The hunter Aloy stood on a cliff, surveying the expansive landscape before her. Grassy plains stretched outwards towards mountains topped with snow and peppered with tall trees. A healthy blue sky set the backdrop for the scene. It was a picturesque presentation of the natural world, and one that players could expect to explore most of, a developer explained.
Horizon: Zero Dawn will be an open-world game which players can choose to explore at their own pace. Its setting juxtaposes a natural world inhabited by very unnatural machinery and somehow makes the two blend together in a fashion that works. It was during a live play-through of the game with developer Guerilla Games at E3 2015 that I realised the game's ability to mix the old and the new in a way that allowed them to fit together.
For all of the natural beauty on display in the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn, strange robotic creatures would be its lifeblood. Aloy stalked through the underbrush towards her prey, armed with a bow and arrow for long-ranged attacks and a knife for quick stealth kills. She sprang out from cover to take down her target, but it was not an animal like I would have expected a hunter like her to tackle; no, it was a mechanical four-legged creature comprised of metal and tubes. Despite its cold grey exterior jutting out sharply against the warm greens and oranges of the vegetation around it, it fit in. Aloy stabbed at it in the same manner that I would have expected her to do with animal prey. Its last cries quickly dissipated as she muttered a brief prayer for it. It was a seemingly strange thing to do for a robot, but the action spoke volumes of how mechanical lifeforms were viewed in this world. All things natural and synthetic were equally respected, and it was that prayer which cemented the relationship between the two in my mind.
Even when faced with a large lumbering metal beast Aloy's tactical arrow shots were similar to how an archer would take down a mammoth. She was a hunter garbed in simple cloth and furs, and yet her weapons and enemies were seemingly synthetic, human-made, technologically advanced.
Aloy rained down explosive arrows, harpoon-like arrows with ropes, and armor piercing arrows to take the mechanical beast down. It wasn't supposed to make sense, but it did, and the ancient-modern oxymoron of the setting was what made it so interesting.
The paradoxical nature of Horizon: Zero Dawn both intrigues and perplexes me, and I look forward to unearthing its secrets when the game is out next year.
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