Horizon Zero Dawn from Steamforged Games was funded on Kickstarter. It was also delivered reasonably well all things considered from the last 18 or so months. Based of a Playstation game of the same name. It should be a relatively simple shoe in for a good game. Considering what they managed to do with Resident Evil
Coming packed in a fairly sizeable box, with really cool minimalist artwork design on the cover. We already seem to be off to an OK start. A rules pamphlet, we know how I feel about those, coupled with 6 sheets of cardboard tokens and gameplay items gets us going as we dive into the box. So far nothing I have punched out of the cardboard has teared so that’s always a great start. Often the cardboard in these style of counter centric games tends to be a bit flimsy. Included in the box are some plastic ziplock baggies to put the tokens in.
Without a doubt the star of the games are the miniatures and with Horizon Zero Dawn. They literally come in all shapes and sizes. Also they come in moulded plastic trays. I am loving this new trend, especially for boardgames style miniatures games. The hunters, that is the pieces you will control come in a brown colour and the enemy NPCs come in a lighter than average grey. The light grey is brilliant as you can see much more of the detail on the miniature, whilst the brown is a little drab. It serves the purpose of making each immediately identifiable. Not that you would be in to much danger of mixing the models up.
The required cards dice and bits also have there own holes in the trays. So they can be kept neatly tucked away during storage.
Setting up Horizon Zero Dawn
A game of Horizon Wars Zero Dawn isn’t going to be excessively quick, mainly due to the amount of cards needed to play and set up. However if you are sitting down for a session to play two missions one after the other it becomes a lot more palatable. Each Hunter has there own set of cards which are needed to be kept separate along with cards for each of the three levels of market that you can visit. Then there are the environment cards encounter cards as well as the behaviour cards of the quarry. It sounds like a lot and the first time I started setting things up it was really depressing the amount of time taken to set things up.
When compared to other games with things like scenery and multiple books, lists etc it actually isn’t to bad. That being said the second and subsequent times are a lot quicker to sort out as you will know what cards to place where and what you need close to hand. Although off putting the first time around, it quickly becomes a really good way to run the game.
The board set up is random and driven by the cards that are drawn. This is one of two drawbacks I have with the base game. The setting up of the board is a really good idea but there is a distinct lack of cards and boards. Granted each board has a solo and multiplayer side, and can be put in one of four different orientations and multiple ways to lay the boards out. So even with the lack of playing boards there is still countless variations available, but the cards just don’t give that sort of scope at the moment.
Hunting the Quarry
While talking of drawbacks there is only one boss monster to hunt, well that is the trophy monster. Its not all bad as there is still be plenty of replay-ability. I am still not bored yet. It just would have been nicer to have something different to sink my axe and arrows into. We are expecting more hunts to be released as time goes on. Hopefully when the world settles down a bit we could see some improvements in this area.
Actually playing Horizon Zero Dawn is a mix of stealth, trade offs, and furious combat. There are so many options you can take that it would take an article of its own just to start listing possible tactics. Needless to say there are no right or wrong answers. Its easier to take down one quarry at a time but sometimes you have no choice but to try and engage as many as possible as the quarry could just wander off. This makes it harder at times to finish your mission, at other times it makes it impossible. Luckily the quarries routes are marked on the board. So there is a lot of predictability as to where they will be going next.
With four hunters in the starter box there is a bit of something for everyone with each playing differently. Remember though you aren’t exactly playing with the other hunters it’s more a marriage of convenience. Dying though is generally frowned upon and if it happens to often its game over. Even if you win. Finish the hunt though and the fruits of your labour are available to be traded for better gear. Not only that but if you completed a high enough level hunt all the hunters gain something new. This mechanic kind of mirrors a computer game levelling up bonuses I guess.
After spending quite a few hours with Horizon Zero Dawn. Most of which actually had nothing to do with reviewing it. I really quite like the game, the limited quarries at the moment coupled with the predictability of the enemy AI are probably the two biggest drawbacks though. However just like any good game these can go straight out of the window very quickly and things can become very tense. It’s simple enough for non-gamers to get into and deep enough for gamers to really sink some time into it. So far though I have been playing it mainly in solo mode with the occasional help from the kids. I say help but that’s probably the wrong phrase!
My only hope is that the game continues to receive support through Steamforged Games and periodic releases beyond the scope of the kickstarter. If it does this could well develop into a well rounded game which could be around long after the kickstarter hype has ended. I don’t really see much in the way of competitive play, but I guess Glory across multiple games could be used. It would certainly amp up the friendly/not friendly aspect of working with other hunters.
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