Historical Influence in Horizon: Zero Dawn
Guerilla Games created an astounding world in Horizon: Zero Dawn, but the history of the Old Ones is ever present throughout the world and changes the game play as well. Without the history of what came before the world the player is shown, there would be no story nor would there be room for embedded narrative on the players’ behalf.
Players progress through the world as Aloy, a young woman looking to save the world she loves from a mechanical end as well as discover her purpose and how she came to be an outcast of the Nora Tribe. The player must traverse through the world in order to learn about the Old Ones, the people and society that came before the rise of the machines, and then use the information they learn to defeat Hades, the entity looking to destroy the world as they know it.
The history of the world that came before is the main propellant of the story. Through the main story line, players learn about how one company, FARO, created an army of machines that consumed biomass, and yes that eventually means human flesh, to recreate itself and destroy anything that may seek to destroy it. Elisabet Sobeck, a scientist of the Old World, designed an entity, GAIA, that would come to life after the destruction of the world in order to repopulate it with both plant and animal life through the use and creation of machines.
This gives the player an extremely large amount of knowledge about the world and helps them better understand how the world works and how best to traverse it. Certain machines can be found in different terrains based on their original purpose. For example, Grazers can be found in the valleys of Horizon: Zero Dawn in order to control vegetation and maintain growth so that the plant life would not overgrow any area.
Not only are there historical clues in the AI found in the game, but also in the numerous amounts of artifacts that can be located as well. Above is an example of one of the many artifacts. Mechanical Flowers were supposedly created to help with germination after the world’s vegetation had been destroyed. Different seed types were planted in area surrounding the placement of these vessels.
Vantage Points, also shown in the first picture, is another example of an artifact found in the world. They show a glimpse of what the world looked like during the 21st century. These collectibles are time capsules planted by a Faro employee, Bashar Mati, documenting the first few days of the Apocashitstorm aka when the evil machines began to tear everything and everyone to pieces.
These collectibles are used to further show the player what the world was like and help them understand why their main quest of stopping the rise of Hades is so important. If Aloy does not complete her mission and allows Aloy to resurrect more Corrupters and Deathbringers, and eventually the Metal Devils that consumed biomass to clone themselves, the world with be razed and everything but the machines will cease to exist.
Not only are there hints towards the game’s history inside the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn, but there are also examples shown in the real world outside of the game. There are similarities between the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn and the real world that help create a connection and build immersion so that the player sees some realism while playing. There are ruins that look like the decaying remains of skyscrapers and environments that look extremely similar to environments seen in the world around us.
History is an extremely important aspect in this game. It is used to explain how the world the player roams was created. It is used to create a story line for the player to follow. It is used to fill the world with machines and humans that make sense in the historical context. It allows for players to create their own narrative and thus creates player retention and increases opportunities for more players to get involved with the game’s world.
The history is set up in such a way that creates characters, lands, and molds for future creations so that people don’t necessarily have to play in order to be involved in the world. Guerilla did an extremely amazing job creating a history for the world that led to a great play experience that still has me checking social media to see the occasional original character designed for the Horizon world or new machines types that could be seen right next to a Stormbird or Thunderjaw and not look out of place.
The history written leads to so many trans-medial possibilities and not only is that what makes Horizon: Zero Dawn such an interesting game world to play in, but also an immersive experience that keeps players thinking even after re-entering the real world.
As a player and not a professional game critic, I understand that what I talk about in this article may not reign true for all, but I still urge people to delve more into the history shown in Horizon: Zero Dawn to see why I believe it is so important in the context of the game and as it’s own standing piece of fiction.