Horizon Zero Dawn
is an open-world action role-playing video game developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4. The game was released worldwide in 2017.
The plot revolves around Aloy, a hunter and archer living in a world overrun by robots. Having been an outcast her whole life, she sets out to discover the dangers that kept her sheltered. The character uses ranged and melee weapons and stealth tactics to combat the mechanised creatures, whose remains can also be looted for resources. A skill tree facilitates gameplay improvements. The game features an open world environment for Aloy to explore, divided into tribes that hold side quests to undertake, while the main story guides her throughout the whole world.
Development began in 2011, with game director Mathijs de Jonge considering it “the most risky” idea of those that were pitched at the time. The concept explores the contrast between the beauty and danger of the game’s setting. Guerrilla Games emphasises trial and error as the basis for playing the game, choosing not to implement a tutorial. The game engine, Decima, was previously engineered for Killzone Shadow Fall and altered for Horizon Zero Dawn, the first new intellectual property (IP) developed by Guerrilla Games since Killzone in 2004, and also the studio’s first attempt at developing a role-playing game.
Horizon Zero Dawn received acclaim from critics, who praised the open world, story, visuals, combat mechanics, enemy designs, and the character of Aloy, whilst giving some criticism for the writing and inconsistencies to facial animations. As of March 2017, over 2.6 million copies of the game have been sold, making it the best-selling new first party IP launch on the PS4 system to date.
Horizon Zero Dawn is an open-world action role-playing game played from a third-person view.Players take control of Aloy, a huntress and archer, as she progresses through a post-apocalyptic land ruled by robotic creatures known simply as “Machines”. Machine components, such as electricity and the metal they are composed of, are vital to Aloy’s survival, and she can loot their corpses to find useful resources for crafting. Aloy uses a variety of ways to kill enemies, such as setting traps like tripwires using the Tripcaster, shooting enemies with arrows, using explosives, and melee combat. Weaponry and traps may be purchased from traders. Further, she is essentially able to hack a selection of creatures with the Override Tool, after acquiring the data to do so, turning them into makeshift mounts or travelling companions. Aloy can also hide in foliage and ambush nearby enemies to ensure immediate takedowns. A “focus scan” allows Aloy to determine her enemies’ susceptibilities,identify their location, the particular level they possess and the nature of loot they will drop. There are three categories in the skill tree—”Prowler” concerns stealth; “Brave” improves combat; and “Forager” increases healing and gathering capabilities.
The game features an open world with a dynamic day-night cycle and weather system that can be explored without loading screens. Corruption Zones constitute areas that heighten difficulty and are populated by infected Machines that behave with more aggression. To uncover more of the map, one must scale large giraffe-like creatures known as Tallnecks.Twenty-six robotic creature designs are present in the game. Save points and fast travel can be accessed by interacting with campfires, once discovered. The quest structure unfolds to accommodate the exploration of tribes, while the main story covers the entire world. Individual cases are subject to solution as well. A dialogue wheel is used to communicate with non-playable characters.
Guerrilla Games began developing Horizon Zero Dawn in 2011, following the release of Killzone 3. When conceiving the idea for a new game, about 40 concepts were pitched. Among these was Horizon Zero Dawn, which game director Mathijs de Jonge considered “the most risky” of the concepts and was first pitched in 2010 by art director Jan-Bart van Beek. When this concept was chosen, a team of 10–20 began building prototypes of the game; many of the elements featured in the prototypes remained in the game throughout development. Approximately 20 different stories were written for the game, exploring varying concepts for the game, such as different player characters. John Gonzalez, who previously acted as lead writer for Fallout: New Vegas (2010), was hired to write the game’s story. The main elements of the story and the character of Aloy remained intact since early development. Upon the completion of Killzone Shadow Fall in late 2013, the remainder of the team began working on Horizon Zero Dawn. The team also cancelled work on another title so as to allow the entire team to focus on the development of Horizon.
The game’s concept explores the juxtaposition between the danger and beauty of the world, particularly analysing the concept of humanity not being “at the top of the life list”. The team aimed to emphasise the game’s exploration element by featuring a quest system, as well as including items throughout the world that can be used to craft or replenish health. The game does not feature any tutorials, instead requiring players to learn the methods of defeating enemies through trial and error. The team wished for the game to have a simple user interface design, specifically avoiding complicated menus for crafting. The team found the game to be a technical challenge. They felt that the game engine, Decima, which was designed for games such as the Killzone series and was previously used for Killzone Shadow Fall, was difficult to alter for Horizon, in terms of draw distance and loading. To discover how some game elements work differently in open world games, the team sought help from talent in the design, art and technical fields. In extrapolating the game world, Guerrilla turned to anthropologists and researched the formation of tribal cultures as well as how building materials would decay over a millennium.
The game’s quest system and narrative design took inspiration from other role-playing video games, ranging from the “Relaxed” quest design of RPG Maker games to the “Strict” quest design of hack and slash games. They defined “Relaxed” quest design as having few centralized systems for managing quest progression, and “Strict” quest design as having a rigid structure and predefined elements, with the team deciding for Horizon to lean somewhat more towards the latter.
The involvement of American actors Lance Reddick and Ashly Burch was revealed in January 2017. Burch voices Aloy, while her likeness is portrayed by Dutch actress Hannah Hoekstra. The game’s soundtrack was composed by Joris de Man, The Flight, and Niels van der Leest, with vocalist Julie Elven serving as the primary performer. The game’s soundtrack, featuring 80 tracks that span over four hours, was released digitally via Spotify on 3 March 2017.
The concept art, which feature robotic dinosaurs, as well as the game’s codename, Horizon, were leaked on 14 September 2014. Horizon Zero Dawn was officially announced during Sony Interactive Entertainment’s E3 2015 press conference.Originally set to be released in 2016 for the PlayStation 4, the game was later delayed to February 2017 so as to give additional time for the development team to polish the game. The game will be forward compatible with the PS4 Pro, allowing it to run up to 4K resolution. It was released to manufacturing in late January 2017.
By March 2017, a story expansion had already been set in motion.