From Outcast to Savior
This game is set in a post-post-apocalyptic world. The once highly technological and metallic world is in ruins. Humans have formed into tribes over lands with different cultures and gods. Some fearing the ruins of what the world once was, others accepting and curious of what it might offer. In this time, there are machines that roam the land like animals across the large open-world map that allows players to explore freely. Once the world loads in, it is there.
The world itself holds beauty and charm in its visuals, such as the contrast of the “prehistoric” type of societies with the advancements of the machines. It is a visual marvel. The day and night cycles I found very impressive, something I realized when entering the photo mode in the game. There is an option within the mode that allows for changing the time; by doing that, the clear progression and lighting changes can be seen without having to worry about being spotted by any roaming machines or bandits.
It isn’t just the charm of the world that can be addicting, but the story and history. The two are neatly interwoven together. Our lead character, Aloy, starts as an outcast to her tribe since birth. That begs the question, what could a baby do to deserve being cast out? That’s exactly what she sets to learn at the beginning of the game by competing in the tribe’s coming of age ceremony, The Proving. Still, nothing goes as planned when the Proving is attacked. Aloy will be sent down a much larger path to seek the answers she hoped to find, her one personal thread leading to a larger issue that only she can combat against—and it isn’t just the machines of the world that pose the issue.
I do commend Aloy’s character. She’s strong, capable, and caring when deserved. She is very aware of people’s perceptions of her. As a child she was treated like an outcast and she doesn’t forget it. When the people that had once shunned her try to worship her for saving them, she argues against it. She hasn’t forgotten their shunning of her and she isn’t going to have others ignore it, either. I would also consider her character to be mildly selfish, but rightfully so. Her goal was finding the truth of her past, not the past of the world. When learning of the latter, she is left disappointed and frustrated that she hasn’t found the answers for herself yet. I found this a fitting and realistic reaction to have. Plus, with all she’s done helping others, she deserves to learn the truth about herself, which she will. It just takes more time.
The combat has some variation, depending on how a person wants to play and their weapons of choice later in the game. At the start there is only the hunter bow, spear, and a trip-caster. Through travelling, newer weapons become available from merchants and by having the needed materials. The more rare the weapon, the more ammo varieties can be used. While this isn’t true with all rare weapons, some specialize in a specific type of elemental damage: freeze, fire, electric, blast, tear, and corruption. I personally focused on using blast, tear, and freeze.
I would use a trip-caster for blast, placing them in the path of machines or enemies to do high amounts of damage. Sometimes this would still allow me to stay in a stealth position. I used freeze primarily against the larger machines, as when in effect it allowed for double damage from normal arrows. Then, lastly, tear—this one is not used as much for damaging machines but for knocking off their components. By doing that it can also stop them from using some attacks or provide a heavy weapon that can be used against them. Not to say this strategy will apply to everything, but this was my standard load out. The difficulty of battles, at least the story related ones, comes from the machines and number there is to fight. There are some that allow for the chance of prep (setting traps, hiding, or just crafting up arrows); those times are important and can make the difference.
There is stealth to this game. The safest place to be is in the tall red grass when wanting to stay hidden. There is an indicator beneath the navigation compass that is shaped like an eye. When the eye is closed, it’s when Aloy is hidden. Open, by contrast, means visible, and lines around the eye are an indicator of how much sound Aloy is making. Granted, if your presence also falls in the path of someone or something to avoid then the grass is not going to be much help. Still, if you choose, these can be taken advantage of. Stealth is necessary if interested in overriding the machines.
The override ability is unlocked shortly after the Proving. It will be limited at first, only working on certain machines, but one of them will be strider machines that can be ridden like a horse. It can make getting around faster. To be able to override more of the machines takes going through cauldrons. These are dungeon-like structures, with a large and dangerous boss fight against a machine at the end of it. They’re all slightly different, whether it be in length, obstacles, and boss at the end of them. Still, this is useful to have when dealing with normal machines. When dealing with a large group, by overriding, one can provide backup or just watch as they duke it out with the other machines in the area.
In terms of faults, this game doesn’t have many. There are some graphics clipping with hair and clothing, maybe a floating object here and there or items that can be gathered sitting inside a tree—minor traversing issues. I found the story and world itself to be strong. There are moments of information dumps where a lot of detail is being thrown at Aloy and players, but the insistence where this occur make sense and that information is part of the purpose of being there to begin with. The side quests of the game did not feel out of the way, some even holding a strong connection to the main story-line events. It made doing them all the more relevant and gave a greater importance to them.
Overall this game has an engaging story and world. The mystery of the world was interesting and made me just as curious as Aloy to learn the truth. How did the planet and humanity survive the destruction of the world? The reality of which had me shocked, amazed, and even more invested. It is a game worth experiencing.