PS4 is all set up and good to go. Relatively painless install, which was nice. I picked up Horizon, Uncharted 4 (in the package deal), and a used FF15. Horizon was the first kick at the can. I even got to play a bit with my eldest daughter, who did a pretty good job navigating.
I’ll assume most people know what the game is about. Futuristic pre-history, open world, robotic dinosaurs, tribes, and bows. That sums it up somewhat well.
The game is stunning to play through, where I find myself just moving the camera to enjoy the scenery. It’s also one of those games where if you can see it, you can likely get to it. It starts off in a relatively small part, then you actually look at the map and the sheer size of it all is amazing. I’m sure there are other games that are as big, but few that share the same scale on a single unified map.
Running around (or on a mount) is a lot of fun. There always seems to be something to catch your eye and I find it difficult to stick to the beaten path. The first large quest has your run something around 2000 distance to the next target. If I had ran straight, it would have been under 10 minutes. It took me something like 5 hours instead. Animals to hunt, gear to craft, bandits to clear, flowers to find, statues to find, cauldrons to explore…there’s always something going on.
Cauldrons in particular feel like tombs from AC2, combined with some stealth combat. They allow you to unlock converting more and more difficult robots. Each follows a similar structure – move through a puzzle area, with a few enemies around to make life hard. Then a final massive battle. They allow you to explore the lore of the world, which seems very well integrated. I’m always looking for more.
Voice and sound are all top notch. The lip sync can be off a bit, but the voice acting itself is superb. Aloy feels relateable. Her banter and self-thoughts make sense. Conversations are about more than the simple stuff. It’s quite well done.
Combat though, I think that was the real genesis for this game. The enemy robots all have specific weak spots. Most of those spots are covered with armor. Nearly all have a specific elemental weakness that provided an additional effect. Burn the fuel tank, take off 50% of the HP. Remove the generator and no more stealth. Aside from Watchers (the simplest of robots), most can kill you in 3-4 hits. Some are massive. The first fight against a Corruptor felt like the hardest fight in years. Then I realized he’s only mid-range difficult.
Most combat games you can stick with a single weapon. You might upgrade range and damage, but you stay with the same. Maybe God of War is one where you’d swap between 2 or three weapons. Here though, you have to swap. Either you do 10 damage a shot on a 10,000 hp enemy, or: you swap weapons, detach the armor, swap weapons, shoot a fire arrow, swap weapons, stun the enemy, swap weapons and deal a killing blow. It’s sounds like a lot, and at first it is. Eventually you get the hang of all the various bits and combat flow. You turn into some kind of super human archer, pulling off moves that would seem ridiculous an hour before.
Gear itself is upgraded, though only marginally. My 15 dmg bow is now an 18 dmg bow and “very rare”. Skill is the differentiator here, and that’s a lot of fun. Input controls are solid, and you don’t have any lag between what you want and what happens. It feels like there’s move cancellation, which is more important than if it’s there or not. My only gripe is that the camera can be a challenge, especially on larger enemies. In particular in the very hectic battles.
So far, I’m feeling like this game alone was worth the console purchase price. It hits all the right notes. Combat, exploration, story, growth. Extremely impressed.