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Horizon Zero Dawn is a WONDERFUL patient gaming experience but with one, very surprising flaw that needs to be called out to the Devs

And I'm not talking about the mediocre dialogue that is basically on par with a high school English class that is reading lines from a play, or the animatronic-like character movements when they speak. In the last couple of months, I believe posts in this sub even covered those. And those flaws did require some amount of acceptance before I could start enjoying myself in this game, especially on the heels of playing TLOU2 which does both of these things so flawlessly on the same-gen console.

What I'd like to talk about is the game's Resource Management system, which at best is just plain bad and at worst is completely cringe-worthy for a triple-A game. Whereas the acting and dialogue might have kept a good game from being great, the Resource Management system in Horizon Zero Dawn really impacts the play and fun-factor and after 75-hours in the game, I'm willing to say it is the WORST that I can ever recall seeing in any game. It's bad.

The idea of collecting items and junk through an Open World certainly isn't new, but what irks me about Horizon's resources is the frequency of collection. The game values quantity over quality, and as much as I love exploring Horizon's beautiful open world, my eyes spend less time on the scenery and more time on the ground as I find myself searching for Health herbs every 15 steps because the last one I grabbed only gave me a marginal amount of what I needed.

And that tends to be a central theme in Horizon. Rather than items being a "treasure" that you found to help you along your journey, resources are bountiful in the game but are borderline worthless. Trying to restore your health reserve in this game is like saving up for a new car by picking up nickles on the ground. There's no shortage of supply of them, but who wants to find and pick up 40 flowers before your health reserve is back to full after every enemy encounter. There are MUCH better ways of doing this, but ultimately, I would rather an item be slightly more difficult to find and have more value. Picking up nickles on the ground every 50 feet or so quickly detracts from the gameplay.

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The Resource Management problem is further compounded by a very poor UI and Menu system which have so many problems that it needs to be bullet-pointed:

  • There is zero means of customizing the resource menu other than sorting by rarity! How the hell is that helpful!? It means that all the various items that I need for crafting are intermingled with the things that I use for trading. Even the junk-only items whose only purpose is to be sold to traders is not easy to find in my inventory. WHY can't there just be a "sell all junk" button?!
  • The game settled on using "hieroglyphic"-type icons to identify what each item is in your inventory. It is NOT clear what each item is represented by and I am 75 hours into the game right now and still have no clue. The only reason I even know that something might be junk-only and ready to sell is because it's a different shaped icon than what I normally see in my inventory. Everything is represented by a different icon and is either green, blue, or purple depending on rarity. Not helpful at all, especially when I have just as many Rare items in my inventory as common items. Not-so-rare.
  • 95% of my items have zero value and they just sit in my inventory. All of the components that you harvest from machines are supposed to be traded for weapons and outfits, but there are maybe only a dozen different weapons and outfits in the game, each of which has 3 different variations/rarity levels. So as soon as you've acquired the most useful items, you no longer end up needing to buy anything in the game and so all those components you harvest from machines just sit there in your inventory and you end up playing that not-so-fun, in-game, mini-game of always trying to manage inventory levels so that your inventory isn't full but you always have just a few of everything on the chance that you need it somewhere down the line. Between this and picking up nickles on the map, it adversely impacts the game experience. And at 75 hours in, I'm really starting to suspect that I'm not going to end up using any of those items for anything at all.
  • On the topic of weapons and outfits, they deserve a special mention because there is ZERO available options to sort or customize the menu, so every time I need to change weapons or outfits, I have to play a game of "Memory" and ask myself, "where is that item located on the screen", because just like resources, everything is represented by similar-shaped icons and have the same colors, and so you have no idea which is the item you're looking for until your cursor crosses over it. And then just to mess with you, everything in the menu shifts a little once you sell an item and then you have to relearn its new location in your menu all over again.
  • And the game gives us a weapon's wheel but there's no outfit wheel. Outfits in this game (which look amazing by the way) serve a different purpose depending on the enemy you're fighting. So like weapons, you're constantly changing outfits for that particular scenario, but gameplay is disrupted by, once again, by having to go to the outfit menu (which of course isn't even the closest default tab within the menu screen) and then please see above bullet point for complaints regarding the outfit selection mini-game.
  • The potions and traps "scroll" wheel is similarly awful. I probably use the same 2 or 3 items for 95% of my gameplay purposes, but there is no way to sort or customize what's in my inventory. (Again, see TLOU for an example of a game that does this well). Horizon, however, has you press left or right to cycle through potions, trap, or commands while in-game and there's no rhyme or reason for how it's sorted in that menu. So when I find myself suddenly needing a full-health potion because I'm getting pulverized by a massive thunderjaw… let me stop my character in her place for a moment because instead of running and dodging, my thumb is needed elsewhere on the controller to cycle between all the crap that I own just to find the one item that I need and can hopefully find and use before I get pulverized again. So stupid!
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So… where do I stand with all this? I'm critical of the game's resource management system, but I'd like to call out that Horizon Zero Dawn has been a wonderful and entertaining game experience despite this, and anyone who hasn't yet played it absolutely should give it a try. The massive open-world environment is gorgeous. The costumes are stunning. The combat mechanics are fun. The story is intriguing. It's relatively bug-free (I've only encountered ONE the entire time). And I haven't even beaten the game yet, but I'm 75 hours into it and already looking forward to the game's sequel that is expected later this year.

Guerrilla Games, PLEASE just invest more time into the acting/dialogue and resource/menu components of the next game. You've laid the foundation for a game series that could be legendary, but it's currently hamstrung by issues that are severely under-developed relative to the remainder of a very well-polished open world.

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