During Sony’s E3 Press Conference a couple of days ago, Guerrilla Games’ new IP was finally announced, titled Horizon: Zero Dawn. It takes place in the future, when the existence of humans has come into question and machines rule the lands. The reveal was fairly significant, sitting in at just over 6 minutes and showing off some gameplay as well. I went back through the trailer and picked out a lot of bits that can help us understand the universe Horizon is based in and what events transpired to lead the world to what is today. Unlike my FIFA and PES trailer dissects, I will be more-or-less asking questions and hypotheticals as much as I will be talking about facts within the game, because the trailer gives us a lot of info and asks questions to those with a keen eye, but holds back the answers to those questions too, like any good trailer should. Let’s dive in.
0:20 – The Tale of Human Evolution in Cave Drawings
Just before Guerilla’s logo is shown, we come to see a wall covered in drawings depicting what I can only assume is some sort of tale of human evolution. There’s a handful of people within these drawings, but the most obvious change within the row of them is the one on the far right – which looks a lot like a French leader of some type. They look as if they were issuing a command – however what that command is remains irrelevant to the material before it. Right in the middle, we can see a figure pointing upwards, following that up you’ll notice a small drawing with three arrows pointing to a middle circle. What’s contained in that circle that’s the crux of the arrows remains to be seen. Could it be something to do with Earth? Or perhaps just a place? Following on from that there’s one final person before the French-looking leader. If we look closely, there’s something sticking out from its left-hand side – perhaps this a sword of some kind? Indicating the time period? I’m not entirely sure – but it’s clear that this is some sort of depiction of human life and the evolution and metamorphoses of mankind.
0:28 – The Lack of Human Life, Nature Taking Shape
While the previous image was embedded with human life and evolution, this drawing is fully focused on nature and the spectacle of growth. If you follow the white circles/lines, you can see that it’s somewhat connected to the previous drawing – but only by a thread. Is this a metaphor for what happened to the human species? Or is it a representation of the change of nature when humans took over?
0:31 – “We know we weren’t the first ones here.”
While this is obvious from the previous two points, it quickly sets up the tone of the game. This is the second coming of people, not the first. Something happened to the previous set of humans. There are more cave drawings shown here of the crafting of buildings and towers within nature, with the final image showing what we’ll see further in the trailer – the necessity of the hunt.
0:45 – “The Old Ones”
The Old Ones is an interesting way of referring to the last set of human civilization. While we refer to those before us as ancestors, we are aware that there was no break in human life before we were born. This again emphasizes the question of what happened to those people, so adequately named The Old Ones?
0:52 – “The world of The Old Ones was so different than ours.”
This is a beautiful shot, showcasing the destruction of modern civilization and the return of the (while new) old civilization of living.
1:02 – “With towers that reached the stars.”
I chose this line because it speaks volumes of when the collapse of humanity came. We are at this point right now in modern civilization – of buildings that are breathtaking in depth, reach and height and inspire those with the funds to create more. The collapse came during this period in human history, and it’s frightening to think about.
1:11 – “But a darkness came, and their cities turned to graves.”
This is terrifying. Watching a living, breathing world collapse simultaneously. What the darkness is remains somewhat of a question, considering this is such a staggering collapse in human history. Something big must have happened – a change in power, positioning and society – and it consumed everything with it.
1:19 – “And without them, the land started to change.”
It’s been evident for the past 100 to 200 years that human life is destroying nature as we know it. Resources are being depleted on this planet and it’s because of us. This shot is again exquisite because it shows Earth regrowing, repopulating itself with the beauties of nature once again. While the resources may be depleted for good, life will forever be there – human or not.
1:35 – “Their great cities faded away, and in their place – came new life.”
While we could interpret new life as animals our protagonist hasn’t seen before, would it be crazy to think that extinct species on Earth somehow rose again to restart the cycle of life? The shot of fish jumping from the lake is beautiful, but it begs the question of what new life came to take the place of humans.
1:54 – “Over time, one by one, the tribes came to these lands.”
So tribes of people have come to these lands? How did they survive what seems to be the destruction of society as we know it? Are they humans that devolved back into the former shell of the first incarnation of human life, or are they completely foreign to Earth?
2:02 – “Some small and humble, some powerful as kings.”
What’s established in this line is that there is a set hierarchy in place within this new civilization of humans existing on Earth. Even in the spite of chaos of machines ruling this world – there is still order to be retained and a hierarchy to follow.
2:09 – “They say my tribe was the first. The first to hunt, the first to raise our bows.”
There’s two things to take away from this line – first of all, I’m not entirely sure if our protagonist means the tribe was the first to return to this civilization/world, or only the first to challenge the wild beings bestowed upon Earth. The pause really gets me, but I’m very interested to hear more.
2:18 – “For this world is never ours, we’ve always shared it.”
If anything, I’d take this as a confirmation that they’ve resided on Earth somewhere, surviving the darkness and are taking on what’s taken over. There’s an understanding in this line that speaks of how they perceive the world and its inhabitants.
2:33 – A Stark Contrast to The World Before It
Of everything in this trailer both visually and sound-wise, this is the shot that I absolutely love. A perfect contrast of the world that came before it, showing the inhabitants of earth going about their business and humans watching from afar – taking it all in before moving forward. This shot has been replicated in many films and games, and it works wonders here because of the relations we have with the world and how we’ve seen it. As well as this, the line of sharing our world dangerously between man and machine is excellent, juxtaposing our position with modern machines and the ongoing questions of their intelligence and if they could well take over someday.
2:52 – The Watcher
We get our first interaction with a machine here, titled a Watcher, who’s primary objective is to scout ahead and around the herd to make sure there’re no foreign entities floating about. It acts as the first defense beacon and is representative of human guards and scouts. Upon detection, its loud alarm would most definitely signal the herd to depart and the attackers to come in and take the intruder on.
3:09 – Animals Co-Exist in This World
While I mentioned it briefly before, we see another shot here of birds flying off in the distance. Animals still exist in this world overrun by machines, but what other species do too? They’d have to learn to adapt to this staggering turn of events and some would surely have been eradicated because of their tenuous and often aggressive nature. I’m interested to see what else lay within this wilderness, both animals and machine.
3:32/3:37 – Machines Representing Past Life
This links to my previous point, but while there are some real animals living in this world, it’s the structure of these machines that take the eye. While some have been awarded the name of Dino-bots, the big collection of machines look like deers, and I’d assume that they are the more important parts of the herd if they all collectively work together. I really like the fact that these machines look like T-Rex’s, Deers and Hounds. It gives a really unique twist on the world Horizon is set in.
3:45 – Blaze
While we love seeing some action, I called into question the reason our protagonist is hunting these machines. She’s been given instructions to get a few canisters, and as she takes out one of the deer-looking machines, the item she picks up is called Blaze. What could this be? Perhaps it’s some kind of liquid healing treatment? Something to use in a fight? Something to use as a brewing potion? It’s all very intriguing to me.
4:00 – A Dictated Hierarchy of Machines
As the deer-like machines usher away into the forest, we get a first-hand encounter with one of the bigger machines that just walked by earlier on. This signifies that either it was a part of the herd of machines and they work in tandem with each other, or that they really hate humans. Both make sense.
4:22 – Electrical Bows to Stun
As we jump into the weapon menu to begin the fight, we see a variety of different arrows that our protagonist can use. She picks the electrical bow, gets underneath the giant machine and hits it right in the weak spot. Afterwards, she uses it to stun the machine before it makes its next attack. I’m going to assume that because we’ll be fighting machines in this game, electricity will play a major role in breaking their defenses. However, as crazy as this may sound, what about machines that reside in the ocean – if there are any? What kind of tactics would be utilized in that situation to break down their defense?
4:39 – Armor Piercing Arrows to Puncture
After the beast is weakened, we see good use of the armour piercing arrows to start making light work of the machine. It doesn’t take kindly to it, which signifies that using this type of arrow will only be helpful when taking on foes that have already taken damage. While it might be armor piercing, it won’t be as effective as electrical arrows the first time around.
4:44 – Enemies Drop Usable Weapons
Our protagonist lands a hit on the weapon this machine was previously using to fire rockets at her, as she picks it up she fires upon its sides and severely weakens it. Using an enemies own weapon might be a very effective way to take it down, but I hope there are other options present to take something like this out, otherwise it’d become stale and repetitive.
5:02 – Ropecaster to Stagnate
One of the cooler weapons to pop up in this trailer, our protagonist pulls out the Ropecaster and fires a few rounds onto the enemy, both firing at it and then at the ground to lock it in place. I wonder what would happen if you just fired it at the Dino? Would it react to that and pull you towards it or cut the rope away? Nonetheless, the beast slips and falls to the ground, giving our protagonist time to finish it off.
5:21 Explosive Arrows to Destroy
To add insult to injury, the explosive arrow is used to fully immobilize the enemy. I wonder if this would be usable during the main fight and how effective it would be? As she goes to fire the weapon and pick the weak point, we go into slow mo, which makes sense considering how fast-paced this game looks.
5:32 – Membrane Core Located
To fully destroy the beast, our protagonist runs full throttle at it and punctures what I can only assume is its membrane/core. It doesn’t explode like I thought it would, but it does cease to function. It’s very much the brain of the machine, but being located underneath its head is fairly unusual – what would happen if you fired an explosive arrow at it during a fight? Would it instantly cease up or does it always need to be weakened first?
5:52 – “The stories don’t tell where the old ones went.”
This is disappointing, perhaps we will get some context to where our civilization vanished – but perhaps it’s best left to our imagination. I would really like to see what happened, and where these new inhabitants have come from, considering The Old Ones seem like a myth to them.
5:57 – “They don’t tell us why the machines rule these lands.”
Again, some context on this would be appreciated – and who is she referring to here? The drawings in the caves? Stories from elders (if they exist in this new society)? One can assume that the machines rule these lands because they developed their own intelligence and took the fight to mankind, but who really knows?
6:02 – “But they warn us, that this balance can not last.”
This cements how the story is going to unfold and why these people hunt – to survive, but also to restore some sort of balance. There was mention of how dangerous the balance between man and machine was back then–and how dangerous it is now–and it’s clear that this planet is entirely hostile – not matter who you are. I wonder how this will impact the story and how it flows.
6:22 – “A storm is coming, and I, will be ready.”
The final shot we get in the trailer is of our protagonist about to fight with another machine, but the fact that some sort of storm is significant in the way the balance between man and machine will co-exist together is interesting. Is there another being set to take Earth? Or does it mean that something is budging and the humans are forced to finally do something about it? It raises a lot of questions, but questions I’m eager to investigate.
So that’s everything from Guerrilla’s reveal trailer of Horizon: Zero Dawn. This was a very lengthy post, and I appreciate you taking the time to read it if you’ve made it all the way through. This game is one of the more ambitious titles I’ve seen in recent years and I can’t wait to see more of it in the future. With a 2016 release scheduled, I’m sure we’ll hear more very soon.
Horizon: Zero Dawn is coming exclusively to PlayStation 4 in 2016.