OK, hands down the most gorgeous game I’ve played in a long time. I played this immediately after Nier:Automata (I reviewed it here) and wasn’t immediately impressed by the prologue part of the game. Although important to familiarise the player with the game dynamics, pre-pubescent Aloy was weak, annoying, and (I’m sorry, I sound so superficial here) so ugly, a stark contrast to the gorgeously-rendered surrounding. Combined with the slow progression of the first part of the game made me actually abandon it, going back to Nier to get all 26 endings and old data before returning to HZD.
But, boy, was it worth it after that horrible prologue. Contains spoilers.
In a world where most living things — bar humans and prey animals like rabbits and pigs — have been replaced by hostile robots, Aloy is an outcast of a superstitious stone-age tribe attempting to prove her worth to belong when the great proving event is hijacked by foreign attackers and Aloy embarks on a journey to save the apocalypse predicted by her people’s deity (a futuristic program, to us players) and find out the reason behind the remnants of the ancient world, all of which point towards some apocalyptic event set in the (/our) distant future and human civilisation have regressed to bow and arrows and roasting pigs in a pit.
Graphics — gorgeous. I’ve seen its contents being used in department stores selling TVs to show just how amazingly colourful and detailed the game is. 10/10
Gameplay — challenging, clear interface, fast-paced, and exciting. 9/10 — I deduct one point because aside from the main bows, the rest of the weapons are pretty useless, but the bows are hecking useful. There are additional areas to challenge yourself, cleaning out corrupted areas or bandit camps or trials, that don’t actually affect the main storyline but they’re a lot of fun to do.
Story — immersive but could be better. I enjoyed my growing intrigue fuelled by Aloy’s unrelenting curiosity and strong morals. She’s a likeable character with a clear motivation and conscience, but the rest of the characters I felt a lot less for. A growing sense of dread followed the more she digs into the origin of the machines, Project Zero Dawn, and the utterly crazy and punchable motivation of Faro — the sole reason why the world went to shit. God, I hate that asshole. 8/10.
World-building — huge, but too much backstory. I enjoyed the variety of cultures (damn, the story is both feminist and representative — you have all colours and races here!) but the sheer amount of backstory left in pieces of paper, recordings, memos, videos, etc. was just too much. It got to the point where, unless pertinent to the plot, I wouldn’t open any of the hundreds of leftover titbits from the old world. It was irrelevant and didn’t add to the story experience. I was overloaded. But the world in which Aloy runs about in is gorgeous and has a remarkable variety of terrains, from swamps to grassland to mountains, from deserts to deep snow. 7/10.
Music — meh. I barely noticed it. Nothing to write home about. Nier was much, much better. 4/10.
Overall: excellent game, gorgeous aesthetics, immersive story, sympathetic heroine, questionable side/supporting characters. I played through this twice.
Have you played HZD? What are your thoughts? And have you played the DLC? (I did, it was amazing)