a lot like The Witcher III which certainly isn’t a bad thing. You’ll receive quests at different settlements and turn them in for rewards, more information, and other quests. When speaking to NPC’s you’ll be given dialogue choices allowing you to guide things in whatever direction you want as you play.

In the settlements you can meet with merchants to buy weapons, outfits, armor, and ammunition. Merchants will of course have different prices and different requirements for purchasing things. This may force you into hunting for specific parts to trade for the resources you really want or need.

 

Merchants will also have different equipment and outfits available based on the tribes and regions. Outfits will be modifiable and some, like the one we saw, will give you perks like extra resistance to corruption. There’s generally no open warfare between the tribes as of now, so wearing an outfits from one tribe and visiting another won’t really get you into any trouble.

The actual gameplay feels tight even at this stage of development. Aloy’s movements look entirely natural and the controls are very responsive. When coming across a group of machines, you can scan them to get a better idea of what you can salvage from them, where their weak points are, and what types of weapons they’re vulnerable to.

I was actually a little concerned about the controls when I sat down and glanced at the card explaining what every button on the DualShock 4 was being used for. I jumped in pretty quickly anyway and found that it was actually all pretty easy to pick up.

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I was able to take down a number of Watchers using stealth and then override a Broadhead, bending it to my will and using it as a mount to hunt down the faster machines. Using the parts you pick up to craft new weapons is also very easy to handle, and you can even do it mid-battle which slows, but doesn’t stop, the action.

Combat is fantastic and nothing is scripted so every encounter will be different depending on your tactics. Stealth, traps, direct confrontations, however you want to proceed is entirely up to you. XP gained in combat can be used to level up Aloy and add new abilities as expected.

I was impressed with this game when we first saw it a year ago and my level of interest has only gone up with this hands on. Everything I saw and played has me feeling that this is going to be a grand action adventure game with a great story. February 28, 2017 can’t come soon enough.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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