Hello, humans. I hope you are all doing well (except the ones I hate; I hope you all are literally on fire right now). I realize that I did, indeed, miss #FrozenFoodFridays this past week. While I truly enjoy that segment, as I know many of you do as well, I think I may need to slow down a bit on it for a few reasons. First of all, my two sons spend every Friday night with me, and by the time we are done hanging out together and they are in bed…I’m usually so tired that I don’t have it in me to do the post. Secondly, I simply haven’t been in the kitchen quite as much lately – other things tend to pop up and prevent me from engaging in much culinary therapy. But rest assured that it will still be a near-weekly segment here – I just won’t be able to update it EVERY week!
Another reason for this is that I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. It seems that when I am labeled “pathetic” to my face for the horrific crime of showing kindness to someone, and I restrain myself from obliterating said individual, the result of that internalizing is a period of depression. Thankfully, I have coping mechanisms – including my weekly nights of coloring books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my Best Bitch (her phrase), Malevolent Moogle. And another, being the introvert I am (INFJ FTW), is to escape from my world into others, via games and books. The upshot is that I hope to increase my reviews of those treats in place of the edible ones I may be lacking at the moment.
And what better way to begin than with the PS4 exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn.
So, in case you ever wondered, in the future, mankind has dwindled to the brink of extinction, and giant cyborg dinosaurs are the dominant species on the earth. In other words, everything will go exactly as I’ve been planning it for a long time now. Essentially, someone at Guerrilla Games seems to have gotten a look at my diary and decided “what a fucking good idea for a video game!” They are, of course, correct, but does their take on my vision of the future stand up well enough to satisfy me – and avoid my wrath for stealing my thunder?
Well, they certainly nailed the main character. Aloy is a dream come true (for me) – intelligent, strong, brave, but also sarcastic, wry, and witty. She’s even a redhead – although given the scarlet witch I last dealt with, perhaps that last fact should give me pause. But hair color aside, Aloy stands out to me among the relatively bland main characters in many open-world games as being a warm and genuinely relatable protagonist.
But no matter how sassy, how savvy, or how seductive Aloy may be, it is all for naught if she can’t handle herself in battle. Because let’s face it – when a giant mechanical dinosaur sees you, what do you think is going to happen? If you answered, “rush toward me with terrifying speed and ferocity while I think ‘holy shit I’m going to die'” then that is an appropriate reaction. There is an impressive variety of species in the vicious cyber-beasts that you will face, but they all share something in common – if you rush in unprepared, they will fucking kill you.
Luckily, Aloy is likely far more competent than the average meatbag in these types of situations, and she has the tools keep herself alive. Combat in Horizon: Zero Dawn is by far it’s greatest joy. Aloy has access to an ability with the storyline name of Focus, which amounts to using heightened senses to detect enemy weaknesses and environmental clues, ala Witcher 3 or the Batman: Arkham games. Each and every enemy that Aloy encounters can be taken down in an efficient manner – but what that manner is, and how best to do it, are left to Aloy and the player to determine. That’s right – no tutorials pop up when you encounter a new species to walk you through how best to kill them – you need to look for weaknesses and then test out ways to exploit them.
And the tools to exploit them are there. Aloy’s weapon of choice is a highly upgradeable bow and various elemental arrows, combined with the ability to temporarily slow time and take precise aim at her targets. Over the course of the game, she will also come upon several other tools, which she can use to immobilize or set traps for her prey ala the Ratchet & Clank series, but also like that series, while these are fun to play around with in random throwaway fights, they generally aren’t that useful in the main story battles. But if hte concept of leaning primarily on your bow and arrow doesn’t appeal to you, fret not. Aloy can also gain the ability override the mechanical minds of her prey, rendering them docile enough to ride or even turning them against their own kind.
When you aren’t on the hunt for Dinobots (please don’t sue me Hasbro) then you can retreat to one of the scattered settlements of humans in the world. Here you will accept quests and missions for fun and profit. While the primary narrative question to be answered in Horizon: Zero Dawn may seem obvious (“What the fuck is up with the robot dinosaurs?!”) the writing is tremendous and the performances put in by the voice actors is equally well done, elevating the tale far above the somewhat Sci-Fi channel premise that it may seem on the surface to a tale of humanity on the brink and what we will do to survive. I’ll be honest – going in I had no expectations for the story whatsoever and was sure I’d just power through it in order to go kill more Dinobots (seriously, how has Hasbro not sued anyone over this yet?), and I was happy to be proven wrong.
That isn’t to say the game is perfect – while the story is well written, it does occasionally suffer from some hokey or awkward lines, which DO make me think it should be Bruce Campbell delivering them. And while the combat is very satisfying, I’d have preferred if they had made some of the weapons and tools outside of the bow more useful, or excised them from the game entirely. But these are nitpicks. The reality is this – Horizon: Zero Dawn was touted for a long time as one of the PS4 exclusives that would define the system, and it lives up to that hype.
And that’s it for tonight, my friends. Go get yourself a copy of Horizon: Zero Dawn and enjoy! Thanks for putting up with me for another day! – EWE