'Horizon Zero Dawn' could be 2016's most beautiful video game

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Considering the number of apocalyptic games that have been presented on this year’s E3, it’s only fitting that one of the best-received comes some 2000 years after the apocalyptic events that dominate today’s pop culture and our collective consciousness.

Horizon Zero Dawn is the name of the game, and it weaves a tale about the very few who have been left behind after the apocalypse (making the game, in creators’ words, “post-post-apocalyptic”), in the ruins, with, apparently, robot dinosaurs.

The Dutch studio Guerilla Games have crafted the surprise highlight of this year’s E3, an open world that’s appears to be a real refreshment when compared to the fiery chaos of other triple-A titles due to come out in the next year.

The trailer for the game didn’t raise any eyebrows of Sony’s audience during the first 30 seconds of its first presentation – it appeared to be rather ordinary, with your usual tribes at war with each other, mysterious ruins left by the “Old Ones” (the human race, obviously) and its stark landscapes.

Combine the uninteresting trailer with the studio’s reputation of only having crafted a standard-fare sci-fi franchise called Killzone, and you’d conclude that Horizon Zero Dawn is likely to be a miss, set in a familiar, by-the-book post-apocalyptic landscape. However, the more time you spend with it, the more you can discover.

Two thousand years after a not-entirely-explained apocalypse, we get to follow Aloy, a woman who is a part of a tribe living in a new Stone Age. But they are not the only tribe, and some other tribespeople are “as powerful as kings”. Aloy’s people fashion their crude tools out of fragments of our advanced tech left behind after the apocalyptic events, and they use them to hunt for dinosaurs, out of which they harvest biofuel and get other resources out of them.

The amazingly imaginative sci-fi world of Horizon Zero Dawn is almost unsettling in a way, both crude with its Stone Age tribes and ruins, and amazingly advanced with its industrial debris, and robotic forms of life appearing magnificent and large, stomping around and grazing. Life itself has become mechanical in this game. Guerilla Games has really nailed the atmosphere and the setting of this post-post-apocalyptic world, and they made us yearn to explore it.

The Studio Art director of Guerilla Games has said that the story will be left intentionally vague, and that the studio won’t reveal much about it. The players are left to find out all the details themselves and discover all the wonders of the open world.

It appears that during the game you’ll be kept busy with combat and other quests characteristic for open world games. We will see whether those quests will be interesting as the setting itself, but in a vast sea of apocalypse-themed games (and lately, movies, books and comics), Horizon Zero Dawn seems to address the subject in a way that’s more refreshing than what we’ve seen lately.

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