The conceit of Horizon: Zero Dawn is a simple one. You are hunting robot dinosaurs in a post-apocalyptic world and you’re using a bow and arrow or a spear to do it.
I mean, seriously. Do you need more than that? How could you possibly need more than that?
Well, if you do, here’s a bit more of a breakdown. Okay. It’s the year something way in the future. There was a war of some kind and the planet has (mostly) healed itself from the wasteland phase and is now lush and green again (and it’s set in Colorado Springs! You can visit the Air Force Academy and see the chapel!). You are Aloy (pronounced “Ay-Loy”), a young woman who was outcast at birth from her tribe. Your gentle wise father-figure type (who is also outcast from the tribe for some reason) is Rost. You pretty much fast-forward from Rost naming you at the beginning, to a precocious young child who finds a Star-Trekky-kinda earpiece with a heads-up display and soon after finding the earpiece, you fast-forward again to being a young woman robot dinosaur hunter getting a handful more lessons on robot dinosaur hunting from your father-figure in preparation for: The Coming Of Age Ritual.
The Coming Of Age Ritual, of course, is where the game really, really starts to pick up.
Anyway, there are all kinds of quests, it’s kinda sandboxy insofar as there are all kinds of side-quests and it’s kinda RPG-y insofar as you pick which skills you want to get good at first (before getting good at all of them, of course) and you pick which upgrades you want for your weapons and your armor and you can upgrade your pouches so you can hold 30 arrows instead of just 20.
You meet the Big Bad, you hunt ever bigger and badder robot dinosaurs, and you even have decision points where you can pick between doing the headstrong thing, the smart thing, or the nice thing. The gameplay takes a little getting used to if you’ve recently been playing something like, oh, Batman: Arkham Knight because you’ll be pressing the wrong buttons to duck and the wrong buttons to run and that’ll mess you up when you’re hunting robot dinosaurs but, hey. What can you do?
There are also a handful of things that will have you say something to the effect of “well, *THAT* is a little on the nose…” but they’re over quickly and you can get back to hunting robot dinosaurs.
Which, really, is all you need.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913))