Horizon: Beautiful, often brilliant and so, so stupid
There’s a point, about 10 hours in to Horizon: Zero Dawn, that I nearly put my controller down.
I’d just completed (keeping things spoiler-free) a quest and was able to freely explore a village for the first time.
Now, bear in mind for a second that that Aloy, its heroine, has been ostracised from this village and, in fact, society at large all her life. She’s been taunted, laughed at and had rocks hurled at her. They had a ‘no Aloys’ party where they invited the other girl called Aloy, but not her (“we’re allowed one”) and essentially would have poured kerosine on her rather than piss on her if she was on fire.
Inevitably though, there comes a point in the game where the veil of silence is lifted and they all realise she’s rather handy with a bow and spear and they could do with her help. As it happens Aloy’s own motivations match those of the village’s chieftains – they want to find out what’s driving Horizon’s Zoids nuts, Aloy wants to do the same as it will probably help her find out where she comes from. I get it.
What I don’t understand is why Aloy would ever go out her way to help the people of the village I mentioned in my intro. Within about 30 seconds of being in it I’d spoken to five or six people all wanting me to do them a favour: go find this, kill that, escort this guy, paint this fence, mow the sodding lawn. That Aloy would entertain these people’s requests is jarring to the point of idiocy and completely removed me the experience.
Why did Guerrilla feel it needed to bloat Horizon with these pointless fetch quests? If I was to put myself in Aloy’s situation there’s no way in this world that I’d delay my quest to potentially find out why I was born to help some bloke find his lucky charm. And I don’t for a second believe that Aloy – the single-minded, hard as nails warrior that she is – would either, so why put it in.
She might slap the guy, but that would be surely be the beginning and end of their transaction. So why is our intelligence insulted with the inclusion of such meaningless side-quests? It’s not even like Horizon’s length would be diminished without them, the game would be 40-50 hours regardless.
To use a movie parallel, it’d be like Indy leaving his dad in the hands of the Nazis to go and find the lost necklace of a random stranger who just approached him on the street. It just wouldn’t happen, so why does it happen in Horizon?
I’m picking on Horizon because it’s fresh in my mind – we’ll be podding our verdict in the next week or so. But this epidemic of banality is present in all open world games and it really has to stop. Developers need to polish their quests, plot lines and scripts as much as, in Horizon’s case, they polish their robot dinosaurs.
They need to say “nope, that ain’t going to work” more often and cut anything that flies against their protagonists character. You’ve built that amazing engine, so let it do the talking – or does everyone else enjoy following a series of waypoints to find some blokes lucky charms?
About Quit or Continue
Want to know more about Quit or Continue? Well, the short version is that we’re four 30-something blokes who love games, don’t have the time we used to and want to guide people like us to make the right choice when they buy games.
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