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Horizon Zero Dawn drew me in like I wasn’t expecting

I randomly picked up Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition on PS4 for $10 a few days ahead of Christmas. Even if it didn’t hold my attention, I figured $10 was worth the risk.

I finally finished the game last night, although I still have a handful of side quests still to do, including the majority of the Frozen Wilds DLC, and I have to say this game was terrific. I was expecting an open-world game a la The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which came out right around the same time as Horizon and which I picked up at launch, that was big on environment but short on story.

Instead, I found myself actually interested in the story and often pondering how the world became the way it was in this game. The story missions offered fairly good pacing of reveals, although most of them came later on in the game, but still staggered enough that it didn’t feel like everything was dumped on you in one particular mission.

I also found I liked several characters, although, to be fair, there were many more introduced who I completely forgot about until they popped up at the end for one last refrain. But, the characters of Aloy, Sylens, and even Rost, had me really invested in their stories.

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In addition, the music in this game was terrific. While subtle in most sections – to the point that I’m not even sure there was music – several moments in the story, especially a few heart-wrenching scenes, really showcased how well done the game’s score was. The theme that played during the ending credits also highlighted this.

That’s not to say the game isn’t without its flaws. Aside from modifications, there really isn’t a good way to do more damage as the game progresses. Leveling up only adds +10 to your health and buying new weapons pretty much only unlock different kinds of ammo. In addition, it felt like there weren’t that many different machines to hunt and fight. After a few hours in, you’ve pretty much seen every type of machine, and by the last half of the game or so, each mission basically ends with a fight against a Thunderjaw or a Deathbringer.

Inventory management is also a chore and was probably one of the most frustrating things about the game. There are only so many spots for resources and modifications that you can pick up and the game literally just throws them out you, to the point where your bag becomes so full of common drops that you’re not able to fit some of the rarer ones. OK, so just drop the common resources, right? Nope, you need those to craft arrows, bombs, etc. that you use to take down every enemy in the game. You can upgrade your carrying capacity, but even that only goes so far.

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Combat in general was a mixed bag. While there were a variety of options available between ranged bow attacks, melee spear attacks, the ability to lay traps, etc., I typically opted to stealthily pick off enemies from afar before others noticed and then switch to melee only when they got too close.

All in all, this was a really solid game with plenty of content and areas to explore that made it well worth the $10 I spent on it. I’d even say I’m now inclined to play the sequel (once it and PS5s come down in price) just to see where things go.


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