First, there are many more highs than lows. There’s a reason that it’s the best selling PS4 game in a long time.
I’m about an hour’s worth of game left to complete the main story. There’s a particular achievement I want, in order to try and get the platinum trophy, so I’m delaying that a bit in order to complete some side quests. So I consider this the “long tail” of the game. I’ve seen it and done it, then did it again. And I’m going back for more.
- The world building is solid. Zones feels distinct and planned. Towns/cities feel representative and have character. The flowers/statues/vistas to collect make for some fun exploration. Exploration just feels good, without the nitty gritty of continuous collection of crap (looking at you BioWare).
- The underlying story is some solid sci-fi. Borderline plausible, which is pretty eerie. Most characters make sense – except Ted Faro. He takes a turn that doesn’t make much sense.
- Aloy is just plain awesome. The writing is well done, Ashly Burke (HAWP!) does some fine voice work, the animations are solid, and the feeling of walking death grows continuously. A character arc, who would have thunk?! One of my favorite leads in a long time.
- Combat mechanics work. All the weapons have a purpose and fit a particular style. The bow feels like an improvement on Tomb Raider, which was the top notch. Using 2 triggers to shoot just makes sense. It is a great feeling to bring down a giant robot T-Rex.
- The various enemy weak areas to exploit make for some strategic decisions. Some parts are a pain in the butt to hit though.
- The game is a continuous challenge. Until 1 particular event.
- The lip sync can feel like Ashley Simpson at times. It’s distracting but at the same time not a killer since the “face to face” conversations are pretty minimal.
- Stealth only works in tall grass or large rocks. Trees provide no cover. So you end up looking for a prime stalking location, and then all hell breaks loose. I should note for bandit camps, stealth is the way to go by luring and silent strike each opponent.
- Overriding robots doesn’t provide much value aside from a distraction as the enemy AI is pretty bad when converted.
- 95% of all combat is about dodge rolling, slowing down time, sniping a piece of equipment, then dodging again. It’s fun and intense but can wear after a while.
- Fights against large enemies can feel draining when there are 4-5 more robots around. Getting chain stunned is not fun. I end up pulling enemies away in order to take them down. Which I suppose is like real hunting…
- The various sub-quest/errands don’t appear to have payoffs. Clearing bandits camps doesn’t do much. Corrupted zones either. Hunting quests give you gear that you dramatically outclass by the time you get it. It’s fun, but busy work.
- Weapon modifications are so-so, with no real choice, just larger numbers. Modifications on armor are useless (actually, all armor is useless with one exception).
They are smaller details that really only become apparent when you stare at it or take a step back for a while. It may be busy work, but it’s fun in doses. I wouldn’t clear corrupted areas all day for 2 days, but as I come across them it’s a fun challenge.
Now for the turning point. After completing the second to last mission, you can get access to Ancient Armor. Up until that point, the armor you get has marginal value. A Thunderjaw will kill you in 3 hits instead of 2. Ancient Armor makes you invulnerable to a LARGE chunk of damage (slightly over a health bar), and then takes 5 seconds to regenerate. In practical terms, it changes the way you play the game.
There’s one corrupted area that has 5 Chargers and 1 Fire Bellowback. A single Bellowback can kill you in a couple hits. Combined with 5 Chargers stunning you, it’s a death trap. The armor makes it almost a joke. I meleed the Chargers to death, then took the Bellowback face to face and won. I took down 3 Stalkers without using the bow. It’s crazy. Where before you were a glass cannon, after you get the armor you become a massive tank.
It’s not exactly god-mode, but it’s as close as I’ve come in any non-RPG. The issue has nothing to do with power curve, that works. It’s the defensive curve. If regular armor had any appreciable effect, then the last piece wouldn’t seem so out of place.
I’m still having fun though, and I’m looking forward to the conclusion of the story. Still very highly recommended.