Welcome to a new series of mine called “Nitpicks from ThePickyGamer!” This series takes one or more tiny issues I’m having with a game that are so small that they’d feel out of place in a full game review. Let me know what you think about it. Enjoy!
Horizon: Zero Dawn is not an easy game. I’m playing on normal difficulty, and it constantly reminds me that it can beat my ass if I step out of line. A large reason for this is health. Unless there’s an upgrade that I haven’t found yet, Aloy doesn’t have a very resilient health bar. One or two hits from a stronger enemy can usually take her down. Medicinal plants are littered throughout the world, so you’re seldom short on heals, but healing takes a hot second for Aloy to stop and munch down on food, which could further expose you to enemy attacks. This isn’t a slight on the game itself. I find it to be an interesting way of challenging the player, and I enjoy it even if I often struggle with it.
What it does do is lead me to die a lot. The game isn’t overly clear, but from my experience, it drops you back to where you last saved at a campfire if you die out in the open world, and takes you back to the most previous “segment” of the game if you’re in a scripted part, such as being in a dungeon. You might lose a few minutes of progress, but it’s never too harsh as long as you save whenever you see a campfire.
The other element that’s fine on its own but frustrating when combined with the previous element is the importance of managing everything in the menu. Everything from clothing modifications to weapon upgrades to carrying capacity needs to periodically be managed from time to time if you don’t want to be constantly dying to the weakest enemies. Because I’m lazy, I usually wait until I’m fighting an enemy that repeatedly kills me before I decide to go in and fix up my menu. Big mistake. It can become a bit much, but that’s not a criticism I want to address today. It’s fine.
Here’s when stuff starts getting annoying.
So, I finally get outside All-Mother’s Embrace or whatever. It’s a huge new area that I’m free to explore. I check my map and see that there’s a Cauldron (basically a dungeon) pretty close nearby. I decide to go straight there, remembering how awesome the first Cauldron I played through was. I get in there, and the quest description opens up. I read it, and it says that the suggested level is 11. Sweet, I think, I’m level 17. This should be a piece of cake! Far from it, but it kinda worked out up until the boss fight since it was a nice challenge instead of being soul-crushing. Anyway, it’s pretty cool. It kinda falls into the same trap that Breath of the Wild’s Divine Beasts (again, basically dungeons) had where it was a really cool concept and design that was repeated to the point where it lost the novelty, but since this is only my second Cauldron, it’s still pretty dang cool.
And then, of course, I get to the final boss. I had some trouble with the first Cauldron’s final boss, but it was nothing that some good ol’ perseverance couldn’t handle. This one’s different. I’ve tried fighting it over and over again and it keeps on handing my ass to me. I decide that it’s time for me to go into my menu and see what I can do to tip the scales in my favor. I do some finagling here and some hickery- pokery there and I’ve got a pretty good setup for fighting the boss. It still hands my ass to me, but its more like sliding it across the table instead of previously chucking it at my face from a mile away. (Don’t ask how my ass is a mile away from me in the first place. This metaphor is starting to get weird and uncomfortable even for me, so I think I’m going to stop now.) The point is, I know that I can beat it with this set-up if I try hard enough and, as the kids say, “git gud.”
The only problem is that the game saves for you. You don’t have a say in where and when the game saves. It’s usually fair, but you don’t have a choice. This means that all of my changes in my set-up were lost when it put me back right before the boss battle. Horizon’s menus aren’t particularly bad or hard to navigate, but they are complex, at least for a noob who usually plays Nintendo games. There are sub-menus to your sub-menus, dawg! It takes a long, long while to make sure that everything is in place, and it seems to get longer every time I do it again! It probably cost me a solid 20 minutes, just being in the menus for the boss fight.
But that’s not all! At the beginning of what I imagine is each boss fight in the Cauldron, there are two Watchers, the weakest enemies in the game. They’re super easy to take out, but it gets so annoying to fight them over and over and over again every time you die before you get to the real boss!
It’s obviously a very specific and hopefully isolated problem, but that’s why it’s just a nitpick. Again, let me know what you think of this idea for a series, and let me know if you’ve had any small issues with games recently!