Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the most anticipated games to release next year, but it can be hard to get a sense of what a game will actually be like until you play it in its entirely. Until then, you only have small glimpses of a game through trailers, new reveals, and developer interviews to get a sense of its scope and ambition. Not having some lingering questions or concerns is difficult. We took some time while we were at Guerrrilla Games in Amsterdam to get some more solid answers to assuage our biggest fears.
There Won’t Be Much Of A Story
We’ve mostly seen action-oriented gameplay in the footage Guerrilla Games has shown off, with only minor story beats teased. Guerrilla is deliberately keeping much of the story under lock and key, because so much of the experience is about discovering the answers to the game’s larger mysteries, such as why Aloy was cast out of her tribe at birth and why animal-like machines have taken over the world. The main narrative focuses on Aloy’s personal quest to find out more about her origins, but also to discover a way to stop the dangerous machines from taking over. While we were at the studio, Guerrilla assured us that a compelling story is there for those who crave it. Not only is there a main quest, but there are also extra goodies to find for those don’t who really get into the lore. “For people who are story junkies, for people who like to collect every audio log or text log out there, people who want to have a grand narrative to their game, I think they’re going to be really surprised and delighted by what we have prepared for them,” says lead writer John Gonzalez.
As we discussed in our previous Horizon feature, Guerrilla has spent a lot of time building up the lore of the world and is striving to tell a science-fiction story with a strong character at the helm. Remember, Aloy has her own interesting mysteries, as she doesn’t know much about her mother and father or why she has a low status in her tribe. She’s looking for somewhere to belong, and our guess is as good as yours as to where that will be. One thing’s for certain, though; her fascination with technology and ability to stand against massive machines is interesting in its own right.
It’s Not Really An RPG
Things get chaotic fast in the intense combat of Horizon Zero Dawn, thanks to machines coming to help each other and attacking Aloy from every direction. So far we’ve seen a lot of action, but not much in terms of what makes the game an RPG. During our trip, Guerrilla stated many times that it set out to make an RPG that’s also an action game. The RPG genre made the most sense for the project based on all the systems and quests it wanted to include. “It’s more of an organic process, but the one thing we did state at some point during development is that we were making an action/RPG and that it was shaping up to be a hybrid of both,” says director Mathijis de Jonge.
While Horizon’s RPG elements aren’t super complex, they are there. Various quests are scattered throughout the world and you can upgrade Aloy in various ways. As she levels up, you earn points, which can then be used to purchase upgrades for her. Furthermore, Aloy can equip modifications to her weapons and armor that can increase your attack power or resistance to certain attacks.
Because the game is more of a hybrid of the action and RPG genre, Guerrilla didn’t want to leave anyone behind. “What we wanted to avoid is complicated menus,” de Jonge says. “We also didn’t want to go too deep with the RPG features we were developing. We wanted to have a certain level of accessibility and understandability for players. We also didn’t want to go too hardcore with stats, so at some point we just cut it off and said we weren’t going to go any further because it would confuse players.”
It Will Be Too Challenging
The demos we’ve encountered haven’t been easy, but Guerrilla assures us they’ve made a game players of all different experience levels can play. Advanced optional bosses are out there for those who revel in taking on the biggest challenges, but nothing should be so difficult that players throw their controllers in frustration. Players constantly have ways to improve their characters with various quests, from taking down corruption zones to helping tribes get stronger. Nothing is out of reach. If you’re into stealth, you can play that way. If you want a more aggressive approach, that’s also an option. When we first started our demo, we found the learning curve just right. Once you pick up on the controls and start looking at all the tools at your disposal, things start to click, such as using advantageous tools like the tripwire to stun enemies or the ropecaster to pin them down. Plus, if you ever feel overwhelmed in a situation, you can run away and come back later with a better strategy. Guerrilla isn’t going to just hand you victories; it does want you to experiment and find what works best for you.
The Gameplay Won’t Have Variety
Because we’ve seen a few gameplay demos now, it’s easy to think we’ve seen everything, but that’s not the case. For instance, at the PlayStation 4 Pro event, Guerrilla surprised us by showing Aloy platforming up a gigantic Tallneck machine to hack it. Guerrilla also kept teasing there are multiple mounts you can tame that will change up the gameplay. Not to mention a bevy of weapons that Aloy will get later in the game, such as a rocket launcher. In addition, Guerrilla’s main goal has been to appeal to a wide variety of players by letting them play how they want and giving them options to build Aloy to their play style. When you upgrade her, there are three different tiers: Forager, Prowler, and Brave. Putting points into Forager gets you better materials for crafting and override skills, Prowler is centered on stealth, and Brave is all about upgrading your brute force with new melee attacks. When you upgrade these tiers, you gain access to new skills to change up the way you fight, from instant-kill attacks to certain bonuses such as stat boosts. New machines also pop up in different areas, forcing you to adjust your strategy and learn their weaknesses.
Aloy Will Mostly Be Alone
Aloy is an outcast who discovers that only she holds the power to unlocking the secrets of how this mysterious ancient technology works, but will she constantly be on her own? When we asked Guerrilla if any other faces will join her in battle, the answer was yes. She has a strong relationship with Rost who has taken care of her since birth, so we wouldn’t be surprised if he joined her at times in combat or was a prominent presence throughout the narrative. In addition, Aloy will meet various colorful characters on her journey through side quests and the main story. Remember, Aloy is searching for answers and a place to belong. We were told depending on the relationships and choices she makes, some characters appear again later in the story. We’re guessing with all the people she meets in the different tribes on her trek, she’s bound to foster some relationships.
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