One of the major reveals at this year's E3 was Horizon: Zero Dawn from Guerrilla Games, the first original property from the Dutch developer since the launch of the first Killzone on PS2 in 2004. An open world action-RPG, Horizon: Zero Dawn offers up a beautiful and lush post-apocalyptic world where human society has reverted to a tribal state and giant robots roam the landscape.
Senior producer Mark Norris identified three main concepts of Horizon: Zero Dawn. The world - an old world reclaimed by nature. The machines - not simply enemies, but an important part of the story and part of a symbiotic relationship with nature. And finally the tactical and strategical action that Aloy is capable of thanks to her agility, smarts and knowledge of her environment.
There was a hint of a more complex relationship between Aloy and the metal beasts as she stealth-killed a Watcher (a small scout unit, that will send out an alarm if it spots you) saying "Sorry, little one". Speaking to Guerrilla Games we learned that this relationship will be one of the major themes of the story. It made us think of the Family Guy episode where Brian names the main character of his novel Norm Hull, and we're not sure it will take scholars much time to figure out the reasons behind the name of the main character. That said Guerrilla are keeping quiet on the nature of the story for now, other than claiming the narrative "will be strong".
While not yet present in this demo, elemental effects will be combined with the environments. If you send an electricity arrow into a body of water, any enemies standing in it will be damaged. We also got to see how effective traps can be as Aloy harvested a herd of Gracers for resources. For now we were introduced to Aloy's bow and a rope gun, but we expect the arsenal be more diverse than that as futuristic components are mixed with pre-historic concepts.
The end of the demo showed off one of the larger predators of the Horizon machine park. A Thunder Jaw. Guerrilla Games were keen to highlight just how complex this beast is and how its 93 separate pieces will offer plenty of opportunity for players to target specific points. Soft tissue parts that offer three times the damage are hidden under armour plates, and so are key components like its AI core and power core - both offering ten times the damage once exposed. Taking out components will change the behaviour of the machine, with the Thunder Jaw capable of 12 different attack moves.
It's a complex piece of machinery and an example of how Guerrilla introduce tactical options without taking the player out of the experience and slowing down the pace.
As you'd expect crafting will be a major part of the Horizon: Zero Dawn experience. What is nice is that you'll be able to quickly craft new ammunition without having to open up menus. It is clear that Guerrilla Games are sticking to their action roots as they want to keep players inside of the experience.
Machine parts are gold to the remnants of human civilisation and it is the foundation of the whole economy. Aloy will visit towns where she will be able to trade machine parts, accept quest and everything else you'd expect from dwellings in an action-RPG. We didn't learn much of the human tribes that have somehow found a way to cling to life, but this is just a first reveal after all.
It's hard to shake the first impression of Horizon: Zero Dawn. The gorgeous environments and spotting the iconic Longnecks walking in the distance. Guerrilla Games could be on to a winner here. Here's hoping we'll be able to tame the machines and ride across the landscape come release in 2016.