When Humanity Wanes, Machines Shall Reign

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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Growing up as an outcast has made life difficult for young Aloy. Motherless and seen as a curse by the people of the Nora, all she wants is to learn about what happened to her mother and why she is shunned by the tribe. Her foster father, Rost, says that the Matriarchs of the tribe will grant a boon to the winner of the Proving, the tradition where young Nora officially become Braves, but that it will be hard, if not impossible for Aloy due to her pariah status. Even so, she refuses to give up and, for the next decade, trains under him. By the time she reaches adulthood, she has become proficient enough that she can easily match the best warriors of the Nora. When the time has come for her to participate in the Proving, her skill and sheer determination will be able to see her through to the end. However, events will take a turn that will not only change her life forever, but shatter her worldview as she must go on this epic quest to save the Nora. The lands outside the Sacred Lands are not so forgiving, as animal-like machines now rule over the ruins of the Old Ones, filled to the brim with secrets and forbidden technology. What happened to humanity to reduce it to this state? For Aloy, the answers lie just over the horizon.

Released at the end of February in 2017, Horizon: Zero Dawn is the newest game and IP developed by Guerrilla Games, the minds behind the Killzone games. Taking place in a beautiful post-apocapytic world where humanity has regressed to a tribal state and machines are now the dominant rulers of the planet, the game follows Aloy as she sets out to find the answers behind her birth and of a great danger that threatens the Nora tribe. Players will explore vast lands of the western United States, somewhere around the Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada areas, and meet many other inhabitants as they deal with their own struggles and the machines. For a studio that was only known for their FPS games, this was quite the departure from the norm, but the results were pleasantly unexpected.

Ever since she was a young girl, Aloy was always a brave, clever, and compassionate person. Finding her way out of some ancient ruins, being able to single-handedly figure out how to work a piece of Old One technology, and saving a boy from the middle of a herd of Striders were only some of her achievements when she was only eight. Add in a decade of rigorous training, and she is now one of the best and most adaptable hunters around. All she wants is to find out about her past, but she is willing to put that aside to help others and protect them. In a vast land such as this, she comes across a number of various characters from the Nora, the sun-worshiping Carja, the nomadic Banuk, and the hardy Oseram. As Aloy finds more clues on her quest, she learns more about the past and what happened to humanity, bringing the attention of a mysterious ally that knows even more about the Old Ones, though to call them a friend would be stretching it.

For as long as they can remember, the remnants of humanity have lived side-by-side with the new machines that inhabit the Earth. Acting like and resembling some of the planet’s most well known animal lifeforms, they each have various functions that fit their designations. However, in the past decade alone, they have not only become more violent and hostile, but even more dangerous machines like the Stormbirds and the Thunderjaws have been created, packing enough firepower that could level an entire town. This is what is known as the Derangement, and many people see it as a curse meant to punish them, though only Aloy and those knowledgeable of the Metal World have a better grasp of the issue. The chief antagonists are the members of the Eclipse, a radical cult that attacked the Nora at the Proving for whatever reason, resulting in several deaths and Aloy’s reason to hunt them down and stop them. They are led by Helis, a fundamentalist psychopath that once served the Mad Sun-King and wishes to carry on his bloody legacy. However, as dangerous as Helis and the Eclipse are, there is something much, MUCH worse out there in the world. This ancient evil has been waiting for a very long time, and now it has the chance to continue its work…

Horizon‘s world is a lush and beautiful one as players guide Aloy through her journey. The world is a wide-open sandbox to explore at your leisure, with hundreds of machines roaming the valleys and deserts to fulfill their functions. While untold years have passed and the ruins of the Old Ones have decayed, some familiar landmarks can still be picked out helps give a general sense of where the game takes place. In order to protect herself, Aloy can equip different kinds of weapons to aid in her in combat, though the mainstay will probably be the bow and arrow. Gathering materials from both natural resources and slain machines, the player can craft ammunition, items, increase their max inventory space, and even trade them for better weapons later in the game. Of course, hunting machines, especially larger ones, can be quite a challenge, so getting the drop on them first by being stealthy is usually the best strategy. By completing quests or killing enemies, Aloy will get EXP from these encounters in order to level up, granting a perk point that can be spent to unlock a perk to further enhance her skills, making her an even better hunter than before.

Aside from other bonuses that were available through pre-ordering or buying the Digital Deluxe Edition, only one expansion is being released for the game. Titled The Frozen Wilds, Aloy travels to the land of the Banuk people in search of something, supposedly after the events of the main game. Within the frostbitten wastes of what was once Yellowstone National Park, she will encounter new types of machines, explore a new and quite frigid landscape, and solve this new mystery. Guerrilla has also implemented New Game Plus through a recent update, which allows players to earn new gear and face tattoos depending on the difficulty. The “Complete Edition” for the game has just been announced, which will contain The Frozen Wilds and all of the Digital Deluxe content. It is set for an early December release.

Guerrilla took a bit of a risk in creating Horizon: Zero Dawn. It is vastly different from anything Killzone ever did and many wondered if a developer that had made FPS titles for seven years would be able to make something in a completely different genre. Judging from the reception to the game, they succeeded spectacularly, creating a mysterious and fascinating world filled with unique characters and awe-inspiring machines, looking gorgeous all the while. There is always debate as to what console-elusive game is a “killer app” and if it is worth it to buy the console in order to get the game. Well, Horizon: Zero Dawn is definitely one of those games, standing proudly among other PS4 exclusives like Bloodborne and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. If you have been on the fence about purchasing a PS4 and wondering what your first game might be, this is certainly one of the best the console has to offer.

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