E3 2016: Hunt, Gather, and Hack in Horizon Zero Dawn

When Horizon Zero Dawn was revealed last year at Sony’s E3 presser, we witnessed a red-haired woman in tribal gear taken down a large beast. This year, once again at E3, we got to witness more footage of Guerilla Games’ Playstation 4 exclusive and the fascinating environment it takes place in. The video begins with our protagonist, Aloy, as she sets out into the wilderness. A man in a lookout tower warns her of corrupted beasts, but she persists. Soon, she comes across a handful of mechanical creatures, which look like large land crabs, collecting resources.

Aloy performs some kind of scan that exposes their strengths, weakness, and components. Setting off to cut one down, Aloy utters, “…risky, but I need the components.” Remarkably, after taking two of them down, whoever was playing the demo decided she didn’t need them after all and just ran into the field beyond. So either there was a problem with the demo, or she just kinda says things when she’s about to engage enemies. The battle was interesting regardless, as she dodge-rolled around and shot her weapons at their exposed weak spots, their yellow framing, until they malfunctioned/died.

Further down the road, a man comes running from the woods being chased by a “corrupted” beast. After taking it down quickly, the man explains that some kind of “demon” has entered his village, and he evacuated. Here, we got to see some of the other features of Horizon Zero Dawn. Aloy crafts some ammunition for her trusty bow using components she had collected. Then, using the map, she finds where the demon was residing but determines it would take too long to venture on foot. Perhaps these events have expirations on them.

Before setting off, with the map still up, Aloy finds an “animal” to use as a steed to ride to her destination. Using a gun, which tethers the beast to the ground, she plunges her staff into its head, turning it into a friendly mount to carry her. When she reaches the man’s village, it’s not long before she discovers the supposed "demon," another machination, and witnesses it corrupting a smaller creature, though it’s still not clear what “corrupting” even means when all the animals are actually autonomous machines. Is it "infected" with a virus? After a thrilling battle with explosions and destructible environmental elements, Aloy remarks that the machine is ancient, yet another detail of curious meaning from this demo.

I remain as excited as I was last year for Horizon Zero Dawn. I like the machine animals, the beautiful graphics, and the unique blend of tribal hunting skills mixed with advanced technology. I’m also, of course, a fan of seeing such a physical role being given to a leading lady. How vast this open-world RPG is remains to be seen, but I’m excited already at the possibilities. I hope Guerilla Games really utilizes this environment and has plenty of emergent gameplay to go along with the script. Well, until the game comes out on March 1, 2017, I’ll just need to wonder.