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Horizon: Zero Dawn – Opinion

HZD

Horizon: Zero Dawn, by Guerrilla Games, has been available to buy and play since March 1st, here in the UK. It’s been touted as one of the best games ever, with mainstream reviewers awarding it, on average, a little over 9 out of 10, which in gaming terms does indeed make it seem like HZD could well be the game to have.

But does the game deserve such a high review score?

Well, in my opinion (and please bear in mind, this is just my opinion, it doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things), no, it does not deserve such a high mark. I don’t generally rate games out of 10, as that is all subjective, but in order to bring my opinion in line with the reviewers’ way of rating a game I will, in this case, award the game a score.

After playing Horizon: Zero Dawn from start to finish (on hard), completing the storyline, completing all side missions and errands, destroying all bandit camps, clearing all corrupted zones, and collecting all collectables, I would give this game a solid 8 out of 10.

Cue the outrage. The gasps of horror. “But Alen, how could you be so mean to such an outstanding video game?”

The answer is simple: I’m not being “mean”, I’m just voicing my honest opinion. So, let’s get to it, shall we. Just why am I going against the accepted grain? Well, firstly, let’s look at what Horizon: Zero Dawn has going for it.

The Pros

Horizon: Zero Dawn, without a doubt, looks amazing. The picture at the start of this piece was taken from my playthrough, and as good as that image looks, it still does not do justice to how exceptional the visuals in this game are. The first region you explore after leaving the tutorial is dominated by the ruins of a large city. Skeletal skyscrapers lean at drunken angles, rivers flow where bustling streets once would have run. As you explore you begin to feel the tragic history of this land, and it bodes well for what you expect to find and explore later on.

As well as the sweeping vistas, the main antagonists in the game – the Machines – also look fantastic. They are exceedingly well created, move with the grace of real, living creatures, and certainly look as if they belong in the landscape.

The sense of peril and danger you feel as you wander around this post-apocalyptic land is very prevalent. Each one of those finely crafted Machines can, and will, kill you. They have good sight lines and will spot you at a distance. None of them are friendly, and even the small ones, the ones you can kill in one or two hits, will gang up and take you out. Running away is, as always, an option, but you’ll quickly discover that quite a few of your mechanical adversaries come furnished with lasers, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, and a number of other just as lethal armaments.

And… well, that’s about it for the pros. A depressingly short list.

The Cons

Referring back to the ruined city in the first region, and what it promises for the rest of the game… well, it fails to deliver. Apart from a very few isolated areas, ruins of ‘the Ancients’ are non-existent, and that, for me, was a big let down. It meant the map for Horizon: Zero Dawn was far too similar to many other games of the same genre. Yes, you have glorious sweeping vista, but you lose all sense of wonder, all sense of the tragedy that befell ‘the Ancients’, simply because you lose all sight of them.

The sense of peril and danger you feel as you wander around this post-apocalyptic land is prevalent… yes, it is, but that feeling soon evaporates when you realise that you can fast travel to any previously discovered bonfire. These bonfires are far too numerous, and being able to warp to them from anywhere on the map, at any time – well, where’s the fun in that? That dangerous expedition you’re thinking of taking to the far corner of the map, just to see what’s there? Well, how dangerous is it really when you can just fast travel back to safety whenever things start looking a bit dicey?

On top of losing the sense of danger, this system also breaks your immersion in this world. If Aloy can purchase fast travel packs from merchants, including the Golden Fast Travel Pack for unlimited travel, it stands to reason that anybody in the game can also do this. So why aren’t they?

I’m not saying fast travel is a bad idea, but if it’s going to be included in a game then it should be an integral part of that game. There should be a valid reason for this magical ability to exist for characters. For example – Aloy learns the ability to override Machines in order to ride them or make them non-hostile to her. So why not have her also ‘learn’ the ability to fast travel, using teleport hubs located at relevant points (bonfires). A small detail, but it keeps the immersion going.

The storyline of Horizon:Zero Dawn is interesting, but far from gripping, and I found it very difficult to care about what happened to the majority of characters Aloy met on her travels. There were even a few occasions where I found myself thinking why I was bothering to help any of the tribes, and if there had been the option to obtain a ‘bad’ ending where Aloy failed and everything was obliterated I would’ve definitely aimed for that.

The only crafting in the game is ammunition for your limited array of weapons, and various potions. You can’t craft your own weapons or armour, you can only use what you find or buy. You can upgrade weapons and armour by using one, two or three upgrade components on them, depending on the item’s level. You can’t, though, put your own stamp on weapons and armour, you can’t customise anything visually.

You have no choice what items are on your ‘fast use’ bar. If it can go on there, and you’re carrying it, then on the bar it will be. This makes for some very clunky mechanics as you’re trying to find your health potions in the middle of a battle. Coupled with the ‘fast use’ bar’s habit of resetting itself to one particular item after a cut scene, even if you’d left it set to the said health potions, and it becomes a very frustrating experience.

Later in the game you will be given a new lance, and, if you’ve been exploring everything as you go, you’ll be able to unlock the Shield Weaver Outfit. The lance is very, very powerful as a weapon, and the outfit absorbs something like 98% of damage, with a very fast recharge time. Using these two items makes the rest of the game somewhat of a joke. Of course, you don’t have to use them, but by the time I had realised just how powerful and overpowered they were, it was too late.

Conclusion

Horizon:Zero Dawn isn’t a bad game, it’s a long way from being bad. But the storyline, missions, side missions, errands etc. don’t offer anything you wouldn’t find in any of the other games in the same genre. The Machines make for a new and interesting adversary in a video game, but once you’ve figured out their weak spots and the best way to take them down, none of them continue to be scary or a major threat throughout the entirety of the game.

None of the ‘cons’, above, are game breaking, and of course it can be argued that a lot, if not most, are minor complaints. But that’s the point of this opinion piece. There are enough of those minor complaints that, when all of them are put together in the context of the game as a whole, make a score of more than 8 out of 10 out of the question.

All in all, Horizon: Zero Dawn is an agreeable and fun game to play. Take your time, explore the world, and you’ll have a good time, especially if you enjoy games of this genre (which I do). But if you’re looking for something that will blow your mind, leave you gasping and panting for more, then this isn’t the one for you.

There is ample room for improvement, and with the way clearly opened for a sequel, here’s hoping that the next version of Aloy’s Adventures in Machine Land will be the game to completely blow everyone away.

Fingers crossed.

And there you have it. As usual, all of the above is just my opinion, and should be treated as such. You should do your own research, and make up your own mind, before spending any of your own money on a video game.

As always, that shallot.

Laters…

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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Gaming

 

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Red Dead Two?

What does it mean?

rockstar

So yesterday, Rockstar Games tweeted the above image, and also placed it on the landing page of their website, subsequently setting the gaming portion of the internet on fire. But, why?

Intriguing. Because of the logo, it’s more than likely a Red Dead Redemption announcement is on the cards. Ever since the release of the highly popular Red Dead Redemption video game, people have been eagerly waiting and hoping for a sequel.

Rockstar has a proven history of similar teasers. They’re not a company who spends time advertising and discussing what they’re doing as they’re doing it. Rather, they just get on with things and then make an announcement or a reveal when they’re good and ready. But, in all honesty, any new game announcement from Rockstar is worth sitting up and taking notice of.

If it is a new Red Dead, then when will the new story be set, which period of history will we see? Well, no point being in the Wild West, as, obviously, they have already done that. Similarly, there’s no need bringing it to present day as you’d just end up with GTA VI. So, from the end of the Wild West era in 1895, what do we have, in the US, that would make a good backdrop for a story? Well, there was the World’s Fair in 1904, followed by the slow birth of modern technology. As exciting as all that would have been at the start of the 20th century, for a Red Dead setting it would be a bit bland. Then there’s the creation of the FBI in 1908, but would that suit a character like John Marston, or his relation/descendant? I think not. For all his good points, he is still an outlaw at heart. The US joining World War I in 1917 would have been a possibility, if not for the release of Dice’s Battlefield 1.

If it was me, I’d move forward to the early/mid 1930s, and more specifically the ‘Dust Bowl’ – the area of the Great Plains region devastated by drought during the Great Depression. For a character with the cliché traits of Marston – bad guy with a heart, willing to go to any lengths to protect those he loves, even though he’s supposed to be the ‘romantic loner’ – there is ample scope for a very immersive story line. Whole towns emptied as the crops failed, and money and food ran out. Residents packed up all they could carry and moved on, in the hopeless search for something better. Unscrupulous companies and businessmen took ruthless advantage of the needy. A whole class of society dispossessed, left with no choice but to go to any lengths in order to survive. Marston, or more likely Marston’s son/daughter, would definitely have any number of causes to throw their weight behind.

But those are just my thoughts.

Whatever the game turns out to be, it’s Rockstar, so I’m sure it’ll be awesome and worth waiting for.

If you have a specific time period you’d like to see a new Red Dead game to be set in, let me know in the comments, it would be interesting to see other’s ideas on the subject.

As always, that shallot.

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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Oh No, People Are Angry…

It’s been a while, huh? Well, tough. Real life and real work do tend to get in the way a lot of the time. But, anyway…

NMS

No Man’s Sky – yes, that game. Either liked or loathed. I, for one, like it. Yes, I’m well aware of the many flaws it contains. I also understand why they’re there, and appreciate what’s being done about them.

I read an article about how some gamers are angry and upset about what’s in the centre of the galaxy, and so thought I’d have a little rant. The article is available here, but contains spoilers. So, you know, don’t go there if you don’t want to know.

People are angry about what happens when they get to the centre… well, boo fucking hoo. If they’d been paying attention they would have realised that the game was never intended to have an ultimate goal – it was just intended to be an exploration game, one where the developers themselves wouldn’t even know what they would find. If you want to be pedantic – yes, Sean Murray said, when asked, that you could maybe find your way to the centre of the universe. But players are heading to the centre of a galaxy, not the universe, so there is that.

A lot of gamers seem incapable of playing a game for themselves, they need constant direction, they need the game to tell them what to do next. They need to be led, and so, obviously, having an entire galaxy as their playground is completely alien to them (pun maybe intended). These types of gamers are easy to spot – they either hate on the game constantly, or they say they like it but the endless resource farming is way too tedious. But wait! Resource farming? Endless? For why? When asked, they’ll say they need to farm resources in order to have stuff to sell to make money. They’ll expand on this by saying they need more money in order to buy a bigger ship so they have more inventory slots. They need more inventory slots so they can carry more resources at a time, therefore increasing the time spent farming said resources, all in order to be able to make even more money when they sell their bigger resource haul.

They fail to see the irony in all of that, and fail to grasp the simpe reality that they don’t need to do any of it. Ships can be found and repaired, they can go from the starting ship to a 48 slot monster with no monetary cost, they just need to invest a little time and effort. Once they have a ship they’re happy with, in looks and size – it doesn’t even need to be maximum size – the only resources they need to farm are what they need for the upgrades on it, plus the upgrades on their multitool and suit. Once they have all of that, why, exactly do they need to spend hours and hours farming extra resources to sell for extra money? And yes, before somebody shouts out that resources for Warp Cells need to be farmed – to make them from scratch you need very low amounts of Carbon, Plutonium, Zinc, Heridium and Thamium9. All of these are extremely easy to gather in large amounts, and don’t even need to be searched for.

Yes, there’s lots of stuff not in the game that was kind of promised. Yes, that’s annoying. But the developers fault? Sure about that, are you? Ever factored in the time restraints and game changes imposed on them by Sony? Another year, with increased manpower, would’ve seen the game getting released with all it was intended to have. But of course, by then, the completely gaming community generated hype would’ve died down, and that’s obviously something Sony wanted to avoid. It’s the marketing by a giant corporation which prevented a good game from being completely awesome, not a 15 person indie development team.

Just sayin’.

As always, that shallot.

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Posted by on August 25, 2016 in Gaming, Rant

 

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General Andrews Gaming (NerdPowerNow)

I’m a writer, yes, but I’m also an avid gamer (mostly PS4 and PS3) and as such I like to support the gaming community when I can. So, here’s a promotional blog for General Andrews Gaming…
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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Gaming

 

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