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Thread: Horizon Zero Dawn

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland

    Horizon Zero Dawn

    Are any of the TTLGers stepping out on their PCs with the PS4 game Horizon Zero Dawn? Technically it's one of the most stunning games I've played, and while I generally prefer virtual cities to virtual wilderness (I think there are cities later in the game, but I'm not there yet) HZD is also beautiful artistically. It's not dissimilar to the usual Ubisoft open world, but it's considerably more subtle about it, hiding its Skinner Box much better than even the best Ubisoft games.



    At the same time, as much of a marvel this game is, I can't say I love it, at least not yet. I'm enjoying it, but there's something overly earnest and overly YA about the characters, world and story. It comes across as too heavy-handed, and I wish there were characters that didn't take themselves so damn serious.

    Also, I have to admit that I suck at the game. I'm okay when it comes to hiding in high grass, luring machine animals to where I am and killing them stealthily, but as soon as I'm supposed to take down one of the bigger, more dangerous machines, I flail about the place, get hit way more often than I should, and usually just about manage before running out of arrows and health.

    Anyway, is anyone else playing this? If so, what do you think of the game? Any tips for this outcast amateur?

  2. #2
    Moderator
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: Australia
    This has been on my radar for a couple of months now but I haven't really got the appetite to heavily invest in another vast open-world game at the moment (I'm still juggling a few unfinished ones as it is). I've found that with open-world games the various systems really have to be fun and sophisticated enough to motivate me to stick with it, particularly if the story and characters aren't enough on their own to sustain my commitment. On that note, what's the combat and gameplay like? I must admit that seeing those slow-mo's of the player shooting beasts with her bow and arrow reminds me uncomfortably of the bear battle in Rise of the TR, one of my least favourite parts of that game.
    Last edited by twisty; 1st May 2017 at 02:03.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    Combat is really the main gameplay loop, which may be one of the reasons why I'm a bit lukewarm on the game. The combat's definitely varied, but I'm not particularly good at it yet and can't necessarily judge whether it'd appeal to more combat-eager players, and on the whole I prefer games that focus more on traversal.

  4. #4
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland

    Yeah, so...

    I started playing this a few weeks ago as well, but I've just been dipping into it for short sessions recently. I agree with pretty much everything Thirith said. It's very pretty, but it's not really holding my interest. The open world is wayyy too packed with stuff, feels like you can't walk 50 meters without some dramatic event happening, could've done with more down-time. The stealth is not great, certainly does not live up to that in Mordor or FC3/4. The combat is occasionally brilliant though, at least when fighting humans. When fighting the robo-dinos it's often just annoying.

    And the characters and story are just bleh. I think the biggest offender is the main character, Aloy, herself. She's just every generic hero trope packed into one character, and for someone who supposedly grew up in the wilderness, cut off from civilization she is way too well spoken, quick-witted and emotionally intelligent. It would've been both more plausible and interesting if the main character was someone more like Brienne from Game of Thrones, who is not the sharpest tool in the shed, but an amazing warrior. Brienne has clear flaws and strengths, and that makes her interesting. What flaws does Aloy have? That she's almost too pretty?

    I don't know. Maybe it's not just Horizon, feels like every AAA action game I've played this year has ended up feeling underwhelming. Gravity Rush 2 got left unfinished. I barely made a dent in Ghost Recon Wildlands and Just Cause 3. While the things that have engrossed me the most have been Shadow Tactics, Strafe, Rain World and Hollow Knight. And I'm not saying that to be some kinda cool gaming hipster either. Clearly I keep buying these AAA action games because I expect and really want to enjoy them, but somehow they're just not doing it for me recently.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    It improves over time. I agree with your criticism, and I still find Aloy bland - the type is done competently enough, but it's not a type I find very interesting - but the better I got at the game's systems the more I enjoyed it. Also, IMO it improves quite a bit if you remove most of the HUD or at least make it appear and disappear dynamically. It still feels like a 7/10 game with 11/10 presentation, but it's definitely not bad.

    I didn't know you'd bought Ghost Recon Wildlands! Did you play it on your own? I still think it might make for a good coop game (if the connection problems we had with the beta have been solved, that is), but it'll have to come down in price a lot before I'll buy it.

  6. #6
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    Alright, I'm not gonna give up on it yet. Will keep going a bit further.

    I got Wildlands with my graphics card, and yeah I'd definitely be up for some co-opping at some point.

  7. #7
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    Ok, I turned down the difficulty from Hard to Normal, and it's finally happening, Horizon Zero Dawn is clicking with me. Currently doing quests for the people of Meridian.

    Also enjoying the Photo Mode.












  8. #8
    Administrator
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: above the clouds
    You were playing on hard? I felt I was being brave for not starting on "story" but I clearly don't have the most developed gaming skills. Particularly if I have to aim a bow with a joystick.

    I think I have less open world game fatigue because I haven't genuinely got into anything similar since I played Skyrim.

    It's working for me so far and I'm not finding it too frustrating. I really struggle with boss battles and got a bit pissed off with the first real one that occurs. I think it was partly down to my incompetence with aim. I couldn't get the weak spots and swore at the game for it letting me hit then. I could probably do better if I kept calm...

  9. #9
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    I'm playing on hard. Once you get a few levels behind you and some decent equipment, it becomes somewhat easier. But unlike other recent games, not significantly so, meaning you still have to be careful. I've died lots, but rarely have I resented it.

    It's really a game about using all of your tools for the right scenario and really examining weaknesses. Even more so than Witcher 3 to be honest. The only enemy that still gives me real issues is the Rockbreaker, and I suspect that's mostly because there's a trick I've missed rather than them being double bastard hard.

    I did the last Cauldron yesterday, and the Thunderjaw I had to kill caused me very few problems thanks to the Ropecaster.

    Stalkers can be dicks, but by the time you encounter them, you should be able to subvert some of the other machines they're inevitably lurking around. It's especially fun when you find them near Shell-Walkers, as the Stalkers are very prone to their electric attacks.

    I highly recommend doing the Hunter trials as soon as you can, as while they teach you a lot about fighting machines, they also get you some very cool weapons if you get all the Blazing Suns.

    Oh, and Echo Shells and Wire are your friends.

  10. #10
    Administrator
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: above the clouds
    I'm only a few hours in so this was the Fireback in the first Cauldron. Towards the end of the second attempt I'd got the idea, but part of this is my general lack of patience and having a habit of making games easier so I don't get irate. I think it goes back to losing it when trying to complete Soul Blade on the PS1 20 years ago. I beat up my chair and had to have a lie down...

    As battles go it was still engaging. So far I've had more fun running after machines than the bandit camp I've done, where the bandits were incredibly dumb now I think of it. Initially I was thinking the camp was sprawling with NPCs but taking them down was trivial. I've spent plenty of time with Far Cry 3 bandit camps and they seemed more interesting, but they were the core of the fighting in that game.

    I certainly will take Aloy over Jason Brody as a protagonist. I agree with Thirith and henke that she it too well spoken for someone who hasn't spent much time with people and was taught everything by another outcast. You'd expect the poor girl to be totally out of her depth going into the village. The problem isn't limited to Aloy, all the characters have modes of speech that wouldn't be out of place if the setting was completely changed to something contemporary. I think it holds together because the tribal culture of the Nora seems quite consistent, in that they are genuinely superstitious about the remains of whatever the previous civilisation was.

    It reminds me a bit of my attempt to watch the show Revolution - it's more like current era humans going camping than a real post-civilisation situation. Everyone is too clean and has perfect teeth and skin. It's also silly to see the kind of ethnic diversity that is obligatory apparently, but doesn't make a lot of sense in the context. It would be unlikely that you'd see all that variation in a single small community. I know why it's done but it makes it feel more like a load of people have dressed up and been shoved into an alternate reality.

    The environment is certainly gorgeous however, and I can suspend disbelief with the rest of it because it's enough to feel drawn into the world. It's also interesting to see how they've implemented effects with hair and clothing - it's not the same as the hair effects I've seen in ROTR on the PC but it still looks more like real hair than a fixed hair mesh that clips through a character's body.

  11. #11
    Administrator
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: above the clouds
    Forgot to mention that I found the music to be pretty good. I think it's Hans Zimmer esqe with the electronic elements but there is some very good work with strings such that it's hard to identify them as samples. Possibly a bit heavy on the female voice element that is all over the place.

    Another small point is that when some of the best bits of music are playing and Aloy goes into some idles she looks like she's enjoying the moment of taking a break, feeling the snow on her face and hands stretching her arms out and so on. I don't recall seeing idles that stand out to me in the same way.

  12. #12
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Regarding the cultural diversity thing, I agree it does come off more like ticking some political correctness tickboxes. I mean, yes, you could initially argue that the game takes place in post-apocalyptic Colorado, so there would be a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds.

    But then, you learn the game takes place about a thousand years after the downfall of civilization, so surely interbreeding should have resulted in a merging of physical features? In fact, I think I would have been more impressed if the artists had tried to represent this.

    The way it looks in game is that despite humanity struggling to rise from the ashes, ethnic groups have maintained a degree of segragation, implying an inherent and enduring bigoted cultural hangover from our times. But this is never commented on.

    The only differences people comment on are very hard for the player to recognise. For some reason, everyone in the entire world seems to be able to tell the difference between Banuk, Nora, Carja and Oseram at a glance, when the only thing I can tell is reliably different is the way they're dressed. And that becomes a nonsense when Aloy is wearing another tribe's clothing.
    Otherwise, each of these tribes consists of members of all contemporary ethnic backgrounds.

  13. #13
    Administrator
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: above the clouds
    Maybe they have discussions whereby they try to avoid making the tribes have different racial types - it would make more sense that tribes separated for hundreds of years would have different appearance, but then they might get accused of portraying asian types as being the "bad" tribe for example.

    Still, if in Skyrim you can have Redguards essentially being black, and there being no particular outcry against them being some stereotype of black people, why worry about it in this game?

    Back to the game however, and I've found that I can almost aim the bow while strafing and not miss constantly. I was avoiding scrapper fire while actually hitting them, but I'm still not even close to mouse aiming speed.

    Most fun bit this evening was charging into a group of scrappers and watchers on the back of a Broadhead, which took damage and fizzed out causing Aloy to bounce off. I was further satisfied by me actually hitting something with the bow while running in circles.

    The other fun thing I've got the hang of is luring dumb machines into grass with a rock throw and a whistle for a stealth kill. It's interesting to approach a small herd to try and clear it without being noticed, but in some locations you don't get any guaranteed cover so it's back to running about again.

    Also there is overriding a watcher or a grazer, waiting for the ensuing machine chaos and cleaning up afterwards. It will be interesting to see what happens when I can override some of the larger machines.

    The human enemies are still dull by comparison, and when mixed up with machines they are generally just an annoyance. I'd also like to sneak my way into camps reliably but it seems hard. I retried one approach several times to get in to an alarm without being seen but gave up when it didn't seem like it was going to happen.

  14. #14
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Heh, when you get to control Sawtooths and bigger, that's when it starts to get really interesting.
    And yeah, the human enemies are incredibly dull to fight when compared to the machines. Just nowhere near enough variety of attack, both on your part and theirs. I find the missions to clear outposts particularly dull because there's usually lots more enemies than there need to be. I don't think I've died once clearing an outpost.

  15. #15
    Administrator
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: above the clouds
    I've switched up to normal difficulty and I haven't noticed a big difference. Yet I got to Carja territory and found myself getting bombarded by a huge bird which seems unkillable at the level you're supposed to be able to traverse the lands to meridian. I tried fighting it but if it lands near you it just walks towards you with a shield up and there's no way to escape unless I've missed a trick to disable it. I used a broadhead to get past it but still got caught half way. I tried to shoot it whilst riding but got blasted off and just had to run away. Not entirely sure why they put this thing where they did.

  16. #16
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Ah, that'll be a Stormbird, and yeah, they're dicks. But overall, I'd say once you're used to them, they're a lot easier than Rockbreakers.
    I hope I'm not teaching Grandma to suck eggs here, but use your Focus to scan any enemy you come across. This will highlight different components for you, as well as notifying you of what damage works best on said components. You can also check out this information in your notebook at your leisure.

    I would say there are three weapons that should be permanently on your weapon wheel:
    Sharpshot Bow
    Hunter Bow
    War Bow

    The Sharpshot is probably the bow you'll be using the most. It has two staple ammo types and one that's less important.
    The important ones are:
    Precision Arrows - High Damage and reasonable Tear, these will take out almost all human enemies in the game with one headshot, two for enemies with a skull above their head. They're also handy for removing the protective shields from Blaze, Chillwater and Spark cannisters
    Tearblast Arrows - These hit then explode, removing components and thereby disabling the attacks associated with them, such as Ravager canons (which can then be picked up and fired!)
    Harvest Arrows - Honestly, I have trouble working out why anyone would use these instead of Tearblast Arrows. I suppose they're there if you run out? Apparently, you get more of a resource if you remove a component with Harvest arrows, but that's much less important than effectively removing the component in the first place.

    The Hunter has three ammo types total, but you're only really interested in its Fire arrows. The other two ammo types are only really good for hunting wildlife or removing shields from cannisters. The Sharpshot's Precision Arrows do the job of both much more effectively.
    But Fire arrows are a vital tool. As well as being able to set enemies on fire (which disrupts their attacks as well as doing damage over time), when you hit exposed Blaze cannisters on machines with them, they fizz for a bit then explode, doing massive damage to the host machine, setting it and any nearby enemies on fire.
    Fire arrows are also massively effective against Glinthawks, the smaller cousins of the Stormbird. They can't fly while they're on fire.

    And the War Bow is basically just another set of elemental arrows, which behave in much the same way as Fire arrows when targeting cannisters of the same type (Shock Arrows & Spark Cannisters, Freeze & Chillwater). And Corruption Arrows are great for turning enemies against each-other.

  17. #17
    Administrator
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: above the clouds
    The game pretty much keeps reminding you to use the focus through Aloy saying "maybe I should use my focus" a great deal. I was able to scan it once before being fried but the trouble was hitting the weak points and getting out of the way.
    The tips are still useful although I've got the three bows now, I think. Haven't used the war bow in combat yet but I can see it might be handy.

    The sharpshot bow I have been using a lot already, makes life a lot easier for hunting. You can take down a boar with one shot as well as dropping bandit snipers unawares.

    I've now see a thunderjaw but didn't feel like tackling on yet.

    What's your view on the outfits? I didn't find the silent hunter helped that much now I've swapped to protector. It occurred to me that the survivor armour might be better with more creatures lobbing ranged elemental attacks, but it looks like getting some really good mods would make more difference that the starting stats of the outfits. I guess that's the idea of the silks outfit having three mod slots.

  18. #18
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    I've actually stuck with the Silent Hunter and later the Heavy variant pretty much throughout the game. Once you've invested heavily in to the Stealth tree, it seems to pay off, especially with mods that increase the stealth stat. In addition, you should really be playing so as to not get hit as much as possible, so bonus defence is pointless. The extended dodge helps massively with this.

    And that's another good tip: stack mods that enhance equipment's best stats. For example, on my Hunter's Lodge Sharpshot Bow, I've got three high-end tear mods; fire mods on my Hunter Bow; you get the idea.

    I'm one power core away from unlocking the Ancient Armour though, and from what I've read, that's the best in the game, no question.

  19. #19
    Administrator
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: above the clouds
    I think I've still got some basic co-ordination problems with the dual stick method of moving/aiming and timing dodges to get out of the way. Sometimes I'm just getting the buttons mixed up. I know what I mean to happen but my fingers get confused...

    I had a fairly chaotic series of encounters this evening, losing to a Sawtooth by overriding it then not realising when it had turned hostile. I ran into a bunch of Longlegs which I wasn't familiar with which were mixed up with longhorns (where I managed not to die somehow). Later I charged a Broadhead into a few corrupted watchers and jumped off before contact, not noticing that I'd alerted a few more and got charged from behind, and after that a Shellwalker turned up to join the fun and I realised its bloody shock fire seems to home in on me when I'm running away. I escaped and picked up the main quest bit where you have to fight two Ravagers, and that fight I'm still working on.

    However I still haven't got entirely fed up, and some level of competence seems reachable. I will have to practice shooting weak points a bit more on the safer machines, and I've noticed that trick of pressing the right stick to get a short span of slow-time...

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