The moment Horizon Zero Dawn finally clicked for me

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My relationship with Horizon Zero Dawn has been somewhat of a shaky one since launch. I spent maybe an hour or so playing before the arrival of Breath of the Wild, only going back to it after I’d cooked my way through Hyrule.

Two or so hours back into the robot apocalypse I found myself thinking what all the fuss was about, sure it was good, but not great. My main issue with it was a blend of the young adult style story line (at least in the beginning) and the extremely tricky combat. It hadn’t got its hooks in, but I still found myself playing a lot despite it all.

Mainly because it looks so damn pretty.

Plot wise the game soon took a turn and I was well and truly sold there, but I still found myself failing miserably in combat situations, even after setting the difficulty to easy. The robots in Horizon are unforgiving, to the point a goat can shank you up pretty effortlessly if you aren’t paying attention, and that’s not even bringing the dinosaurs into the equation.

After suffering for around six hours I decided to call Tom and beg for advice, he told me that there are forms of elemental damage in the game, which you can exploit with certain ammo types and weapons. This was totally news to me, the game suddenly had a new edge to it, and admittedly I felt kind of peeved that this wasn’t explicitly stated in game, only being revealed through optional tutorial missions when you receive a new weapon, which had totally slipped my attention.

The robo-goats are equally imposing.

Even with this new found knowledge, I was still getting wiped up by lame herd animals. Leaving me to rely almost entirely on stealth to travel through the massive and dangerous world. Eventually I decided I needed to make a stand, that sneaking in the grass was no way to live, I decided things needed to change, I decided I would get good.

After gathering resources for better weapons by picking off stragglers and scavenging, I finally unlocked new weapons and the new ammo types that came with them. At around the same time I unlocked the abilities to notch more than one arrow, effectively doubling or tripling damage/elemental output. This is where the tide slowly started to turn. The herd beasts were no longer an issue, through precise targeting via Aloy’s focus I could exploit their weaknesses and drop them almost instantly. I was no longer cowering in the grass, I was the apex predator of the planes, things were well and truly coming up Aloy!

Dramatic re-imagining.

Everything solidly clicked into place during a side mission, where I dropped into a quarry facing a giant worm-like machine known as a Rockbreaker. The thing decimated me, for almost an hour. The Rockbreaker is a massive robot, which digs underground popping up underneath you dealing huge amounts of damage, and when it surfaces there is only a brief moment to hit it with arrows. My frustrating early attempts boiled down to me running around like a headless chicken pot shotting the titan when I could and almost punting my controller off the balcony.

Eventually I figured I would apply some strategy, sneaking around so the machine couldn’t hear my footsteps on the surface, preloading three hardened arrows on my shadow bow, ready to deal extra damage to its combustible chest when it surfaced. Surely enough this payed off, not instantly, it still took a solid half hour to get it right. But it worked! I finally felt a sense of accomplishment, and felt more than ready to tackle what the game had in store for me next.

Getting good was kind of like this, but more in the form of a phone call to Tom…

In the end all of this confusion was my fault, I stepped into Horizon expecting a run of the mill open world RPG, and thankfully it is so much more than that. I’m absolutely addicted to how layered the game is, and I’ve found myself lost in sessions for hours on end. I suppose the point of this article is that if you’re struggling, persevere, the goats can’t own you forever.

Hunt Charlie on Twitter @clbraith and don’t forget to follow @load_screen and like us on Facebook.

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