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After more than 3 years, 3 purchases and 3 attempts at finishing the game, I have finally finished Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Frozen Wilds Expansion.

Content of the article: "After more than 3 years, 3 purchases and 3 attempts at finishing the game, I have finally finished Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Frozen Wilds Expansion."

A little explanation of the title – I had originally purchased the game back at launch. I preordered it when most gamers were still expecting it to be a 'meh' game with cool visuals. It launched 10 days late here because Playstation India is incompetent af. I was towards the end of the main quest>! "The Grave Hoard" !<when I had to drop the game because of work. When I came back I was in the middle of a boss battle with no save to roll back on (I don't save manually much) and I had lost all my skills at the game. So I dropped it and then moved on. Eventually, because of work, I wasn't even spending much time gaming so I had forgotten about the game but I was still very much enamoured by the world and the story and the gameplay and everything about the game. I wanted to come back and finish it. So in October 2019 I bought the complete edition as it was extremely cheap and once again started the game and I once again fell in love with it. However, as I was in the middle of the quest >!"Maker's End"!<, my PS4 went kaput, the save files got deleted and in an attempt to repair my PS4 I broke it permanently.

I must be under some kinda of curse to never finish this game I thought. Last year though, in an extremely surprising announcement, Sony announced that it is coming to PC and so I decided to try again (and I hoped nothing would happen to my PC lol). I bought the game in late October (I waited until I felt that the performance issues and bugs have been fixed. I only have a 1050 ti so playing unoptimized games is not an option). So now, after almost 49 hours spent in game, I have finally finished both the base game and the Frozen Wilds. All of this with a remarkable painless experience – I only experienced 1 crash while playing the main game and in The Frozen Wilds, the game crashed 3-4 times in succession but it seems to be an issue of a corrupted save as I reloaded into a slightly older save and was able to finish the expansion with no other issues.

Playing the game at 60 FPS was also great. Although I was fine with 30 FPS on PS4, 30 FPS on PC just didn't feel the same. It felt more choppy and less smooth. There were also some other minor issues like facial animations during cutscenes being weird (it felt as if the game was running at 60 FPS but animations were running at 30 FPS. It just felt very weird but you kinda got used to it). The base game always had stiff animations in cutscenes and dialogue scenes, yes, but this felt weirder.

Coming to the base game itself, enough discussion had been had about the positive things about the game so I'll mention some negatives that I'd like to see improved upon in the sequel:

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The first thing has to be the side activities. Maybe it's cause I played through them 3 times but I feel as if they were simply not good enough. While not as bad as Ubisoft collect-a-thons, I felt as if there wasn't much reward for chasing down all those metal flowers, cups and banuk figurines.

I'd have liked such collectibles to offer more story, more explanation or just something that made it worth it. I'd have liked to have more dialogue with all the>! special merchants that gave reward boxes for these special items.!<

Another suggestion would be having fewer but more diverse collectibles. So instead of having dozens of metal flowers, I feel that it would've been better to have fewer flowers and another category of collectible. One collectible that I thought was pretty great were the vantage points. They're quite unique to this game and the backstory was quite cool too. Coming to the other side content – I felt that the cauldrons were awesome. The second Cauldron – Cauldron RHO was kinda boring and tedious but the later Cauldron XI and ZETA were awesome because of their uniqueness – especially Cauldron XI. The Hunting Grounds were alright, I did the first 3 but I found the Hunting Ground in the Jewel to be infuriating and tedious so I abandoned it. I feel as if they're more for the more dedicated players who love the gameplay. I also liked the bandit camps, not necessarily for the camps themselves but rather because of Nil.

Finally, the side quests and errands – I felt as if they were a mixed bag. I found some side quests to be really interesting and awesome while others just seemed pointless and not worth the effort. All of them suffered from one big flaw that I'll talk about later. I also felt that they should've tied a bit more into the main quest but I did like them. Coming to the errands – I don't understand the need. Some should've been bigger, more expansive side quests. Others should've not existed at all since they were just a waste of time fetch quests that were just kinda tedious. I kinda get the reason for having them but I also feel that it would've been better to make them fully featured side quests with more substantiative content and eliminating some of them entirely.

Now the second negative (this is also the big flaw I referenced when talking about the side quests) – the writing. Don't get me wrong, Horizon has an awesome story and the story telling and narrative i.e the way the story unfolds and its setup, are awesome but the actual writing i.e the dialogues, are fairly mediocre in my opinion, especially in side quests and errands. In fact, I felt as if the writing was being carried by the story and its setup rather than standing on its own. What I mean is, I was willing to listen to all the dialogue in the game because I wanted to know more about the world and the story and not because the writing itself was great. That's why, to me, it felt as if the full potential of the game's story and narrative was not realised. Calling the writing mediocre might sound harsh but compared to writing in games like God of War, Uncharted, TLOU etc it simply is mediocre. Of course those games don't have as much writing needed to be done as HZD but I still think this is an area the sequel could massively improve upon.

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I think Guerrilla are very well aware of these flaws because the expansion – "The Frozen Wilds", which was release just a few months after the main game's launch, already improves upon the base game and fixes some of the faults I mentioned above. The cutscenes are a lot better (although I do think they went a little overboard – Aloy for example, makes a lot of movements during dialogue scenes that seem to be done just for the sake of making those movements rather than what an actual human might do), I felt the writing, though still mediocre at times, was generally better and the side quests and errands were much better too. I didn't bother with the collectibles but they didn't go overboard with them like the metal flowers so that's nice. My favourite weapons in the game are also obtained in the expansion.

The two aforementioned negatives aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this game and while it might not be the best game I played or my favourite, it is definitely among my favourites. I think one reviewer put it best – "All games doesn't need to reinvent the wheel and reach for the stars, to get to the tree tops is more than enough."

One last thing – I would not recommend anyone to play the game on any difficulty lower than the default unless you're really having trouble or simply don't have a lot of time to invest in the game. I wanted to finish the games ASAP so I played it on the easiest difficulty and while it saved me a lot of time and frustration (I only died like 5 times) it also means losing or diluting one of the game's best aspects – the combat and gameplay involving the machines.

Each machine is not simply a target to shoot at but rather a puzzle that you need to use suitable weapons, strategy and tactics to defeat and doing all those is one of the most rewarding aspects of this game.

When you play on the easiest difficulty you lose all that because you can take out most if not all machines with just a few arrows from your regular hunting bow. I never really used any weapon other than the hunting bow (which imo is a big miss because the weapon design and concepts in this game are awesome and lead to very unique and creative gameplay) and I never used any traps or potions either. Starting from the middle of the game, the machines just became mere annoyances in an inevitable path to victory rather than a challenging, rewarding and fun experience. So yeah, I suggest playing the game on normal difficulty if you can.

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I'll end by saying that I cannot wait to see what Guerrilla does with the sequel and hopefully it is going to be phenomenal!


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