Horizon Zero Dawn is a game that’s so visually stunning that I sometimes find myself forgetting to quest or follow my next objective. The scenery and soundtrack together are breathtaking and entirely distracting. Not to mention all the interesting mechanical beasts that stalk the landscape. I can’t count the times I’ve been following a quest only to get tangled up in hunting and discovering new areas. This is not a bad thing.

Nothing is wasted in this game. Even the rather puny Striders provide you with valuable materials you can use for crafting or simply selling for metal shards (the in-game currency). The beasts don’t always react how you think they will, either – often you might run into a herd and rather than fight you they will gallop away, startled.

Things I particularly love:

Non-linear, open world gameplay. This is one of the main reasons Skyrim is my soul game – you can spend hours running and hunting and climbing, if you so wish. But there are still plenty of big, juicy quests to get into, when you’re ready.

The machines are cool. The idea (for those who haven’t played this) is that animal-like machines were living among humans peacefully, but something called the Derangement has happened and they are now beginning to act more aggressively and even attack humans. Aloy has to figure out not only her own origins, but also why the machines have turned, and why the mysterious cult Eclipse is after her.

Speaking of the machines, it’s funny that I blogged recently about a Final Fantasy XIII, a game I completed a few years ago. The beasts in HZD are vaguely reminiscent of FF creatures, often mechanical with elaborate designs.

Aloy’s story is bittersweet and as the POV character you grow to respect and care about what happens to her. She is quite a tragic figure and her personal story unfolds at a steady, satisfying pace. She’s highly skilled and agile, although I do get a swooping sensation in my stomach whenever she’s scaling some impossible sheer rock face. 😐

Zip-lining from great heights.

The crafting system is simple and straightforward. I didn’t think I’d like it, but it actually frees up more time to explore. This is not my usual play style, and I will often balance crafting and building with action and adventure. But it actually works in this game, perhaps because of the story.

The Shield-Weave Armour (see image. I would love a dress made from this material).

Scanning beasts and figuring out what types of ammo will work best against them. I love that the game gives you hints about a creature’s weaknesses. You get a selection of different arrows you can use (fire, shatter, etc. There are even arrows that will knock additional parts off a machine).

The Focus that Aloy wears is a godsend for checking out surroundings and assessing threats. It’s also great for finding small animals to hunt for resources.

Overriding is great in theory, but I prefer travelling on foot, otherwise you zoom past too many interesting things.

Did I mention that this game is utterly, breathtakingly stunning? Guh!

The soundtrack is also incredibly beautiful:

Within the Embrace | Meridian | On Our Mother’s Shoulders