One of the most talked about games of E3 2016 was Horizon: Zero Dawn. Revealed last year on the Sony stage, Guerilla Games is developing an open world game set in a world far removed from the society we know and love, clearly long after the end of days has arrived and in the middle of a brand new world. Machines have taken over the Earth, which you’re constantly reminded of throughout the E3 2016 demos. The machines are huge, dangerous, but familiar if you grew up with the anime Zoids, like me.
Of course this isn’t a bad thing, but Zoids wasn’t exactly a major hit. Horizon: Zero Dawn features machines who have grown apart from their owners, becoming so far removed from humanity and their control that they were able to eventually take over the Earth. From the ruins of various cities and industrial fixtures we’ve seen so far, it appears the Earth has been in control of the machines for quite some time.
The first Zoids anime series featured a bunch of kids using robot animals to fight each other for glory and honor. But the second Zoid series served as a prequel of sorts, going back thousands of years when the ancient weapons were scarce. Both Zoids and Horizon look to deal with similar themes and conflicts, such as what happens when man confronts machine. Neither series featured memorable characters or breathtaking plotlines, but the idea of giant robot animals awaking from a slumber was pretty neat back then.
One of my favorite moments of any Horizon: Zero Dawn media we’ve seen thus far comes from the original debut trailer back at Sony’s 2015 E3 press conference. Serving as a climax to an exciting as well as mysterious reveal, our main protagonist Aloy takes on a giant dinosaur with missiles on its back. She then blows apart the dinosaur, only to use its own weapons against it. As chunks of metal were blown off the monster, it reminded me of the fights between the Zoids themselves, calling back to exciting bouts of machine-on-machine madness.
Yet, despite featuring robotic animals and interesting themes throughout the anime’s current run, Zoids simply did not stand out amongst animated shows such as Dragon Ball Z and Batman: The Animated Series. There are a few reasons why Horizon: Zero Dawn won’t be subject to the same treatment.
For one, the concept alone is strikingly interesting. The promise of a huge open world that is also mysterious is sure to intrigue players. Where did the robots come from? Why are they so volatile? Zoids constantly explained its premise and de-mystified every single event.
Secondly, the game is positioned to be a marquee title for PS4 owners, a console that has several top notch first party developers creating content specifically for them. Throughout the various console generations, PlayStation owners have been supplied ample proof that first party games for their platform are some of the best titles of the year.
Should anyone even make a brand new Zoids game? I doubt there is even an audience for such a thing, but the ambition behind Guerilla Games’ newest project should be enough for anyone. When Aloy opens her map in the new E3 2016 trailer, there was just so much ground to cover, even as she went from one objective to the next. Sure, a pure, brand new Zoids game might not have such exploration, but that’s why I loved that moment. It presented the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn as one you would like to explore and see more of. Will there be ruins of entire cities to scavenge? Do the machines have nests to eliminate? What do the different tribes look like? While open world may be the new standard for video games, Horizon is certainly helped by the fact it has mechanic animals roaming around.
From the way the game scooped up “Best of” E3 awards, I can’t say I’m surprised how excited I am for this game. Sure, the mission structure is virtually unknown at this point, but from the world that has been just introduced to us, I think Guerilla Games may have a major hit on their hands.