It’s always tough to pick favorites at E3. There are so many games on display that get us excited for the next year’s worth of gaming that most choices feel like they’re leaving others out. With Horizon: Zero Dawn, it’s an easy choice to say that it was one of the most intriguing things I saw this year at E3.
Immediately upon watching the trailer during Sony’s press conference, I tweeted the following:
And then, not even 48 hours later, as I sat in on a hands-off preview for the game, Guerilla Games’ Senior Producer Mark Norris used the exact same words to describe his title. This isn’t a game about the apocalypse, this is about the society that forms after things are done falling apart. We’ve seen plenty of games exploring the fall of humanity, but very few about what comes after that.
That alone is novel enough to warrant a second look.
The game takes place a full millennium after the apocalypse, long enough for people to forget why it happened and more than long enough for nature to reclaim all but some hollowed out skeletons of now ancient skyscrapers.
In this future, humans have formed small tribes in order to survive. Nature has, as I mentioned, taken over much of what we left behind, but there’s one thing out of place: Most of the wildlife we’re seeing aren’t wildlife at all, but animal-like mecha in all manner of shape and size.
The smallest look like if the Geth from Mass Effect were shaped like chickens. Others, called Grazers, look like deer. In the far distance a giraffe-like beast with a head taken straight off a Star Trek cruiser roams about.
The main character is a woman named Aloy (pronounced ay-loy). Norris explains that she has some kind of connection to the machines (aside from having a name that looks suspiciously like the word alloy, which is a metal made by combining two metallic elements, hmm). When she kills the first one, she apologizes to it, suggesting some kind of reverence for it or a decision to treat it as if it is a part of nature.
She has work to do and survival to worry about, though, so she moves to complete her mission, claiming a certain resource from a particular type of machine, the Grazer, a deer-like machine. Aloy stays out of view of the herd and lays down a series of trip wires before moving behind them and setting off an explosive arrow to startle the skittish creatures.
As planned, the grazers head right for the trip wires and set off an impressive explosion. Impressive enough to attract the attention of a monster called Thunderjaw. Thunderjaw is a huge, hulking machine that looks more like a dinosaur than anything else and is the first really good demonstration of scale we can expect in what Guerilla is describing as an open-world RPG.
Thunderjaw is 80 feet long, 33 feet wide, and sports 271 animations as well as 550,000 polygons. This beast probably isn’t daunting just to Aloy, but to its designers as well. Thunderjaw is also used to show off the game’s emphasis on what Norris called tactical and strategic action combat.
As aloy battles the beast, she makes use of various arrows she’s crafted that do things like electrocute and explode to attack its weaknesses – small gaps in armor plating, spots that have been attacked enough to lose their plating, and other sensitive areas.
We know very little about Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s an open world RPG starring a woman named Aloy. She lives in a world filled with mechanical wildlife. How the wildlife got there and how it continues to exist are still unanswered, as is Aloy’s role in all this. We’re looking forward to learning more about the concept as well as getting the chance to fire a few shots ourselves before the game arrives in 2016.