Dawn of the Second Play

After over three years, I’ve finally returned to Horizon Zero Dawn. I bought it back in 2018, started playing it, and then stopped because of some overly critical comparisons to Breath of the Wild (which I had just finished replaying) and a significant frustration that it LOOKED like I could climb anywhere if I did it right, but the game wouldn’t really let me do that. I never really got back to it because one of my roommates played through it and I dislike playing anything that he’s played where he can watch because he is terrible at not spoiling things. Just the worst. He makes a lot of comments and they’re all revealing rather than clever, plus he has very particular opinions about plotting and world building that I don’t necessarily agree with.

All that aside, I got distracted by newer games in the year I’ve lived alone (I definitely need to write about Ghost of Tsushima, so maybe that’ll be what you’re going to read tomorrow), so now I’m finally getting back to the game thanks to the press for the PC release last year and the sequel coming out next year.

I forgot how great the worldbuilding is. The game suffered from comparisons to Breath of the Wild since they released around the same time, but it’s probably the only game I’ve encountered that can actually compare. It has the same post-apocalyptic feeling, menacing mechanical monsters, passive storytelling (though this has text journals and audio logs on top of NPC dialogue and ruins), and a mostly open world. Breath of the Wild’s world is more open, I’d say, given you can go pretty much anywhere from the start and enemy power only goes up as you complete shrines and rescue divine beasts. That being said, I never actually played all the way through Horizon Zero Dawn and the XP/Skill based progression of the game meant I needed those quest rewards to really feel like I was making progress.

Even if it is a better comparison than most, it is still a disservice to Horizon Zero Dawn. There’s a big robust plot in Horizon Zero Dawn that doesn’t really exist in Breath of the Wild, and the storytelling is interesting enough to carry you forward even if the rest of the giant open world is calling to you. At least, the first half of it is. I’ve yet to see if it actually pays out in the end.

While the RPG elements distance it from Breath of the Wild, the abilities are set up in such a way that you really feel like you’re becoming a more proficient hunter of mechanical beasts and presumably terrible people. Like I said, I never finished the game, so I’m still open to the idea that maybe some of them are misunderstood or trying to provide for themselves and their families in this ruined world. It’s been so long and the intro is pretty long if you’re a completionist who needs to relearn how to play the game on a mechanical level, so maybe they’re actually post-apocalyptic white supremacists or right-wing nutjobs hoping to restore the billoinaire class.

Either way, I’m enjoying this second play-through and the story is interesting enough that I keep needing to rewind the podcast I’m listening to so I can actually listen to it once the story bit of HZD is over. Which is one of the best problems to have, in my opinion. Maybe I’ll get as sucked into this as I got sucked into Satisfactory. Which would be nice. This game is easier to stop playing around bedtime.

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