Horizon Zero Dawn finally launched for PC last week on 7th of August, 2020 alongside its DLC, “The Frozen Wilds”, being included as the complete edition. Many people were excited with pre-orders going high in steam and PC players were happy and hyped about finally getting their hands on one of the best PlayStation exclusives. However, in the coming days after launch, the game got many negative reviews; and as of now almost after a week it currently stands on a 62% positive review score on Steam. Today we dive into my personal experience with Horizon Zero Dawn on PC, and I’ll share my opinion if this really is worth the pocket pinch.
Story, Settings and Writing
Primary point of any good PlayStation game is the story. Konami and Kojima understood this quite well and made their mark on the PlayStation consoles with their Metal Gear Franchise. PlayStation players are generally attracted to good stories in their exclusives, and this made Naughty Dog a successful developer for Sony. Guerrilla understood this, and created what I can say a good written generic plot. Don’t get me wrong but the plot is pretty generic like any shonen anime (if any of you guys are into anime).
Main character being hated/looked down upon, making that her motivation and proving herself, to being ambushed by a unknown group to going on a revenge quest and then finding a purpose bigger than herself and…you guys get the point. But what makes HzD stand out is the fantastic story writing where Aloy’s growth is phenomenal. The cliché the story will definitely make you emotional though. Now I can’t discuss the story much without giving potential spoilers but yes, there is a part in the main story where you will learn about the last days of the previous civilization and the scientist who saved the human race. Each of the main cast is very well written and there are a bunch of story missions that splits into two ways giving rise to new missions. Aloy’s words and expressions feels real, making her one of the strongest female protagonists out there. After playing so many post-apocalyptic games like Metro Series and Fallout, the world reverting back to hunter like tribes felt absolutely new to me. There are four major tribes existing in the HzD world (including its DLC) – The Frozen Wilds; The Nora (Viking like tribe and also the tribe from which Aloy originates), Carja (merchant tribes that looks and feels like turk merchants from their golden age), Oserams (tinkerers that resembles Dwarfs from fiction) and Banuk (eskimo tribes that lives in High Mountains). Aloy’s journey takes her throughout the world but is mostly in Nora and Carja Lands. The world consists of ancient city ruins (called the Metal World in the game), forests, deserts, canyons and mountain ranges.
But where the writing of the main quest-line is fantastic, the same cannot be said for the side quest-lines. I know they aren’t important but after playing games like The Witcher 3:Wild Hunt, Mass Effect original trilogy and Red Dead Redemption 2 I grew to appreciate the importance of well written side quests in these games. In Mass Effect 2 and 3 side quests pretty much meant making your team loyal to you and helping out your team members that gave you a strong feeling of accomplishment and knowing their backstory. This made you to appreciate each character as humans rather than NPCs. Same can be said for Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise. These growths made you happy on seeing intimate moments among the different companion groups in each of the games. This feeling of accomplishment can be found in the side quests of The Witcher 3 too. There would be times when players felt it’s better to reject the coins from a guy you helped because. This is specifically because of the writing, which made you feel like the quest giver needed the money more than you. Now talking about the game at hand, Horizon lacks these intricately written side quests. For me personally I didn’t really care about the side quests and skipped many of them or just did them to farm XP or get the allies achievement. They just seem too loose, something which doesn’t really affect the game in any major way.
Combat and Side Contents
I’m not gonna lie, but I was skeptical about the combat for the first few hours. Melee is basically useless and this was kind of annoying to me at first. The more I played, the more it grew on me and I understood the combat. Forget about your spear in HzD, your main weapon is your trusty bow. There are 3 types of elemental damages that you can use against enemies. Fire damages your enemies over time/helps in faster heating up of certain enemies, frost slows down enemies and often cripples them, and shock stuns enemies making them easy for a close quarter damage with “Critical Hit”.
You can also use various traps like the Tripcaster, which places trip mines that blasts and damages enemies or sets them on fire/stuns them with shock. The Ropecaster ties enemies, making them unable to move for a short period of time. Then there’s the Rattlers which are basically a semi auto shotgun which fires bolts! Tearblasters easily removes vulnerable machine parts like hulls or engines, slings blast shots that throws grenades at close proximity. Enemies include both humans and machines, although you can have machines at your side in combat because of a neat little game mechanic called “override”. Aloy gains this ability after defeating the first major boss and this needs to be upgraded later .Small Machines like Grazers, Scrappers, Watchers, Striders can be easily killed using stealth alongside most of the human enemies.
The world of Horizon isn’t that big but is filled with a ton of content. Apart from the traditional side quests of open worlds; dungeons are called ‘cauldrons’ here and can yield a lot of shards which is the in game currency. Also there are the ‘Tallnecks’, Giraffe like machines and this game’s version of Assassin’s Creed Synchronisation (vantage) points, which reveals the map. Collectibles includes banuk figures, ancient vessels, metal flowers and vantage points (holograms from the previous civilization). The Vessels, Banuk Figures and Flowers can be traded with certain merchants at Meridian.
There is also the Hunting Grounds that have challenging, yet fun trials. You will be timed with blazing sun (gold medal), full sun (silver medal) and half sun (bronze medal) .Completing all of these trials at the 5 hunting grounds will give you rewards at the hunter’s lodge at Meridian- one of the major settlements in the world of Horizon. Other world elements also include human Bandit Camps and Corrupted Zones (machines over here act more aggressively and can’t be overridden).
Music, Graphics and Aesthetics
One of the many reasons why Horizon Zero Dawn is regarded as a holy grail by PlayStation player-base is, how good the music is. Once you boot up the game for the first time and the game optimizes itself for your rig, the intro cut scene starts playing. The music alongside the visuals are so good and helps in developing the cut scenes so much. An aesthetically soothing music will make you feel like this is the start of an epic adventure. Once this cut scene is done you will land in the main menu and, holy hell, the main theme is one of the best I’ve seen till date. Julie Elven’s voice and Joris De Man’s Composition easily makes it one of the greatest theme song of a video game protagonist. Ambiance music plays throughout the world when you are exploring each part of the three main tribes, and it changes accordingly. The music also delivers the emotion of the story at crucial times.
Talking about graphics and aesthetics, this game definitely has one of the best art-style and looks till date. The entire world is so beautiful, you will want stop at each point only to enjoy the view. Need horizon wallpaper? Guerrilla Games got you covered with its photo settings. Like Red Dead Redemption 2, the game has its photo mode which can be used to customize the look of the location you want to screenshot of. Just remember to hide the photo mode UI though. Visuals are stunning and if you got a monstrous gaming rig, you can play it on ultra which makes it even more beautiful. Only downside of the visuals is that sometimes climbable ridges, which are generally marked by white snow, gets mixed with the snow textures of other rocks.
Performance and Negativity
Given Guerrilla Games not having any experience with PC porting, performance issues were to be expected. Initially at release, the game was a disaster. From taking upto an hour of optimizing to horrendous stutters; the port was plain bad. There was also a weird issue where cut scenes will freeze but the talking will continue. And when the cut scenes finally resumes, it will be all out of sync. Besides this, hit registration also seemed to be an issue at times. Many players reported that the game would run with stutters and freeze, and would crash mid game. Mid-Range Gaming PC couldn’t run the game above 45-50 frames at PlayStation settings. Even RTX cards gave around 70FPS at ultra 1080p. Guerrilla promised a fix, but the damage was done. Players were angry and instinctive, and the negative ratings on steam started going up. Even with so many wonderful things in the game, the disastrous port resulted in an angry PC player-base and couldn’t redeem itself like Red Dead Redemption 2 did, which also had a very unstable launch and a bad port. Hopefully the game is fixed as I’m writing this article and you all will have a better experience.
There are some few useful thing to know if you want to start HzD PC. I will give you some important tips that will help you throughout HzD (hopefully).
- Do the hunter’s lodge quest in Meridian to get a Tearblaster for free.
- Banuk weapons are more effective than Shadow Weapons, given they deal extra damage.
- Don’t start the DLC unless you are level 40 or above.
- Do all the Cauldrons so that you can have more powerful machines as allies.
- Use Hardpoint arrows that can be found on Shadow Hunter Bows.
- Don’t sell too much of crafting components.
- Hunt animals and machines often.
- Find Power Cells to unlock the Ancient Weaver Armor that gives Aloy a shield against attacks.
- Don’t fight Deathbringers at close range .Use fire arrows to overheat them and then hit their glowing parts with normal or hardpoint arrows when they come out. Try to take out their Upper Rocket launcher and MG’s first using tearblaster arrows.
- Scan enemies with your focus. It’s your best friend in combat and shows weakness of enemies alongside their weak points.
No review is complete without rating the game. So here we go –
Performance- 4/10 (Note: I am writing this only a week after its launch)
In my opinion you should definitely buy Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition for PC. Porting does seem to be the only major issue to me, and this will be solved in the updates to come as well. Apart from that, this game is an absolute masterpiece, which nobody would want to miss.