It's been a while since I purchased a PlayStation. The last number on the console was "2", so I decided to purchase a PS4 Pro literally on the reviews of people who have given strong praises to many of the exclusive Sony titles.
When so many people are giving accolades to a game, it puts me into "hesitation mode" because, as an older gamer, it takes much more to convince me games are "good" anymore. An example: people call Breath of the Wild a masterpiece, or give it 9-10/10 reviews. To me, BotW is (at best) a 6. Of course, this is just opinion, but I didn't enjoy the game as well as most others, it seems.
But here's something curious about reviews: filter through enough of them, and you find those which aren't allied to brands, or "fanboy" inspired. Gamers looking to just voice their opinions about a great game they played. These types of reviews lead me to Oblivion (let's take a moment to bow our heads for the company formerly known as Bethesda), which was a fantastic game (damn bugs).
I've heard nothing but praise for the Last of Us, so my primary purchase was based on this game alone. Yes, I spent $500 for a $60 game. It wasn't money wasted, that's for damn sure. Last of Us was a phenomenal experience, and I'm extremely thankful many people found ways to express their opinions on why the game was good. I already knew how it ended before I played it, but this took nothing away from the actual experience.
I bought several other games during the holiday event, most of them exclusives. One of them was called Horizon Zero Dawn. I didn't know much of the game, save for a few comments on how it was a good game, and I was intrigued with the mechanical beasts, which gave me a bit of nostalgia tingles with Recore (while no where near the level of HZD, it was itself a pretty fun title).
On Friday evening, I started the game and my world was shattered at how goddamn good a game can be. Within hours, this game instantly rose to the top 3 (so long, Fallout 3!) and I consumed as much as I could during my weekend play to take Aloy into new areas and challenges.
For me to grant an exclusive title of "Masterpiece" to a game, multiple criteria must be met. They're strict criteria. Very strict, which is why Breath of the Wild is not worth of the title despite being a fun game.
The biggest factor of my decision is gameplay. I don't give a flying damn about graphics. If the game sucks to play and control, nothing can save it.
HZD's controls are not only perfect, but the entire premise of combat, which absolutely requires players to use the skills they've acquired, is how every game should be designed. While there are plenty of "stronger" weapons in the game, the design lends us to use our skill points and existing weapons to make what we have stronger. This is an exceptional design, and I wish this would be incorporated into more games.
Unlocking the skill to allow me to transfer mods was, again, an exceptional design choice. I do not care about chasing the best and strongest weapons in the game. I just want weapons which allow me to defeat enemies. HZD takes this to a new level by ensuring our time spent on gathering resources is not wasted, dull, or pointless. Every leaf, branch, and component finds a home in my arsenal, and I couldn't help but be reminded this is what made the Tomb Raider reboot game awesome. Nothing wasted.
The turning point for me was coming across a Thunderjaw. I was walking along a road and literally caught a glimpse of something huge behind a mesa. At first, I thought it another Sawtooth, but this looked bigger. Then, it walked into view, and my jaw hit the floor. This thing was massive. I had to check it out!
At this point, I was level 9. As I crept up to get a better look, to my left, I saw a Sawtooth meandering its circle. Out of sight. Good. I continued close to get a better look at the new behemoth and just watched in admiration on how damn big this thing was.
Admittedly, I didn't feel confident enough to take it on, especially since Sawtooths were still difficult to take down. Yet, something possessed me to turn reckless. I wanted to take this down. Not later. Now.
Then, an idea hit me: what if I overrode the Sawtooth and let it attack, then sneak up and work toward taking down the Thunderjaw together. This plan just might work!
So I set off the plan, and sure enough, the Thunderjaw focused its attention on the Sawtooth and I went to town. The beast was down 50% before I lost my arrow to the Sawtooth, indicating it's no longer with me. Panic set in for a moment, but I remained calm and continued to scan for weak points.
About 23 minutes later, my purple randoms from the Thunderjaw were mine to claim. I did it. Level 9, and I took down one of the largest machines I had seen in the game so far.
This sense of pride is immeasurable to me, and it just goes to solidify the confidence how damn good this game was made. No strong weapons. Just my skills, using the environment to prevent attacks, and staying calm.
Unlike other games, the Thunderjaw wasn't a bullet sponge. It had more components to remove and its AoE attacks were deadly, but the perfect design of using what I've learned and the combat mechanics is how this game started to earn its Masterpiece rating.
I do not fast travel in a game the first time I play it. I always fear of missing out on something, and this game gives me reason to explore. Not just for supplies, but hidden objects I can either use to trade or learn about the past. There is always something to do between agendas, and I'm not even sure if I discovered all there is to do yet.
Much like BotW, I instantly tried to locate every Tallneck in the game. There's just something special about doing this in order to see the full world. However, the developers did something unique: they only offered a few of them, which was a fantastic change. So far, I've found 3, but if there are more, they're well hidden from my current exploration. I'm sure I'll find them eventually.
Once the game play and mechanics have passed all my tests, of course I take graphics into consideration. This game is gorgeous. There was a sense of wonder going between a canopy of green and walking into a desert of red-brown. To boot, the sun was setting. But enough about graphics.
The final category is UI, and if there's one way to ruin a game, it's to have a horrendous UI. If I have to pause the game to dig through a satchel to find a nut, it decreases the rating score.
I have yet to enter the UI during battle. The d-pad and paddle mapping* allows me to control anything I need. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how the d-pad was utilized in this game. Pure and goddamn genius, Guerrilla! Please send the code to every other developer out there so they can put this design into their games!
(*I have a device which allows me to use my Elite controller on the PS4)
Changing weapons is intuitive and fluid, and all this combined is why combat is a strong 10/10. During non-combat situations, finding anything I need is as simple as going to the appropriate category. While the resource limit can be a bit frustrating due to the cap, it forces me to pick and choose what's important, which helps me bond better with the game. This isn't a free-for-all and that's a good thing.
It's been a very long time I related to a game this well, and Horizon Zero Dawn definitely earned its accolades and rewards. I'm so damn thankful to have discovered it and I'm looking forward to an instant replay once I complete it for the first time.
If you wrote a review out there in the wilds, thank you for doing so. I'm sure your praise helped lead me to this game.
I also cannot stress how good it feels to anxiously await a sequel. Damn, I nearly forgot what this felt like.
With the gaming landscape seemingly turning into a nuclear wasteland of microtransactions and publishers who think they know better than their audience, it's wonderful to see a studio who said "Screw that noise" and Sony for taking a chance as publisher.
I'm extremely confident many, many people enjoyed everything about this game.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I just had to get this newfound excitement off my chest.
Oh, and one more thing: I have a top 3 list from each major console company now, a new milestone:
Metroid Prime (Nintendo)
Horizon Zero Dawn (Sony)
What's this mean? The stupidity of arguing which console is better needs to stop. They all have something to offer everyone. 😉
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