Horizon Zero Dawn Replay: Now I’m REALLY Done (I Think)

Quick addendum to my last post. I did end up playing through The Frozen Wilds (which I was calling the Frozen North in my last post). It had a better story than I remember, dealing with a project that actually pre-dates Zero Dawn. I know I played through it back in 2017 but I had completely forgotten about it.

I also then discovered a bunch of quests I had never played, and these introduced me to some of the characters that, in Horizon Forbidden West, spurred me to do a replay of HZD: I didn’t remember these characters because I’d never met them because I’d left quests unfinished!

So that was good. At the same time, I feel like the actual gameplay of Frozen Wilds isn’t as good as the main game. The machines are tougher but in a way that, for me at least, feels tedious and annoying. They have a lot of hit points and some really cheap attacks. For example one of the apex machines can cause the ground under your feet to erupt with fire and will do so even while facing away from you or even being on the other side of a hill and out of line of sight.

Still, I’m glad I got through it. At this point I have 100% of the trophies for the main game, 100% of the quest trophies for Frozen Wilds. I’m missing a handful of other trophies though. One is a “Kill X beasties” which would mean finding that kind of beastie & killing them. I could this fairly easily I suppose. Another is repairing 5 different types of machine. Again I guess I could do this but I’ve never repaired a machine. And last it to kill X machines by launching off a mount: that’s a skill I never unlocked even though I am at level cap (60). I did not 100% the main story this time around and I guess I missed some Cauldrons that give skill points. So I would have to go find & solve the Cauldrons, unlock the skill, then tame a mount, then kill enemies by launching off it. As I’ve already put 73 hours into this replay I don’t think it’s worth it for a Trophy.

Additionally there are 2 New Game+ Trophies, one just for completing a New Game+ game, and the other is for completing New Game+ on Ultra Difficulty. That is definitely NOT my jam so I’m never going to get 100% trophies in this game, which makes skipping the handful of others a lot easier.

So I think I’m FINALLY ready to re-start Horizon Forbidden West. I cannot wait to see what happens now that I am fresh from the amazing lore of Horizon Zero Dawn.

Horizon Zero Dawn Replay Finished?

When Horizon Zero Dawn released in the winter of 2017 I was obsessed with it. I played through it, then got the Platinum Trophy, then told everyone who would listen that they had to play it. It is one of my all-time favorite gaming experiences and one of my favorite sci-fi stories across any medium.

When the Frozen North expansion came out I played through it, too, but I didn’t enjoy it as much. In fact as of right now I can’t remember what it was about, but I remember a lot of fights against powerful machines. Challenging but not as fun as what I’d experienced in the main game.

After Frozen North, I left Horizon Zero Dawn behind.

Five years later Horizon Forbidden West released and I jumped straight into it, but something was missing. Not something in the game itself, but something in my experience. It was that after 5 years I’d forgotten so much about the story from the first game that I didn’t feel like I was getting all I could out of Forbidden West.

I decided to set Forbidden West aside and replay Zero Dawn. Three months later, I’ve finished that replay. And it was wonderful.

Not that it took 3 months to play it. I kind of dipped in and out of it for like 11 weeks, then hit the part where the story really ramps up and finished the second half in about a week. I had worried that, knowing all the twists to the story, I wouldn’t find it as good the 2nd time around but in fact it was like re-watching The Expanse or any other great sci-fi show. Knowing what you know, the 2nd time through, you pick up on all kinds of foreshadowing and details that you missed the first time.

The only catch with Horizon Zero Dawn is that a LOT of the story is told via audio journals, text files you recover, and holographic projections and many of these can be missed or skipped. I am a fairly fastidious gamer and tend to move slowly and explore everywhere and read everything but there are still some missing entries in the log files. For gamers who are more about getting back to the action as quickly as possible I wonder how much of the richness of the story comes through. (There were times I spent over an hour exploring and reading and never fighting.)

So now I have to decide, do I want to replay The Frozen North or should I just restart Forbidden West. I think I’ll putter around in Zero Dawn until the long weekend starts, then switch to Forbidden West. There’s nothing like a 3-day weekend to kickstart playing through a new and much anticipated game.

Back to the Beginning With Aloy

I played Horizon Zero Dawn when it launched in 2017, consuming it as quickly as possible because I was so caught up in the story. I came back for the Frozen North DLC, finished that and was done with the game. I hadn’t touched it since. I have very fond memories of playing and it is on my ‘top games of all time’ list. To say I was excited about Horizon Forbidden West would be an understatement.

When Forbidden West launched last Friday I dove right in, and was immediately hooked. The aesthetics and the gameplay strangely felt both familiar and new in the best possible way. But after the immediate rush of that first play-session faded I noticed something was missing. I wasn’t feeling a connection to the characters.Aloy sneaking in the rain
In the early hours Forbidden West re-introduces characters from the first game. For as fondly as I remember Zero Dawn, it turns out what I remembered were the main themes/plot, which focus mostly on Aloy discovering who she is (she was abandoned as a child) and the player discovering how the world that we’re playing in came to be.

Along the way Aloy gets caught up in politics between tribes, meets a lot of people, and generally experiences a lot of exploring and side-stories. I’d mostly forgotten all that. Very early in Forbidden West you run into Varl. Aloy clearly knows him, but he is a mystery to me. A little later she runs into Petra, and same thing. Aloy and these people have a history but time has erased them from MY memory.

So I decided to do something crazy. I set Forbidden West aside and started a new game of Zero Dawn. I considered a New Game+ run but then I’d have all kinds of gear that I no longer remember how to use, so I just opted for a regular old run-through on Normal difficulty.

I haven’t regretted this situation one bit. Horizon Zero Dawn holds up wonderfully and it still a fantastic game. I’m enjoying re-encountering these characters and thinking “How could I have forgotten Varl/Petra!?” constantly. And Rost. I’d forgotten Rost! Now I remember him.
Sunset skies
Since I earned the Platinum Trophy { /minor_flex } back when I first played, I don’t have to worry about searching for every collectible or whatever. I can play the game very naturally which is turning out to mean “very slowly.” I’ve rarely used quick travel, preferring to see the sights and kill some machines when going from here to there. Or riding a tamed machine, which never gets old. Aloy 2.0 is now level 20 and I haven’t even been to Meridian yet. (For reference, in my old post-DLC saves, Aloy was level 53.)

I am in no hurry to finish and move on to Forbidden West again, but when I eventually do I think I will enjoy it even more thanks to having all the people and lore fresh in my brain. It’ll be me saying “Hey! It’s Varl! Good old Varl, how ya been, buddy?” at the same time Aloy is greeting an old friend. That’ll be nice.

Side Note: Look at this campsite she stumbled on. It’s like maybe a diorama of a funeral or something? I’ve also included a close-up of one of the dolls that protect this camp.

Testing Daily Motion as an video source

Recently my PS4 and Google got into a slap-fight and I can’t stay signed into YouTube on the PS4. This isn’t a unique problem..googling it shows that a lot of PS4 owners encounter the same issue.

I’d like to get that fixed but in the meantime I don’t have a good way to upload videos. The PS4 does support DailyMotion though, so I set up an account. Here’s an embed. Not the usual Horizon Zero Dawn caveats apply: I play in HDR mode and when I save video or screenshots, the palette can get wonky. That’s not DailyMotion’s fault.

Horizon Zero Dawn™ – Testing DM connectivity by dragonchasers

Best option would be to crank the res up to 1080P.

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.