Glorious 'Horizon Zero Dawn' worth exploring, discovering, growing

“Horizon Zero Dawn” portrays a remarkable journey for a character destined to save the world from the dangers of its past in a story of personal growth and understanding.

Aloy, a young outcast in a tribal society, is more than she appears to be. Like a child lost in time, the young girl resists the religious backbone of her tribe, the Nora, in favor of a scientific inquisitiveness and desire to know the unknown.

The adventure is set in an expansive open world that appears to be placed somewhere in the western United States. Many centuries have passed since the age of machines, but their influences in ruins and metallic creatures live on.

The environments are vast, striking and beautiful. The terrain varies from wind-blown deserts to snow-covered mountain tops. Missions take place along and inside the landscapes, and using the surroundings help keep Aloy safe and alive during combat.

A creature called a tallneck, something resembling an oversized giraffe with a flying saucer-shaped head, has information about the surrounding area in its data banks. When Aloy scales to the top of the disc head, she can reveal areas of the map in greater detail.

Nearly every place you can see, you can take Aloy there. A fast travel system helps speed up getting from one location to another, but the system can only be used via a fast pass, which can be bought or crafted. Don’t have a fast pass? Time to start walking or hitching a ride.

However, it is more beneficial to make the trek old school. Many resources needed to craft weapons, ammunition, or health are waiting along the roads and in the fields of the wilderness. Downed creatures can also be harvested for their resources, and traders show up in unexpected places to sell or buy different equipment.

The errand system also lets you automatically set up a mission to gain specific resources for a coveted weapon. Most require a rare element, and starting an errand mission will put Aloy in the right area to gain what she needs to make a purchase.

The young warrior’s abilities are geared toward survival skills, with proficiencies in the bow and arrow and a personally crafted spear. There are other weapons as well, like the sling, tripcaster, and ropecaster. There are different versions of each weapon, which can be purchased or earned in the journey.

The power lies in the different types of ammunition for the weapons. Some of the strongest against enemies is elemental based, and finding the right damage against the right foe will turn the tide more quickly in Aloy’s favor.

Stealth and long-distance artillery is preferred against these mechanical monstrosities, who were created to resemble animals, presumably long dead. Robotic rams, tigers, and horses occupy the same world as other robots resembling a giant tick, velociraptors, and a two-legged stegosaurus.

As Aloy explores the world and finds robot manufacturing sites, called cauldrons, she learns how to control the metal beasts and can turn them against her foes. There are some versions of robots that are infected by a corruption and resistant to Aloy’s influence. Fortunately, those have a red aura around them, making them stand out at a distance.

The combat is fluid, visceral, and energetic as Aloy dodges attacks, sneaks up on opponents and finds creative and strategic ways to complete her missions. Rushing into an area is not advisable, and scanning the situation in advance with a special sight lets Aloy target enemies and choose the best path to victory.

Trying to take on a snapmaw, an alligator-like robot, head on is folly. Many of the creatures also have a ranged attack, so it is almost a graceful yet deadly dance between Aloy and her prey.

The game’s beauty and dangers mesh very well with a story that is evocative, deep, and rich in detail. Aloy’s growth from a baby, potentially anointed as a chosen one, to a strong-willed leader of many tribes to a link between the world’s horrible past and its unknown future.

At 19, Aloy’s inquisitiveness and understanding of her place in her tribe and the world don’t stand in the way of her greatness. Rather than remain the outsider she was raised to be, she seeks to reach out and understand what happened to the world and the people around her.

In her travels and quests, she meets other people who have their own unique perspectives on the world. There is a sense of almost contentment in their place, and Aloy represents change, sometimes gently, sometimes violently.

Pieces of the overall story are there to find, even if the player doesn’t quite understand what they are seeing. It nearly becomes a mystery tale as clues are uncovered and motives revealed. As Aloy discovers more among the ruins of the previous world, she understands the terrible price of ambition and power, which threatens her world and her friends in her time.

Humor and laughter. Loss and misery. The emotions evoked by Aloy’s trials and tribulations are heartfelt and genuine. We find joy in her success. We lament her setbacks. We share in her shock and amazement at new discoveries.

This connection, in addition to the plethora of activities and the variety of the world, elevates “Horizon Zero Dawn” into an adventure worthy of your time. Guerrilla Games took a chance with a new franchise, but it was a smart play and a wonderful start.

The depth of the game is astounding, with non-linear missions and a pace that players can establish for themselves. The immersion will transport players into a possible nightmare future and the hope that lies beyond.

Take the time to see everything. Talk to every person to hear their stories. Ride every creature you can find. Aloy is an amazing character to play, and the developers provided the environment to enjoy her many emotions and skills.

I’m off to ride a sawtooth and search for another adventure.

“Horizon Zero Dawn” is a PlayStation 4 exclusive title. It is rated T for Teens due to alcohol and tobacco reference, blood, mild language, mild sexual themes, and violence. This post was done with a purchased digital download from the PlayStation store.