Ladies, gentlemen, and spam bots of the internet,
It is with great honor that I accept my 11th PlayStation Platinum Trophy for Horizon Zero Dawn. This
meaningless glorious digital award sits alongside my other shiny Platinums for Assassin’s Creed II, Infamous, Resident Evil 5, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Lightning Returns, Fallout 3, Assassin’s Creed Liberation, Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, and Assassin’s Creed Rogue.
After having it since launch day in February, it’s about damn time. I felt really slow as I witnessed many awesome bloggers zoom by me. My excuse is that I took my time and enjoyed the sights, while unsuccessfully juggling Breath of the Wild with it for a bit. Now that it’s over, I’m emotionally conflicted. One on hand, I’m ecstatic to have finally finished this big open world game. On the other hand, I’m very sad to reach the end of Aloy’s epic journey. My official stance is that I have NO emotions, but I can’t lie either – I wept like a child during an emotional ending scene. Lots of games have triggered stingy water droplets to inexplicably form in my eyes (usually it’s a Final Fantasy title), but only TWO in-game events have ever made me breakdown and sob like a wuss: The terrible scene that occurred 20 minutes into The Last of Us, and now that touching scene at the end of HZD. Well played, Guerrilla Games… sniff. This whole world will stick with me for a long time.
At least I have a cache of screenshots to save as souvenirs! Here’s some of my favourite pictures that I snapped with the game’s innovative Photo Mode:
Beating any game with a deep story is always a bittersweet moment for me (especially when I feel a special connection with the game world). It’s the goodbye part that gets me in the feels (which I maintain I have none). I’m going to miss fighting robots with that smartass redhead, and I really don’t want to move on to someone else. I also miss that sense of wonder I had in the beginning while I was trying to figure out why the hell angry robot animals were running amok on a primitive Earth. The reason was revealed in a beautiful, depressing, and awe-inspiring journey, that’s unfortunately over now. The good news is that they announced a new DLC pack during E3 that will continue the story. My stubborn “No DLC policy” will finally be broken. I highly approve of the world the developers created here, and I will definitely be showing my support with my wallet.
What’s Next My Gaming Agenda
After I finish my terrible review, I have a huge in progress mess I want to clean up before I start something new:
- Fallout 4
- Final Fantasy IV
- The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild
I desperately need an open world break so I’m going to go with the linear title: Final Fantasy IV. I’m very close to beating it as well. It was an honor Aloy, and I can’t wait to see you again when the DLC is released! Now it’s time to finish redeeming the dashing Dark Knight.
For details on my epic conclusion, check out my ramblings below!
>>MAJOR FREAKING SPOILERS<< will be present, so please stop reading and press the back button on your browser NOW, if you haven’t beaten this game yet.
SPOILERS ARE BELOW!!
Really, really, really big ones! Seriously, do you want this game ruined by me? I’m going to talk about the WHOLE last half of the story. Last warning…
I could write a novel on what I did since my last progress update but I will try to keep this as brief as possible (so short story length). The point of these posts is to help me remember this amazing game. Anyone who wants to read along with me is more than welcome to share their thoughts in the comments section.
Last post I was headed for Olin’s last known location at a dig site. Aloy discovered a group of Shadow Carja unearthing ancient war machines, Corruptors. She sees Olin, but one of the Corruptors detects her. Just as all hell is about to break loose, a voice named “Unknown Caller” speaks to Aloy through her Focus. He tells her he is an interested party, the enemy’s Focus devices are disabled, and that now’s her chance. The resulting fight was easy for over leveled me, and Aloy finds an injured Olin in the pit. He explains himself – He was forced to help against his will, this group of Shadow Carja is called the Eclipse, they worship a metal devil called Hades, they are digging up ancient war machines to attack Meridian, and their leader is a really hard ass dude named Helis (also the asshole who slit Aloy’s throat at The Proving). When the Metal Devil saw Aloy through Olin’s Focus, it uttered “System threat detected” and wanted her dead, immediately.
Aloy demands to know if Olin has seen a woman who looks like her. That’s likely the reason why Eclipse wants her dead. Olin says there were some ruins up north that could likely contain what she seeks. I’m given the option to spare Olin or kill him. He doesn’t care either way, as long as Aloy agrees to go save his family. I choose the option to spare him. He is shocked and grateful for Aloy’s compassion, feeling he owes her his life. I do the side errand to help Olin break his family out of a Eclipse farmhouse base. A happy reunion occurs, but Olin feels terrible for what he did under duress. Aloy tells him to go live happily ever after with his family, and that he owes her nothing.
I proceed to do several side activities before continuing the story: Collect my final Banuk Figure, finish my final Cauldron, climb my final Tallneck, liberate my final Bandit Camp (sorry Nil, I’m not killing you), help Petra (a woman in charge of an Oseram town) build the badass Oseram Cannon, help two annoying Behemoth hunters find true love, help Gera find her husband, save another Oseram town from a Glinthawk invasion, and scale the most bot defended mountainside ever (packs of Stalkers, Ravagers, Watchers, Glinthawks, and big Stormbird boss) to get a Vantage Point (this actually helped me out A LOT later in the game). I also took out what is in my opinion THE hardest Corrupted Zone: TWO corrupted Rockbreakers. They kept destroying me, but I found a spot by the river where they couldn’t pop up under me. I basically stuck by a nearby cliff to take cover, slipping out to fire pop shots when they appeared. Oddly enough, other robot animals were pulled and started attacking the Rockbreakers too. They eventually went down and I had to use Photo Mode to capture the victorious moment. Oh yeah, and I Blazing-Sunned all the Hunting Grounds, even the Glinthawk tie-down one (a nice fellow on YouTube showed me the easy way). The Lodge weapons were a really nice reward for my troubles.
With all the side things done, it was time to focus on the story! I headed up north to Maker’s End. It’s an eerie snow covered area, littered with ruined buildings from the Old Ones. After picking up a cache of supplies I didn’t need from Unknown Caller, Aloy makes her way through an Eclipse dig site. Since I’m super-over-leveled, stealth matters not and my first encounter with an ancient Deathbringer machine went swimmingly. Aloy puts on a Focus she looted from a dead Eclipse Officer. Hades immediately starts rambling death threats, and Aloy throws the Focus to the ground, watching it explode. She demands some explanation, but the Unknown Caller remains silent. Aloy finds an uncovered door and approaches it. She is scanned and a synthetic voice welcomes her inside, referring to Aloy as Dr. Elisabet Sobeck. Once inside the ruined building, the voice informs Aloy she is 355,510 days late for an appointment with Ted Faro, and to proceed to the 35th floor. On the way up, I uncover many juicy plot details from logs and holo-projections: Elisabet is genius who helped Faro (this company) develop green technologies, but they decided to get into weapons development. Lis left to form her own company, and Ted (the CEO) oversees the development of really dangerous war machines he calls “Peacekeepers” (Corruptors & Deathbringers).
After the grueling climb to the CEO’s office, Aloy is rewarded with some knowledge. Holo-projections show several conversations between Lis (who looks and sounds like Aloy) and Ted. It seems Faro lost control of its robot weapons. They are incredibly dangerous, capable of self-replication, can take control of any other machine, and they consume biomass for fuel. They will soon devour everything, making all life on Earth extinct. Ted begs Lis to help him break the code to stop them, and she agrees. The last projection shows Lis blackmailing Ted into funding something called “Project: Zero Dawn” (OMG, the game’s title). She is calling him from a place called U.S. Robot Command. Ted reluctantly agrees, calling the cure worse than the disease. Aloy heads to an elevator shaft and the Unknown Caller reveals himself through a projection. His name is Sylens and he seems jealous Aloy learned so much in such a short time. They chat angrily about what could have happened to save Earth (since they are obviously alive), and about why Aloy resembles Elisabet. Sylens points grumpy Aloy to a bunker called The Grave-Hoard next (that was U.S. Robot Command, way back when) but I decided I should help out her buddy Erend first. On a side note, there was a Power Cell on the roof I missed and had to return later. Annoying!
I found Erden fighting off some machines in the desert. After Aloy helps out, the pair discover that the ambush site was not where Erden’s sister, Ersa, was killed. They follow cart tracks into an Oseram ambush (it wasn’t Shadow Carja after all). The pair destroys everything and uncovers evidence that Ersa’s death was faked. Erden seems thrilled and they head off to Meridian so he can check Ersa’s body, lying in state. Aloy gets to meet THE Sun King Avad himself (he’s a really nice human being). Erden confirms the body is not Ersa. It is explained that a faction of Oseram is still pissed off for what happened under the Mad Sun King’s rule, and a group led by Dervahl wants to see Meridian suffer. Aloy and Erden eventually make it to Dervahl’s outpost and find Ersa. She is near death and was being tortured with a sonic pulse device. Ersa dies in Erden’s arms (ouch… the feels) and Aloy uncovers a plot to destroy Meridian. They rush back to the city. Aloy comes up with an
reckless innovative plan to disarm a bomb, tracks the bomb maker, and saves Sun King Avad from Dervahl (he had a really annoying Terablaster and summoned a flock of Glinthawks). Aloy has awkward chats with Sun King Avad and Erden after (I think they both, like, totally like-like her). Back to finding out what Zero Dawn is and Aloy’s connection to Elisabet.
The Grave-Hoard was littered with the bodies of ancient soldiers. They were involved in something called Operation Enduring Victory to inspire people to beat back the Faro robots. After exploring the area, and taking out more Eclipse (plus a slightly more challenging Deathbringer), Aloy discovers that Enduring Victory was just a way to buy time for Project: Zero Dawn’s completion. The offensive was doomed to fail, but they never told anyone that. Elisabet was in a place called Orbital Launch Base to set up Zero Dawn HQ. Sylens tells Aloy this is under the Shadow Carja capital city of Sunfall. Helis will automatically destroy her if he catches her there. Aloy needs to disable the Eclipse’s Focus network first. Sylens gives Aloy the location of the network transmitter, and I fast travel there immediately. He knows a bit too much about the Eclipse, and he tells Aloy he use to work with them. Aloy enters the Eclipse base at night (I use stealth to kill everyone for once) and Aloy finds the transmitter on a repurposed Tallneck. Aloy gets shocked while trying to destroy it, and Hades shows up to ramble more threats at “Entity”. Aloy smashes the transmitter with her spear and flees for her life from an army of Eclipse. She repels off an exploding bridge and is nearly killed in the river below. She hauls herself up, gets cranky with Sylens, and it’s off to Sunfall. Of course I get distracted by two things before I go into Zero Dawn HQ: Helping a nice man named Uthid and an innocent child king, and convincing selfish healer to help a lowly tent girl.
Aloy makes it to the entrance of Zero Dawn HQ undetected. The door seems to be broken. Aloy screams at it enough so that it opens with an override command. Unfortunately, this vents some stream above, catching the attention of the Shadow Carja. Aloy has to move quickly through the area, while taking out several Eclipse members. Holograms and logs reveal many critical clues, and one with the image of Elisabet herself explains what Zero Dawn in. Basically, a group of people she had chosen were captured and brought here to work on the project. Elisabet plans to build a terraforming system controlled by an AI mother nature, GAIA. While the Faro plague wipes out all life on Earth, GAIA will be working on the codes to shut them down. Once the bad bots are deactivated, GAIA will start life anew with the help of several subordinate functions with different codenames. APOLLO with teach the new humans (who are born in Cradle facilities) how to run things, HEPHAESTUS is capable of designing the good robots for GAIA to use (they are made in the Cauldrons), and HADES is a brutal reset switch that will extinguish all life again if GAIA messes up (so she can try again). Aloy wonders how the hell Hades got inside a machine that Eclipse is now worshiping as a god. It also seems GAIA and Elisabet had a touching mother/daughter relationship. Sylens also makes a heartless comment about Aloy likely having no mother. Just as Aloy finds the alpha code needed to open the door back in Nora lands, someone mean crashes the party. Helis repels from the ceiling, bombs Aloy, is relieved she’s still alive, and kicks her unconscious (asshole).
Aloy wakes up in a cage above the Sun Ring (a brutal place where the Shadow Carja watch people get torn apart by machines). Helis is there speaking about his fanatical prophecy. He is pondering why he hesitated to kill Aloy at The Proving, tells Aloy an attack has been ordered on the Nora, and calls Rost a savage who didn’t actually save her. Pissed Aloy tells him off and then the fun begins! Helis and a crowd watch as two Corruptors turn a Behemoth, and Aloy gets dropped in the ring with it (weaponless and armor-less). The goal is to get the Behemoth to smash the pillars so Aloy’s equipment falls into the arena. It wasn’t too hard, and Aloy taunts the audience: “Look who just got her weapons back” (she’s so badass). Anyway, Behemoth goes down and Helis orders two Corruptors to go after Aloy. She screams that he should face her himself (coward). Sylens in the flesh breaks in with Chargers and 3 overridden Ravagers. The Ravagers deal with the Corruptors as Sylens and Aloy flee into the sunset. Helis screams “TRAITOR!” at Sylens as they go.
Sylens apologises for his rudeness and says he hopes Aloy’s mother is waiting for her behind the Nora door. He gives her a new Focus with a copy of the Alpha code (thankfully), and I rush to Nora land. I notice that I can’t fast travel to the location so the game must have something big happening there. Sure enough, the Nora Sacred Lands are under siege by the Eclipse army. I rush to the All-Mother mountain and have to kill a Corrupted Thunderjaw. This was surprisingly easy since there were machine guns lying around, and War-Chief Sona helped a bit. Aloy is hailed as a hero by everyone, except that cranky Matriarch Lansra, who is still being a narrow-minded bitch. I select the option for Aloy to tell her off, and Teersa says that wasn’t necessary (I’m sorry but it was). Aloy fixes the door and it lets her in, as the Nora watch in awe. It turns out there was a Cradle facility in Nora mountain. Aloy discovers that the young humans were born and raised here, and were being rebellious idiots to their poor AI parents. Something really bad happened to Apollo and uneducated humanity was released upon the reborn world. Aloy then discovers the answer she was seeking the whole time, revealed in a message from GAIA explaining EVERYTHNG.
GAIA says a transmission of unknown origin was sent to the GAIA Prime facility. It turned all of her subordinate functions into chaotic self-aware entities, including Hades. GAIA had no choice but to self-destruct her own facility to stop Hades from killing everything, for good this time. The terraforming system can operate without GAIA overseeing things for a time, but it becomes unstable, resulting in the Derangement event that made all the good robots aggressive. GAIA ordered the Cradle to create Aloy from Elisabet’s DNA, with the hope she could fix everything. It was calculated that the Nora were most likely raise her, instead of kill her. GAIA says she can be recovered, but Hades MUST be destroyed first. GAIA truly seems to care about life, and will do anything to protect it (Elisabet made sure GAIA had feelings). A Master Override device in GAIA Prime is the only thing that can purge Hades. Aloy has a bit of a meltdown, thinking she is a motherless abomination who was born of a machine. Sylens assures her this isn’t true. She actually has two mothers: a long dead woman and GAIA. Aloy pulls herself together and faces the Nora. They are now worshipping her as the “anointed of the goddess” (even Lansra). Aloy understandably flips out on them. First they treat her like an outcast, now they love her like a queen. She orders them to go to defend Meridian and says there is a world outside their borders. Off to GAIA Prime!
Well, getting there was really easy. I had killed all the robots guarding it earlier in the game, while I was Vantage Point hunting. Exploring pays off! Inside the wrecked facility Aloy learns a lot more info. Elisabet’s Alpha team was running out of time so they had to take GAIA here to finish it, sealed away from the world for the rest of their lives (instead of going to some paradise place that was mentioned). There was a miscalculation and the door to the place had a weak seal. Elisabet selflessly went out to fix it, dooming herself to be destroyed by the Faro bots. Her last words were that at least she gets to go home. Alpha Team built a shrine in Elisabet’s honor and left several touching recorded eulogies around it. Aloy also discovers Elisabet’s journal entries, but her Focus needs time to repair the data. Sylens was being a bit heartless about Elisabet’s designs, and Aloy puts him in his place (that is technically her mother he’s talking about). Aloy finds the Master Override in a chamber with the bodies of the Alpha team. It was sad seeing them like this (I had seen many living holograms of them up until this point). It turns out Ted Faro destroyed Apollo and remotely killed the Alpha Team. He doomed new humanity to ignorance, fearing they would make the same mistakes his humans made. That only created dangerous religious fanatics and narrow-minded tribes instead. Great job, Ted! It was also hinted that rich people may have had shelters in other places.
At the entrance, Sylens in the flesh greets Aloy. He explains that he was the one who found Hades, and helped it create the Eclipse cult in exchange for knowledge. After constructing the Focus network, Hades orders Sylens killed since he has outlived his usefulness. Hades is likely going to assault Merdian soon so it can get to the Spire and send out the code to reactivate the ancient Faro robot plague. Sylens leaves Aloy with his powerful spear, which Aloy attaches the Master Override to. He wants to seek out more knowledge before the world ends again, permanently. I found the last Power Cell inside GAIA Prime so I picked up the Shield-Weaver outfit before heading to the final mission. This gives Aloy a shield bar over her health meter, making her almost invincible. In Meridian, Aloy informs the Sun King of what’s about to happen and the defenses are set. I do the optional part to oversee them, and I loved the many reunions Aloy had with various people she helped during the game. Aloy sleeps until the siege starts.
Hades really doesn’t mess around and the whole damn army of Eclipse Deathbringers arrive. Helis busts out below, and Aloy rushes to face him alone, while Avad tries in vain to stop her. Helis hits like a semi-truck (even with the Shield-Weaver outfit) and is as solid as a tank. I run around setting off conveniently placed Blaze barrels, and shoot him with many exploding devices to finish him off. Aloy calls him a fool and I choose the option for her to stab the asshole. Good riddance and hello phase 2! Aloy rushes to the Oseram Cannons and effortlessly shoots down waves of tough robots, including a Corrupted Stormbird (thank god I helped Petra). An explosion hits and Aloy is almost killed by a collapsed archway. Just as she loses consciousness, she gets to see the horrific sight of Hades being dragged by a Deathbringer on the way to the Spire (Oh god, no!). A short time later, Teb (the one little Aloy saved at the start of the game) wakes her up, and she charges to the Spire, as Meridian city burns around her. A really depressing cut scene plays when she arrives. It shows Hades transmitting the reactivation codes, and Faro bots unearthing themselves around the world. One sucks the life out of an innocent tree while saying: “Biomass conversion initiated”. Well that really sucks! It looks like the world will end for good now, but Aloy runs up to try and stop Hades anyway.
Aloy meets Erden, Talanah, and Varl at the top (who are all relieved Aloy is still alive). They all help during the epic final battle. HADES says it has anticipated Entity’s arrival and Entity will not halt the transmission (Yeah, we’ll see about that). Aloy battles an overpowered Deathbringer with her crew. There’s a time limit, many waves of annoying corrupted robots arrive periodically, and the thing hits hard with machine guns (I’m so glad I picked up the Shield-Weaver outfit). I make it overheat with fire bombs, as often as possible, and pummel the weak spots that emerge. One of the robot waves had a Ravager, so I severed the cannon and did some serious damage to the final boss with it. It goes down with 2 minutes to spare. Aloy charges over to the base of the Spire, and plunges the Master Override spear into the metal shell of Hades. It looks like she’s shocked and a vision is shown. Aloy identifies herself as Elisabet Sobeck, while looking up at a huge holo-image of her. The override activates, HADES is purged, and the deactivation codes are transmitted from the Spire. The Faro robots collapse harmlessly to the ground as the beautiful sun decides to come out. Aloy does a victory pose on the ridge, while Avad smiles in the distance. I did it! Life on Earth is actually saved, again. Phew!
The emotional cut scene before the credits did me in. It shows Aloy listening to Elisabet’s conversations with GAIA as she approaches a ruined structure. Aloy tracked down the ancient remains of her mother. Elisabet explains how her mother told her to use her smarts to help the world. GAIA asks Elisabet what she would have wanted her kid to be like. Elisabet says she would want a daughter who is strong, compassionate, and would do anything to save the world (just like Aloy). Aloy’s Focus projects the image of Elisabet’s face on her remains, and Aloy picks up a globe ornament from the body. After that, I watched the credits roll while sobbing uncontrollably. From what I could see through my tears, they actually made the credits look awesome! The developer names are shown as you are taken through an aerial tour of a Cauldron (nicely done). After the credits, the obligatory cliff hanger happens. The metal shell of Hades stirs to life, and a red streak leaves it, shooting across the sky. The streak lands far away, in a lantern device carried by Sylens. He says Hades still has much knowledge to share, like who transmitted the codes that set HADES off in the first place. The game ends as Sylens approaches a massive robot in the desert. I knew I shouldn’t have trusted that dude… Is the DLC out yet?
If anyone actually read all that, thank you! You deserve a platinum reader trophy.