Horizon Forbidden West comes out later this year, and the fact that we have not discussed Horizon Zero Dawn is a crime.
The game, which came out in 2017, takes players to a dystopian future. A catastrophe of our own making destroyed modern civilization. But humankind persevered. A new generation rose from the ashes. Unaware of the technological marvels that came before, they learned to survive in simple hunter-gatherer communities.
You wouldn’t expect Horizon Zero Dawn to engage me, because open-world games don’t necessarily appeal to me. Most games are trains. They place players on a specific track. Even though they provide room for exploration, they still limit where you can or cannot go.
I like such contained experiences because I get very impatient where games are concerned. Open-world games are popular because they are highly immersive. Players are free to roam as they see fit. See those mountains in the distance? You can walk to them if you want to. And once there, you can climb them.
I don’t think I have ever seen a more beautiful game. Your journey with Aloy, the star of Horizon Zero Dawn, starts in The Embrace, home to the Nora Tribes. As Aloy strolls through the valley, you cannot help but marvel at the scenery. The Embrace is a paradise. The grass is the greenest of shades, the trees tall and robust, the hills gentle as they roll into the distance.
Yes, the machines are a threat but only if you engage them. If you keep your distance, the lancehorns are just deer. All they do is graze. Snapmaws are more dangerous. But again, like any alligator, if you stay away, they won’t pay you any attention.
Wander long enough and the sun will eventually set, changing The Embrace. Nighttime tends to heighten the sense of danger because the ruby-red light the machines radiate is almost demonic.
And yet, if you proceed carefully, you may grow to appreciate the elegance of The Embrace under a dark sky dotted
with a million stars. The music is slow and intimate, and it feels like a gentle hand nudging you forward, pointing at the colors in the flowers, the insects swarming over a pond, the water bubbling in a brook, the light of the moon falling over a dense jungle. Sunrise always brings new wonders.
Periodically, the heavens will shake with the rumbling of thunder, draining the light of day out of the terrain moments before heavy rain descends. Venture beyond The Embrace and the verdant countryside will give way to miles of flat, dry featureless plains punctuated by rocky outcroppings.
Once you cross into Meridian, the land becomes craggy and rugged, interspersed with jagged fissures and dried river beds.
Thunderjaws and Glinthawks are not uncommon here. The temperatures begin to dip as you approach Ban-Ur. The cold and misty highlands are pleasant enough until they fall away and snow swallows everything.
Eventually, running becomes a challenge because Aloy’s legs keep sinking to the knees with every step. Sometimes, the snow will fall in such heavy sheets that everything becomes a blur. It can make combat a pain. I can call this the most vivid setting I have ever encountered in fiction. You couldn’t ask for a more vibrant backdrop.