"We know... we weren't the first ones here... Our stories speak of the ones that came before. The old ones."
So opens the aesthetically gorgeous trailer for Guerrilla Games's upcoming Horizon Zero Dawn, a post-apocalyptic take on the prehistoric open world RPG.
Nominated for Most Anticipated Game at this year's Game Awards, Horizon Zero Dawn lost out to the long awaited [No Man's Sky](tag:2684052), a title hard pressed to beat in terms of anticipation. But this loss doesn't negate the fact that, for many PS4 players, this is still one of the most highly anticipated games of 2016, following in the footsteps of 2015's The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 to prove that the single player RPG is still alive and well in gamer culture.
Running at 1080p/30fps on a modified version of Guerrilla Games's PS4 release bundle game Killzone: Shadow Fall engine, Horizon Zero Dawn offers a glimpse into a beautiful open world that features a gorgeous fusion of nature and technology.
One of the most impressive parts of the upcoming game is that it's a brand new IP, a refreshingly rare thing to see in the current production climate. The bio-techy RPG follows the story of hunter and archer Aloy as she navigates a post-apocalyptic land populated by mechanized creatures both small and large.
In the trailer gameplay we can see hints of Assassin's Creed type stealth and Tomb Raider bow mechanics, as well as a healthy dose of aesthetics hinting both of Skyrim and The Last of Us.
But though it looks to borrow from an impressive blend of a number of massively successful and well crafted games Horizon Zero Dawn still manages to stand apart on its own merit, and what we've heard so far about the open world focus makes it even more intriguing...
Set over 1000 years after the collapse of civilization as we know it, Horizon Zero Dawn has been described as "post-post-apocalypse"; nature has reclaimed the mechanical planet and the surviving humans exist in various tribes scattered across the land.
The folk in charge over at Guerrilla Games are keeping their cards very close to their chest on this one, wanting players to discover the gameplay and narrative by themselves as they progress through the game. As Horizon Zero Dawn's art director Jan-Bart van Beek told VideoGamer.com:
"You won't find us in any interviews explaining what the robos are, why they are there or how they came to be. This is something for the player to find out themselves. By exploring the world, going to the ruins and learning as much as possible about our game, everything will reveal itself."
The New World
Interestingly enough it's sounding like Horizon Zero Dawn could be the most open-world open world RPG to date. In addition to the lack of guidance given both before and during the game there's also zero loading screens or zone boundaries, allowing for a new scope for freedom of movement (I don't even want to imagine the initial boot up time though).
Mark Norris, Senior Producer on Horizon Zero Dawn, has hinted that the main joy on the game will be the exploration of the world itself rather than a central narrative quest:
"There are of course moments inside of the quests in which you'll have more scripted encounters. But 90 percent of this game takes place in the open world where you're running around and doing things. If you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, well..."
Norris elaborated on how they set out to shift emphasis to the exploration of the open world, explaining how the hunting and crafting elements will take centre stage as essential to your survival on your travels through this strange landscape:
"There are obviously things that will have objectives and objective markers inside of the game, and another thing that we mentioned during the demo here is the exploration element. We want to drive exploration through having pick-ups that you'll find throughout the world that you can craft with or replenish your health.
So, there will be reasons for you to explore this open world that are meta-game related, but there are also quests and a quest system in place that will deliver that story and give you specific places to go."
Further pushing this "learn for yourself" aspect, there's not going to be any gameplay tutorials or the like in Horizon Zero Dawn either. Instead you'll have to work out tactics for yourself through good old observation and trail and error.
It's one hell of an ambitious project but it's all sounding very exciting right now. It's nice to see developers putting so much careful stock into single player games at this juncture too, as online multiplayer-only games continue to rise in popularity within the industry, from Titanfall to Star Wars Battlefront.
They might be the big money maker right now, but its safe to say that nothing will ever defeat the sense of wonder and immersion that comes with the open world single player experience. Horizon Zero Dawn looks set to release as one of the best of recent years - and with titles like Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3 in the running that's not a claim to make lightly. Watch this space.