Horizon Zero Dawn: Initial Impressions

I played this new game for a few hours last night and I have to say that I have been blown away. Not only does Horizon look fantastic, it matches that with superb game-play as well. Not to mention how fascinating the story is, at least so far.

It is not often that a game manages to tick all three of those boxes, especially within the first couple of hours.

Combat against the machines that wander the world feels great, and each different type of machine has its own threat if you are not careful enough to avoid their attention. Watchers for example will call out to nearby machines, warning some away and calling other watchers to come and help deal with the threat. Striders are less aggressive and usually run when you start to attack them, however get too close and they will turn and fight.

This makes fighting them very interesting, as you are constantly learning new ways to take them down and as you get stronger a machine that once needed stealth and a bit of luck to down, needs only a few stabs with a spear, but you still have to be careful of the rest of the machines pack, because they will come after you if you aren’t paying attention.

The only thing that throws me off graphically with this game is to do with talking to other characters, faces and voice acting are amazing but like a lot of games there is very little expression made around the eyes. While this isn’t a major problem it becomes a little distracting when everything else about a character is so expressive, but you are basically having an intense staring contest with them. But this is a problem that will get fixed as game development becomes even more advanced.

So far I am finding the story truly fascinating, and I can’t wait to find out more about this world. What happened to all of our cities? What are the machines? Where did they come from? Why did humanity choose to live so simply rather than rebuild? I hope all of these question get answered, either through the story or through exploration of the world.

Exploration hasn’t been a big thing yet with how far in to Horizon I am, but I believe it is just about to open up for me. That said I love how full of resources the world is, you find crafting materials everywhere you look, and you definitely make good use of the machines and animals you hunt.

Currency in this game is Metal Shards, which as you might imagine can be found on machines, however shards aren’t the only thing needed to buy things from traders, some items need special parts such as a lens from a watcher or a striders heart.

A great quality of life system has been implemented here though, if you do not have the required part you have an option to “start a job” where the part you need is highlighted on the map the same way a quest would be. I love this, in other games I have become used to writing out lists of items to farm or constantly opening inventory screens to make sure I have the required number of parts. This small addition is really helpful.

Anyway, I am going to go and play some more now and I can only hope that Horizon Zero Dawn lives up to what it has shown me so far. I can also tentatively recommend that this game is worth getting even though I am only a few hours in, which is a pretty good indicator of just how well this game begins.

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Mass Effect: My Road to Andromeda.

mass-effect

Mass Effect was a series that I ignored for a very long time, mainly because I didn’t have any of the hardware to play the games on as they released. But eventually I got my hands on Mass Effect 3 as a consolation for having bought Sim City 2013 when that game had its god awful launch.

So I figured it was time to jump in to the series and see what I was missing so I bought Mass Effect 1 when it next went on sale. I approached it like I do in many RPGs to make myself and experience the world as I believe I would act.

So out came John Shepard Hero of the Alliance………….. and I didn’t even finish the first mission. For some reason I couldn’t connect with the characters or world in any way so I moved on and played something else.

In the following years as rumors of Mass Effect Andromeda started to surface then finally a brief reveal at an E3 press conference, I began to get interested in this elusive series once again. By this time I had heard a lot of good things about playing Mass Effect as female Shepard. So I decided to take a different tack when trying to play this time.

I approached the game as playing a character, choosing the way they would act rather than the way I would act. Experiencing the story through them rather than through myself, Jennifer Hale’s superb voice acting helped immensely with this too.

Doing this brought me in deep and I played the whole trilogy with all of its story DLC in about a week in January 2016. The only game I didn’t perfect (finishing all quests) was Mass Effect 1 due to trying to get away from the most dated part of the series.

All in all I loved the trilogy, and more than a little annoyed with myself having ignored the franchise for so long. It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me given how much I love the Sci-Fi genre, and now with Andromeda on its way later this month I can’t wait for it to drop, (even if I am annoyed with having a couple of assignments due around the same time).

Mass Effect: Andromeda from what I have seen of it, looks to be moving back towards the kind exploration that Mass Effect 1 had. With being able to touch down on many different planets in search of resources and technology to improve your character and teammates. Though hopefully Andromeda’s Nomad is vastly more controllable than the MAKO.

It will also be interesting to see how the story plays out given that Humanity and the Council races from the Mass Effect trilogy are in a completely alien environment in the Andromeda galaxy far away from any help or home that they recognize.

Andromeda will also have replay value of a different magnitude than the Trilogy, due to a couple of interesting gameplay changes. The first being that your choice of Male or Female player character is a choice between siblings Scot and Sara Ryder, and supposedly the one you don’t choose is present in the story and each will have different interactions with the world.

The second change is the removal of the Lightside vs Darkside AKA the Paragon/Renegade system in conversations, to more ambiguous choices that are more along the lines of a rational versus an emotional answer.

I hope this means it will play out similarly to the Witcher games where choices have consequences but everything has shades of grey, and what you think is the “good” answer at the time may have unforeseen consequences.

Plus as a person who almost always is pulled to the light and chooses the good option hopefully will give the opportunity to play a little more naturally.

I really hope Andromeda is good, I even upgraded my PC graphics card from a GTX 760 to a GTX 1060 just to make sure the game looks as good as I hope it plays. But we will see at the end of the month, and hopefully if my assignments go well I will have the opportunity to play through the game and get some impressions up here quickly.

I may even do a first 5 hours impressions article. But I will have to see how addicted I get to it.