Tobold's Blog
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Horizon Zero Dawn and the pot of yellow paint

I consider Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild the current gold standard in open world games. How does a game become the gold standard? By having features you constantly miss when you play a similar game. Like, whenever I stand on top of a mountain in an open world game, I now want to paraglide down, like in Breath of the Wild. So when in Horizon Zero Dawn that isn't possible, it feels a bit disappointing. Well, at least sometimes there are zip lines you can slide down.

What I am missing a lot more in Horizon Zero Dawn is free climbing. Horizon Zero Dawn only has fake climbing. You can climb a ledge only if it is painted yellow. So quite often I look at a ledge and wish I had a pot of yellow paint, which doesn't exist in the game. The game only allows me to climb at the places that the devs want me to climb, following a designated parcours. In other places I can sometimes get up a mountain by jumping, but the results are somewhat unreliable, and sometimes lead to falling death.

So I am on this mission to liberate a kidnapped family in Horizon Zero Dawn, and with that farm nested against the mountains I think approaching it from the top would be the best idea. There are no yellow ledges to climb, but I manage to get up by a lot of jumping a bit further off. I approach the ledge to be able to fire down at the farm, and find myself teleported to the starting point of the mission. The devs don't allow the approach that I have chosen. Those are the moments where for me the game falls short of the gold standard for truly open world games.

I have had a lot of fun in the first 50 hours of playing Horizon Zero Dawn, and am now falling rapidly out of love with the game. If I had just followed the main story and some side quests, I would have finished the game by now. By exploring the open world features and economy of the game before tackling the story, I basically broke the game. It turns out that the kill monsters, loot them, gear up and get stronger cycle in Horizon Zero Dawn is flawed. In a game like Diablo or Borderlands, you will always find new weapons and gear. In Horizon Zero Dawn you can only find common, uncommon, and rare monster parts and exchange those at merchants for a limited selection of weapons and armor. At some point you simply have all the weapons and armor the merchants have for sale, and you can only sell the monster loot for "shards", the game currency.

So, overall, playing through Horizon Zero Dawn once is fun, but compared to Breath of the Wild the game is lacking openness, longevity, and replayability. Well, let's hope for Genshin Impact, the upcoming Breath of the Wild ripoff game that will release on September 28th.

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