Horizon: Zero Dawn

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Horizon: Zero Dawn has been out for a few years. But, I’ve already explained I skipped the Playstation 4, and I decided to not get it for PC but wait for the Playstation 5 and see if I could get it cheap. What do you know? Horizon: Zero Dawn came out for free on Sony’s Play-at-Home initiative last month.

What’s it about?

Neither “Horizon” or “Zero Dawn” is very descriptive. Well, it becomes clearer during the game, but that doesn’t help you discover what kind of game it is. So what gives? As you can see above, the art features a red-haired woman with a bow and a robot dinosaur. And that is indeed the basis of the game: red-headed woman fights robot dinosaurs with a bow.

And what’s not to like? Red-headed woman fights robot dinosaurs with a bow! It’s Assassin’s Creed with robots! Dinosaur robots!

But of course, there’s slightly more to it.


The red-headed main character of the game is Aloy. As we learn very early on, Horizon: Zero Dawn is set sometime in a post-apocalyptic future. Some kind of catastrophe befell humanity in the not-so-distant future, and the result is humans living in primitive tribes, fighting robot dinosaurs. Both the origin of the robot dinosaurs and Aloy’s past are shrouded in mystery.

Aloy was made an outcast at birth and raised by another outcast called Rost. The story proper starts when she reaches adulthood and attempts to win ‘the proving’ of the tribe, so she will be outcast no more. Winning the Proving will also grant her a boon, which she intends to use to get answers.

Then everything goes to shit when a group of mysterious foreigners show up and start killing folks.

Horizon: Zero Dawn gameplay

Story-wise I’m not the biggest fan of open-world games. Pacing is always all over the place, and side quests tend to swamp the main quest. Horizon: Zero Dawn is no exception. The story is well-written, and pretty cool (so far, I haven’t finished the game yet). However, I’ve spent most of my time running around blasting different types of dinosaurs to smithereens for gear and money. Or doing side quests. Somewhere on my to-do list is the main quest, but it’s already faded to the background.

The thing is: blasting dinosaurs to smithereens to harvest their innards is fun! Assassin’s Creed has its blade-up-sleeve-insta-kill feature, Spider-man has his web-slinging, and Horizon: Zero Dawn has blasting dinosaurs with a bow. It’s really fun. And pretty hard.

You can go one-on-one with some of the smaller dinosaurs and come out the winner. But the bigger dinosaurs require some thinking, and planning. I’ve been roasted or turned to pulp by Bellowbacks and Sawtooths dozens of times when I ran into them by accident, or was spotted at the wrong time.

It’s in essence a variation on the third-person open-world single-character RPG genre. Like Assassin’s Creed and Spider-man and — well, just about every other Ubisoft game. And that’s not a bad thing.

The verdict

Good story, good gameplay, and pretty graphics. I’m sold. If you like open-world roleplaying games like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, you’ll probably like this one too. And, you know, robot dinosaurs! If you don’t like games like that, then this is not the game for you.

Of course, part 2 (Forbidden West) is also coming out later this year, promising more fun. I can’t wait.

Martin Stellinga Written by:

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands