This is one big game -- not only in terms of length but also the size of its enormous map and the scope of its story and lore. Horizon Zero Dawn provides players with a captivating world rich in history, culture, politics, theology, and conflict. It has the depth and breadth of an epic fantasy or a science-fiction novel and just as many factions and characters. And everything is cleverly woven together to create a mythological tapestry where it's easy to lose oneself. At the heart of it all is Aloy, a smart, skilled, self-assured heroine who's easy to like and fun to cheer on -- not just while fighting the massive machines that roam her land but also while confronting closed-minded or conniving adversaries during her quests.
The story and the stunningly rendered world in which it takes place is what will pull most players in at the start. But what might eventually prove even more gratifying for some players is the action. Aloy's battles with the machine animals are fast and furious, forcing players both to strategize and rely on their reflexes as they lay traps, acrobatically leap away from attacks, quickly switch between weapons, and pick the right types of ammunition to suit their enemies and the situation. Some battles are nothing short of exhilarating. If it has a flaw, it could simply be that it borrows a little too much in terms of play concepts and mechanics -- outpost raids, crafting, dialogue design, and more -- from its open-world contemporaries. But the sheer imagination and scope of the rest of the game is so impressive that a few pilfered ideas shouldn't be too hard for most players to overlook. Make no mistake, Horizon Zero Dawn is among the best and most impressive new entries in the relatively sparse genre of lush, large-scale, single-player role-playing games.