Incoming Class: Horizon Zero Dawn Looks to Lead 2017's Action Pack
Aloy joins the incoming class of Waypoint High School—and she's bringing a load of robotic dinosaurs with her.
Welcome to the Waypoint High School Class of 2016 Yearbook. We're giving out senior superlatives to our favorite games, digging into the year's biggest stories via extracurriculars , and following our favorite characters through their adventures together in fanfic. See you in 2017!
Remember Zoids? Of course you don't: you're on a VICE site, you're probably 21 years old and the 1980s might as well be the 1880s for all you care, culturally. But allow me a moment of nostalgia.
Zoids were these fantastic toys, originally called Mechabonica in Japan, but brought West under a snappier name, that you built from a kit. They were models of mechanical animals, from tigers to spiders to dinosaurs, with wind-up or battery powered parts, so that they'd awkwardly walk forward when assembled. Each of these machines had a pilot, a little gold or silver person in a seated position who'd get lost down the sofa three hours after you got it; but really, Zoids weren't about people.
They were all about constructing these heavily armed mechanoids and, assuming your friends were willing, banging them into each other by hand once you realized they marched into bedroom warfare about as well as breezeblocks swim.
Bits would come loose, like all those rubberized end caps and so many spikes and pincers, tail parts and teeth, but you could usually retrieve them before the vacuum cleaner came round. And as they were made up of a multitude of separate pieces, when Zoids "broke" they could easily enough be put back together. Unlike the dinosaurs from another of my childhood favorites, the Transformers' Dinobots.
From what I have seen of its titanic mechanical creatures, in both trailers and a slice of playable game at 2016's E3, Horizon Zero Dawn is as close as any of us are getting to a worthwhile Zoids: The Game. It stars behemoth evolutions of how I recall Zoids—great, hulking creations, crashing through the thick dust, tromping down the mountain, flames spewing out of their nostrils.
Okay, I might've mixed the brands a little, there.
I digress: Horizon Zero Dawn is shaping up to be my action-RPG for next year, in much the way The Witcher 3 was 2015, and its Blood & Wine expansion has been 2016. It has the trappings of a big, AAA blockbuster: It has a vast open world. There's crafting—for main weapons, for traps and bombs, and for armor—and a multitude of traders with which to exchange the game's currency, "shards" for better clothing and equipment.
But this is not, in the words of executive producer Lambert Wolterbeek Muller (when he addresses my small group of press sorts at E3), a "hard" RPG. It's not going to bury its story beneath sub-menus full of befuddling statistics. Rather, it's nudging closer to action-adventures with substance, the likes of The Last of Us, rather than presenting itself as a life-consuming successor to CD Projekt's astonishing achievement, undoubtedly the best RPG I've ever seen through to its end.