Games Design Critique - Horizon Zero Dawn: Robot Combat Roles
The Robots are a pillar of Horizon. Not only do they provide an iconic feature in their visual development, but their gameplay, locomotion, and salvage are what the core of Horizons design methodology is built on. However, like any design they could see improvement.
While various robot designs necessitate a change to how players approach a combat scenario very rarely are they put into situations where they are forced to re-evaluate the battlefield due to changing circumstances. (This primarily happens only if another nearby robot group falls into aggression range or when multiple robots are grouped together such as in the Corrupted Zones). Additionally many of the robots fall into a single type of combat role, the aggressor. And while they may approach the way they try to kill the player in a variety of unique and interesting ways, it all boils down to pure aggression.
What would be far more interesting is if some of robots had more diverse roles in combat. I.E having a robot that heals the others, that empowers others, that slows/traps the player, that prevents corruption/other status ailments, or that creates additional robots.
This could be further explored by having robots transition into a new combat role after they have taken a set amount of damage. Imagine if a Watcher was at low health, it would change its role and attempt to self-destruct next to the player instead of simply attacking. This would open up interesting new combat choices and priorities. Do you attempt to lure it close to another robot before trying to take it out? Do you rope it down and create a temporary mine?
Horizon was an astonishing success and a fantastic game, I’ll be eager to see how they build off their good fortune with the inevitable sequel that comes with selling 2.6mm units in two weeks.