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Horizon: Zero Dawn Is Exactly What It Looks Like

While my feelings about E3 2016 the convention have now been well documented in both podcast and video form all across Something Wicked Studios, I would like to reiterate that while something felt unbelievably off about the physical convention, there were some amazing games at the show this year. King among these games for me was Horizon: Zero Dawn, a game that every time I talk about it scares me a little.

On paper, Horizon: Zero Dawn is a really strange,  potentially disastrous idea for a game. At it’s base level it is a hunting game where you stalk aggressive melee enemies armed with a slow firing weapon that you have to charge for maximum damage; in concept a potentially disastrous combination. On top of that there are RPG, stealth, and crafting elements which while offering augments on the base bow and arrow combat, do not change the fact that at a base level you are still with some frequency reenacting the coolest interpretation of David and Goliath ever. Like I said, on paper, the base concept for this game probably should not work. And yet, it does. Media for Horizon: Zero Dawn while not completely non-existent, is fairly scarce, and despite my perpetual gamer cynicism and forced aversion to hype, I am hooked.

I was one of the lucky few at E3 2016 who got to have some hands-on time with Horizon: Zero Dawn at E3 2016, and I was floored. Not to sound dramatic, but in a world where I have grown use to E3 footage not being matched by the final product, I can honestly say that Horizon: Zero Dawn at least feels exactly like I thought it would, if not better. The majority of the media out there for Horizon feature protagonist Aloy dodging and diving her way through aggressive and speedy enemy encounters, and all of that just feels natural in action.

To call the demo I got to play around with limited, is in some ways being kind. I was dropped into a almost too small for my play style patch of wilderness that was inhabited by a few of the wolf like Watchers and at least one Big Horn. If you have seen the game play video from E3 2016, it’s the area where they tamed the Big Horn before riding it off to another village. Since the demo was described as kind of a sandbox, I spent my time just trying to see what I could do, and every time I tried something exactly what I expected to happen occurred. I know that does not sound like anything of note, but every time I tried to replicate one of the cool moments from a trailer, it was completely doable and felt awesome.

I am sure this seems like a weird way to praise a game, but I am  impressed that for a change, what we have seen so far of Horizon: Zero Dawn is what we seem slated to get. I am not saying the game is perfect, my brief hands-on was too small a slice for me to pass any time of judgement on the quality of the game overall, but I can say that I went into the demo hopeful and left the demo impressed that such a limited demo was capable of assuring me that “yup, this game is exactly what it looks like.”