During the PlayStation press event on the eve of EB Expo 2016, I was given the opportunity to watch a live demo of Horizon Zero Dawn, as well as have a short hands-on experience with the title. Starting approximately three hours into the game in order to showcase mechanics and abilities, the live demo showed the protagonist, Aloy, completing part of a short quest about an apparent demon terrorising a nearby village.
When human protagonist Aloy made a stand during an early cutscene, declaring that she must travel into the dangerous world overrun by hostile robot creatures, I was intrigued; when distant mechanised dinosaurs majestically crossed the rolling plains, I was sold.
Horizon Zero Dawn has a lot in it that I love: fantasy landscapes that I will not be able to stop taking screenshots of; sci-fi mechanics, such as hacking the robots that surround you so that they become allies or mounts; and an awesome go-get-’em female protagonist with a knack for using an array of weapons and craftable items.
The world of Horizon Zero Dawn feels wonderfully open. Staff at the PlayStation event described the scope of the world as being somewhere between Shadow of Mordor and The Witcher 3 and, although it feels like a fairly broad spectrum resides between these two titles, I see what the mean. Although the world of Horizon Zero Dawn is open, it is divided into tribes for Aloy to explore, where she may complete side quests while the primary narrative weaves between these spaces.
The hands-on demo allowed us to explore a small area of the open world, with a number of key objectives given to us so that we could understand the mechanics of the title. Left without a tutorial, I used trial-and-error to learn how to override creatures and collect loot. This is indicative of the overall game, which won’t have a tutorial, instead hoping players will learn the controls and mechanics organically. It’s difficult to know how this approach will work, having only played a section of the game where many of the mechanics had already been introduced, but the ease of learning how to play during this demo gives me faith that feeling comfortable with the controls will be even easier in the full release.
While the scenery is stunning and the mechanics exciting, by far my most anticipated aspect of Horizon Zero Dawn is Aloy herself. Reminding me of Merrida from Brave with her orange hair and competency with a bow-and-arrow, Aloy doesn’t hesitate to show the world who’s boss. The title’s beautiful graphics aren’t just for making the scenery look inviting; they also bring Aloy to life. Facial movements during cutscenes are strikingly realistic, and the way Aloy traverses the environment or participates in combat feels strong, while simultaneously feminine. It is nice to see a character designed to look tough without being modelled off typically masculine movements.
I can’t wait to traverse beautiful landscapes in Horizon Zero Dawn as Aloy, taking screenshots of her admiring mountains and destroying machines, her braided ginger hair whipping around her face. The game is expected for release in early 2017.