Horizon Zero Dawn – Review

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 –

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Platinum Trophy – 50 Hours In

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 –

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100% at 52 Hours In

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.

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No Man’s Sky – Second Impressions

So it’s day three of playing No Man’s Sky on PS4 – yes, I am still on my first planet, and yes I am still discovering things. It may seem mundane, yet I find it hard to leave. Maybe that’s a personal problem, maybe I don’t particularly like change, but here I am (still). Day two saw me “grinding” resources to make money – it worked fairly well – spent a couple of hours making By-pass Chip things and selling them. Its pretty simple, you only need 10 Plutonium and 10 Iron, both of which are in decent supply on my original planet. It sure beat learning words, but just like with that exercise, i found myself wanting to keep going. It was a lot easier, and seemingly more legit then other money making schemes in games, such as the bottle cap glitch in Fallout 4. This isn’t a glitch at all, its a natural supply and demand thing. Like me, a lot of people who are streaming seem to have caught the credit making itch – farming items like gold, aluminum and such. Making a lot of credits and then realizing that ship that just landed is just out of monetary reach.

Just as in real life, money isn’t everything, yet it can be a driving force in this game. There is a part of me that wants to explore beyond my first planet, yet there is also something still holding me here. Maybe it is the green labeled question marks, maybe it is the monolith canyon I discovered – three monoliths right there together. Maybe it is the fact that I still haven’t “cleared” the planet 100% in discoveries. i think it is more I am scared to leave. Funny, I know, its a game, but I find myself wondering what if I leave and I miss something. This game is so vast that it will be impossible for me to clear every planet I find 100%, lest i never make it to the center of the galaxy, yet the RPG gamer in me wants to.

It is aggravating that my character doesn’t seem to have the ability or know how to make a map of my discoveries – I have found a lot of way points, but it seems to be impossible to find the dude I first met who taught me so many words. Yet, I keep discovering things and it keeps me going. I seem to have stumbled off of the Atlas path, and I can’t seem to find my way in that regard, albeit, I haven’t really attempted to too much.

With the “explanation” by Sean Murray as to why the two gamers couldn’t see each other, Link to IGN’s article. I have a renewed hope that one day I may stumble across a friend, or at least a stranger, and that makes my eventual journey to the center of the galaxy a little more exciting. Also, know that i haven’t even scratched the surface yet still makes this game daunting in its scale, and makes me look forward to what discoveries are to come. i know some people have complained that it is always more of the same, but as a scientist at heart, seriously, what did you expect? Every planet will be different, but at the same time, because of the way nature is, they will all be similar. In a simple sentence, I like it so far, and I don’t expect that to change.

I have now upgraded my score to an A- (90), partly due to the fact that Mr. Murray had a very plausible explanation concerning the two people who could not see each other. I understand that “true multiplayer” is not part of this game, the hope that I can see someone else is refreshing. There are still things I’d like to see… mapping anyone? Yet the scale of this game still continues to amaze me. My hope is that they only continue to move forward with whatever they have planned, and not take two steps back.

As a scoring note, I listed it as a B- before because I don’t like feeling betrayed – this seems to happen a lot now of days with video games, promise one thing, deliver another. With the explanation of why the two people didn’t see each other, I am once again filled with hope that in my lonely drive to the center of the galaxy, i might run into a real person.

No Man’s Sky – First Impressions

Not many video games have been more anticipated then No Man’s Sky. I remembered when I first heard about it years ago and I was instantly intrigued. As an old veteran of games like EvE Online, I longed for a space sim of some sort – whether it was single player or multi player, it didn’t matter, and with the surge in survival games, I had a feeling back then this game would be a hit. Blending space sim with survival just bleeds epic. Obviously, what we thought this game would be back then is not what we now know it to be – yes, other people can find my discoveries, see that I named my first planet after my deceased father – but if we are both on that planet, at the same location, we will not see each other. However, as a space survival sim, it feels like it should.

When you begin, you find yourself on a generated planet that now becomes part of the galaxy at large. Your ship is broken, your gear isn’t at full charge, and you are thrust into scavenger mode without really knowing what you are doing. I felt like I must have crashed on this planet and hit my head – really hard – remembering only that I am a human being who can fly through space. Eventually, I gathered that i could harvest material nodes, find outposts and such, and even talk to an alien who I found. I didn’t know his language, but after giving hime 6000 carbon and spending roughly two hours, i had learned 150 alien words and gained a bronze, silver and gold trophy for my efforts. I still have no idea what the heck he is trying to tell me, though I know he is a warrior, he keeps talking about an interloper (me?) and such. I stayed on the first planet for most of my time – I did repair my ship, leave the planet, then I came back down. I wanted to discover all of the way points, which I did. I did eventually leave – found a cold planet with tons of gold, and then eventually landed on a space station, where I gained reputation with the aliens in the galaxy as well as learned another word (I still have no idea what they are trying to tell me).

All in all I really liked the feel for the game – I can play it how I want in the sense that I can spend two hours gathering carbon and learning words. The learning curve was short – once I discovered what I needed to charge my stuff, etc, but I know the galaxy is vast. When I think of the fact that I haven’t even left my own star system, it is a little overwhelming. I feel like I could stay in this system and be content for a while.

Pros:
1) Game play is easy to pick up, awkward at first, but once understood, simple.
2) The game is beautiful so far
3) I can lose myself in each world (or even more simply, in a task, such as learning a language
4) I can play the game how I want to – I can remain in system, I can choose to learn a language if I want, or harvest to my hearts content (or at least until my inventory is full
5) The game feels truly endless, with billions of possibilities – of course, I am only 2 planets, 1 space station and 5 hours in.

Cons:
1) Maybe I’m stupid – but how do you exit the game without closing the application?
2) lack of multiplayer…

I want to hit on the lack of multiplayer a bit. We all knew going in that no one would be close to each other – or if we were, it would be a far fetched thing. However, the fact that it puts us all in separate instances came as a shock. Here is a link to the Kotaku article. I know multiplayer isn’t everything – just look at The Witcher 3, etc, however, in today’s day and age, mmo / multiplayer games are where we are at. It is nice to be able to take a breather from other people, however, how fun would it be to explore the galaxy with a friend – how fun would it be for friend A to say to friend B, I am here, you are there, lets set a goal to find each other, meet up and go to the center of the galaxy together – or at least meet up. We now know that is entirely impossible, and in a word, that totally sucks. Is it make or break? I don’t know – there is a ton of stuff to keep me busy by myself with my alien friends. However, I can guarantee the option to join up with a buddy would make this game “Game of the Year.” I do know that it will not take me away from my Neverwinter duties and play time, simply because I need my multiplayer fix.

Current Score: B- (75 – mostly due to the multiplayer lack)