Horizon Zero Dawn, Day 1

I’d love to write at length about Horizon Zero Dawn: for me it is that rarest of breeds, a game that lives up to the hype. I played at bit when it launched at midnight, and as much as I could yesterday. All told I have about 9 hours into it and I’m loving it. Sadly for me, you’re spared from my walls of text because I have to go to work very soon. Still I needed to say SOMETHING about it.

I also don’t have a lot of good media to share. I’m playing HZD on an HDR TV and it looks absolutely stunning, but the downside of HDR (on the PS4 anyway) is that something goes wonky on the trip from live gameplay to screenshot or video cap. The color palette gets munged up and screenshots tend to look too dark (though not always), and video look like you’re watching them through a colored filter. I’ll have to turn off HDR to capture some good media but man, I don’t want to. The lighting in particular is amazing. Sometimes a sunbeam slices through the trees and is so bright that your instinct is to shield your eyes.

So if I only have time to talk about one thing, I’m going to talk about the health system because it feels a little unusual. Protagonist Aloy (brought to life by the talented Ashley Burch and of course Guerilla artists and animators) has a health bar. Below that health bar is another bar representing her medicine bag. As you travel around you’ll forage for plants. Some of these have medicinal value and they go into the medicine bag, which causes that second bar to fill up. At any point you hit Up on the D-Pad to heal yourself. In non-lore terms, the medicine bag bar represents a reserve of hit points that you can use to refill your health bar. The catch is that it takes time and you have to hold that button down while [I don’t know how I’d convinced myself you have to hold the button down but today I tapped it by accident and my health bar filled up, so scratch that ‘hold the button down’ bit] while the health flows into Aloy. It can be hard to find time to heal this way in battle.

But there are also health potions. While not instant, these are a lot faster to use. They reside in the tools menu. You push left< ->right on the D-Pad to select an active tool, then Down to use that tool. Aloy will pause briefly to quaff the potion so you still need to pick your moments, but generally health potions are for in-combat healing and the medicine bag is for out of combat healing.

Health potions can be purchased from vendors or crafted from meat that you get from hunting organic wildlife (so far I’ve hunted raccoon, fox, rabbit, turkey, fish and boar) and there are not only health potions but elemental resistance potions and things of that nature. Initially you can only carry a couple of each type of potion and of course they require the prep time of remembering to buy or craft them. (Being prepared for combat is a big part of HZD.)

So there you have it, one tiny aspect of the game that struck me. As I said, I could go on and on, but duty calls. Loving the game so far, though. It gets a big thumbs up from me.

6 thoughts on “Horizon Zero Dawn, Day 1

  1. I’ve been debating whether or not to get this (spoiler: I gave in and ordered the collector’s edition, sigh) and came across this post that had a good tip about finding health plants and a what some would consider a health cheat. I just read this article again, and I’m not sure if you’d call this a spoiler or not. It’s not story spoiler at all, but it is mechanics/tips spoiler-ish. So read at your own risk, but I personally found most of the tips “good to know” and will choose to use some of it and ignore some of it.


  2. Thanks for the link. I think I play games differently from others. I don’t try to rush through as quickly as I can so tricks like reload farming, to me, just turn a fun game into a chore. Talk about breaking the immersion! Of course I’m only 10 hours or so in; maybe you get to a point where you have more shards (cash) then you can spend so collecting loses its prime benefit. I’m constantly foraging and harvesting so I have plenty of stuff to sell to vendors.

    Also I’m not needing to get through the game quickly so I can write about it and move onto the next big game to write about that.

    Maybe it’s because I go slowly but for instance the tall red health plants? Those seemed pretty obvious to me. I mean if you look at what you’re harvesting instead of just rushing from icon to icon you quickly learn to tell which plant does what.

    I’d also hugely disagree with him saying the ‘shoot while balancing on a rope’ perk is useless. In the very first hunting camp, for instance, there’s a challenge to take down enemies by using the environment (in this case there are these log traps…when you shoot them logs roll down a hill and crush the baddies). The easiest way to nail this challenge is to herd the enemies into a particular valley that has 4 log traps (2 on either side) and a rope stretched across it. You can just stand in the middle of the rope and shoot all 4 logs traps and obliterate the bad guys.

    Maybe that’s the only time you’ll encounter a setup like that, though. Not sure.

    Sorry to sound like such a crank. I’d don’t have a good history with Paul Tassi, the dude who wrote that piece. So I’m probably biased.

  3. Well, I just couldn’t decide if I was going to like the game or not, so stumbled on that while poking around and read it without much perspective. I was kind of waiting to see if health was that big a struggle cuz it seemed like cheating to me. By the same token, I hate being frustrated by that kind of thing, also ruins my immersion. Guess I’ll find out for sure tomorrow! 🙂

  4. So far at least, I haven’t found health to be a big hassle. I pick plants as I pass them by (they’re all over the place, at least in the early areas) and I’m always hunting animals because I need their bones or skins (which are uncommon) and I always get meat from them that you can turn into health potions, too.

    In fact the biggest hassle for me so far is having TOO MUCH STUFF. I’m always running out of inventory space, or my medicine bag is full.

    Now maybe later on you have a giant health bar and it takes forever to gather enough plants…I’m sure that dude has played a lot more than me. So I may wind up eating my words. If so, it’s nice to know there’s a ‘cheat’ to regain health when needed!

  5. The really bad part is I have all next week off! I fully intended to do some reno work on my house, but now… a whole week to play a new game! How can I resist???

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