It took me a total of 51 hours, 47 minutes and 22 seconds – but I got 100% completion in game. I got Platinum (all trophies / achievements) at just over 50 hours, and still lacked one side quest and one errand to do, which I found in Free Hope. Let me say this first, i enjoyed every second I played this game, and in the end, it has become one of my favorite games of all time – rivaling games such as The Witcher 3, but saying that, it doesn’t surpass TW3 in my book.
The first thing you notice as you begin playing is that the graphics and soundtrack are superb.
Graphically it beats games like The Witcher 3 simply because the FPS doesn’t drop and I found hardly any glitches whatsoever – except the occasional machine dino break dancing after death. The soundtrack only adds to the wonderful ambience, adding an element that both delights and terrifies as you trudge through the beautiful post-post apocalyptic landscape. This is simply the most beautiful game I have ever played, visually striking with a wonderful attention to detail.
Mechanically, the game borrows heavily from games such as TW3, Assassins Creed, Far Cry Primal and Tomb Raider – there is also elements of other games as well. What it does borrow it borrows really well. Everything, from climbing to shooting a bow feels natural. In fact, using the bow feels so natural that when switching to another weapon, it feels unnatural using it – but no less enjoyable. In combat, the game gives you many options – including just going all out, no stealth and blasting enemies, or the more subtle approach of setting traps and blast wires and leading machines and humans alike into a symphony of destruction as you whistle to get them to cone closer to you. Combat in this game FEELS natural – meaning it isn’t clunky or over complicated. At the same time, even being level 50 with the games end game power armor equipped, you can still easily die if you are not paying attention and dodging attacks on a regular basis.
The game is challenging enough on Normal that it provides a good experience. I have not tried it on any harder difficulty – Normal was good enough for me, providing a good balance between paying attention to the story and being challenging enough to not feel like I was rolling through enemies too fast.
Story wise, Horizon Zero Dawn tells the story of a civilization ultimately created by humanity to survive a man-made apocalypse. I’ll leave that there as the only true story spoiler – but I will say that the story was well thought out and very well told. Every element, every bit of information is important, and even though there are several side quests through out your journey, none feel like they are taking away from the main story, but in fact adding to its mystery. I will be honest, though I had an idea of how it was going to play out, the story did ultimately surprise me – and that is a good thing, with me not being able to guess all of the intricate details in the end.
Beyond the main story, we see a true human element in the side quests and little adventures that the game brings up – from finding people who are lost, helping people get revenge, clearing bandit camps and clearing dungeon like cauldrons – everything in this game feels right and again, ultimately adds to the end result, which is a well thought out and described story that brings us to the salvation of human kind.
My only complaint is that even though the game is open world, and a large one at that, I did not feel the need to actually explore. Ultimately, if you buy the “special maps,” all of the collectibles will be placed on your map. Yes, it is a general location, and I confess, Google helped me a couple of times, but the need to actually run off in a general direction simply wasn’t there. Instead, I would run off towards a particular map icon – be it a metal flower, and ancient vessel or a long neck to get my prize or open up even more of the map. This made the discovery of collectibles more like another fetch quest versus something that i actually found during the journey throughout the world. That being said, I have not discovered all of the date points, but since those do not count towards the completion percentage or the achievements, I wasn’t too concerned.
In the end, I got platinum before I got 100% completion –
And getting 100% completion was as simple as me finding the one location I had not yet gone to to get my last side quest and errand –
Ultimately, the game felt a little short to me – though left open ended enough for DLC or a sequel, I felt like it could have been a little more there. Essentially, knowing what I know now, I feel like I could have done everything in about 45 hours or less – and with a guide, which isn’t out until tomorrow, probably even quicker. However, I did really like that for the most part, the trophies/achievements were gained for typically though normal operations – except for the 23 training dummies – and i really appreciated that.
Over all I give it a 9/10 – Excellent game play coupled with an amazing story topped off with amazing graphics and soundtrack that only felt a little short to me. I would have loved another 10-20 hours with Aloy in her machine infested world.