Horizon Zero Dawn is a ~tRiPlE A~ (James Stephanie Sterling Voice) game, if I've ever seen one. A cynical person might say It's nothing but an amalgamation of every trend you've seen in the 2010s in gaming:
Assassins Creed's free climbing and towers
Ubisoft's general open world structure
Witcher 3's witcher sense
BioShock's voice recordings as a way to tell the intricate backstory of several places
Soulslike button layout for close combat (though that feels rather janky)
...and Monster Hunter in regards to how the combat actually works, you know removing parts from enemies and stuff (or so I'm told, never really played monster hunter)
I'm seven years old and visit the kid that lives in the same house as me, he also only has an SNES and no N64 or PSX like the cool kids and we play Donkey Kong Country. We're not particularly good at it, but the music and the jungle athmosphere really fascinate me. The graphic looks gorgeous and I love just jumping through this vibrant jungle setting and even though underwater level is super hard, Aquatic Ambience is just an awesome piece of music
And of these open world features are used quite well here though - If you didn't get sick of open world by 2017 or whenever you decided to play this for the first time. There aren't as many "Towers" and the Tallnecks are a bit of a more interesting idea, moving around the area or being captured by a camp of the occult, so you have to work through that to be able to climb. Some baggage still remains of course, like bandit camps or numerous collectibles. Also you might at times travel great distances between story missions, which can be tedious if you don't feel like exploring at the time. Luckily I've barely played any open world games, cuz I thought they get tedious very easily, but I can bear the more annoying parts here, because I haven't done this a million times before.
I'm 10 years old and we have a project in history class building small houses modeled after the ones people in the early Bronze Age had lived in. I'm not good at crafting anything, but my heart was really in it and I couldn't stop thinking about what it must have been like to live in a house like that. It looks kinda cozy, though I would miss the comfort of my home, tv and video games
I found the world to be engaging, the vistas are just beautiful, between lush jungle forests, glistening deserts, decrepit ruins of a only slightly futuristic society long gone now.
And the enemies are fun to fight, the fucking Glinthawks you either have to shoot down very effeciently or you'll be like me and pull them down to you with a ropecaster. Laying traps for big and especially fearsome foes, sneaking around to kill the enemies one by one - I always felt their were a lot of apporaches to battle if you were willing to take you time, and there are some tactical or RPG-elements to it. Using elemental weaknesses or tearing down specific parts to maybe even use the weapons against the enemies themselves. Or you just sneak around and corrupt as many enemies as possible to have them fight each other. The only place, where this isnÄt true is the fight against other humans. You either hit them in the head with an arrow or you try to wittle down their health with your spear - and close combat isn't that good, if you're not sneaking about.
I'm 12 and I just got Star Fox Adventures. I didnt have much experience with the Star Fox franchise before, I've only seen a friend play Lylat Wars/ Star Fox 64 on his N64. Adventures is suppossed to be like a 3d Zelda though and I always wanted to play one of those myself! I like how the characters look and a planet full of dinosaurs is just exciting to visit. The environments are varied an lands of snow full of mammoths, a labyrinthine temple complex with triceratops and t-rex's lurking about, a misty village full of humanoid dinosaurs clad in tribal clothes with houses build on lakeland connected to each other with wooden racks. But the music is what realy builds the atmosphere! Everything is tribal drums, flutes and ethereal synth sounds
The story of Horizon Zero Dawn is told on two timelines if you will. On the one hand you have to figure out what happened in the distant past - our immediate future not destroyed by climate crisis, but by some rich guy who wanted to make money with the solution to climate crisis: ecological robots that can basically terraform. He sells them as warmachines reliant on biofuel and this is were shit goes haywire. Now a team of scientist will have to try salvage whatever possible, to have at least something survive. These stories are mostly told via voice recordings or the occasional holographic scene, showing us people arguing in the shape of purple hazes. The other part of the story is about Aloy an outcast in the tribal Nora society, seeking out how she was born and what mysteries lie in the ancient past as well as why she was attacked by an insane cult. She travels the world gets to know different tribes and different people.
I'm 25 sitting sitting in an anthropology class about how historically Europeans tried to model an universal history of humanity, putting themselves as the most advanced on top and modeling the "lower"and "most primitive stages" after North American Native people as well as African hunter and gatherer societies. I haven't thought about the early Bronze Age and how it was taught to me in ages, but the Professor points out how "tribal clothing" or "early humans" is often modeled after Native American people in popular media and sciences as well.
The settng of Horizon Zero Dawn tries to accomplish something interesting: a mix of Sci-fi with ancient history. Aloy and her immediate conflict and surroundings is more based in "tribal conflicts", religious superstition and a former feudal power exploiting local people than the conundrums of climate changes, billionaires or ecological responisiblity for the planet. I liked traveling through the lands and areas, getting to more about the local beliefs and histories while also figuring out what happened in the distant past. As an anthropologist I could recognize easily where the inspirations for some of these tribes came from. The shamistic rituals and musings of the Banuk are very much inspired by real shaminism in e.g. Mongolia. The Carja Sundom reminds me of Aztec or Babylonian "high cultures" (that term implies one cultures is more developed, which might be true concerning technology or means of production, but not in anything else, especially not in morals or religious belief). The Nora - Aloy's own tribe - are a superstitious bunch and reflect on tribal people as very backward. In general the sci-fi background tends to portray anyone else that is not Aloy (or otherwise a technological afficionados) as simpletons, which goes with western modern beliefs. Hand in hand with the borrowing of native american aestethics, this makes for a handful of icky immplications - though I don't think this was the intention here, I guess its more about making Aloy more relatable to a western audience. And I like Aloy, she is capable a bit of a loner, determined, but heartfelt and at times snarky. Her quest of wanting to find a home for herself and finding out more about the past and her mother/ previous version of herself Elisabet Solbeck caught me emotionally - it's just that it is often tangled up in typical Western portrayls of other societies.
All of this is a very roundabout, part academic, part reflective emotional way of saying: there are reasons this game resonantes with me. The atmosphere catches something I didn't remember that once fascinated me ("tribal societies", stone age/ early bronze age and vibrant jungles) with aspects that I care more about nowadays (different cultures and ecological responsibility for the planet) while giving me gameplay, that is enjoyable to me while not reinventing the weel and also giving me a character that is trying to find a home or a found family. A lot here just works, even if not perfect.
I like the commentary about capitalists fucking up the earth even if they actually might be able to save it from climate crisis.
I also think it's kinda interesting, that a huge group of them came together to try to just flee into space, which doesn't work out very well...
Also Ted Faro also destroys a huge knowledge data base on a whim. Feels awfully fitting with the downfall of Twitter.
...the choice to create an AI that is supposed to save the Earth...didn't age well though. I know, what we have now isn't AI but machine learning, but it feels weird to have such positive talks about AI especially in regards to the climate and nature in general.