While this is a video game centered post, it focuses more on the writing and less on the gameplay, so don’t be afraid if you don’t have as much experience as a gamer. I put this post under the cut in case there are spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn.
Video games need a story. They have to engage the player and push them to not only make it to the end but to truly explore. At twenty-seven, I’ve played my fair share of video games, but none have struck a chord with me the way that Horizon Zero Dawn has.
I first heard about this game during E3 and have anticipated its release since June. On Tuesday it finally came out, and I sat down to play. Six hours later and I was having a blast.
I’m twenty hours in, and I love this game. And that’s because the writing is impressive. I’ve fallen in love with so many characters, and not just because of their design. The voice acting for many, Aloy especially, is top notch.
The lore of Horizon is worked into the beginning of the game so flawlessly. You’re taught about the world that it doesn’t feel like a brick to the head. All of this is done simply in an opening cinematic that I’ve rewatched several times. Check it out here:
Some video games have complicated storylines, and that can be all well and good. However, a complex story doesn’t mean it is good. My prime example and experience is with the Kingdom Hearts series.
Spanning multiple games the overall series gets complicated with the different people that have turned into other people and all the timeline jumps. For the console games, it’s easier to follow, but when you add in the handheld games, it can complicate things in ways that has turned me off from following beyond the console games. The lore is revealed throughout the game, and at least for the console versions, keeps you engaged. There is far too much going on in this universe that I don’t blame people for keeping a safe distance between them and the game.
A much closer comparison to Horizon is Skyrim, or Witcher 3. They’re all open world games with plenty of quests to venture around the land. The difficult part with open world games is that the quests to complete can pile up and be a daunting task to accomplish.
The characters of Horizon have kept me coming back, and while the Hero’s Journey archetype is in play, it feels fresh. Some of this I would chalk it up to the writing of the mentor, Rost. His relationship with Aloy is organic and isn’t one of those “he comes into her life at the right time” sort of mentors like Obi-Wan. Rost is an important thread in Aloy’s life and is one of the many driving forces behind her journey.
Aloy is one of my favorite protagonists in a long time. She’s smart, compassionate, and head strong. Her decision trees alternate between intelligence, compassion, and anger. This allows for the gamer to choose what response they want for the situation but also shows off different aspects of Aloy’s personality.
I have alternated between compassion and intelligence, so I’m not sure what the reactions would be if I had responded with anger in any of the decisions I was faced with.
Proper writing in a video game is what keeps gamers coming back. The whole package has to be there: the story, lore, world building, and characters. With one of these lacking, a game can feel shallow and uninteresting. By having all of these elements a game will have depth, and keep gamers playing until completion because they are engaging with the content.
If I haven’t convinced you to pick up Horizon Zero Dawn, then perhaps this game isn’t for you. Or you don’t have a PS4, which is also understandable.
One of the writers for Horizon, Ben Schroder, was featured in a Guerrilla spotlight.
If you need some writing music, I would also recommend the Horizon Zero Dawn soundtrack which you can listen to all four hours on Spotify. You can also purchase it on iTunes, Amazon Music, Deezer, or Google Play.