Can't Wait for Mass Effect Andromeda? You Need to Play Horizon Zero Dawn

Need to scratch that sci-fi RPG itch until Mass Effect: Andromeda comes out? If you have a PS4 then Horizon Zero Dawn may just be what you're looking for!

For sci-fi RPG fans, the wait for BioWare's Mass Effect: Andromeda is an unbearable one. And while that game is a just a few weeks away, another sci-fi RPG has been dominating gaming news with overwhelmingly positive reviews -- the PlayStation 4 exclusive Guerrilla Games Horizon Zero Dawn. 

An open world, post-apocalyptic action RPG, Horizon Zero Dawn is set in a world where society has been scaled down to little more than tribal factions and has had to revert back to its primal state in order to survive. 

         

The developers, Guerrilla Games, who are known for their Killzone series, could have played it safe and released another FPS. But instead. they went for the far more complicated and riskier project -- and open world RPG.

With the dynamics of the open world and the flexibility that comes with the experimentation of RPG skill trees, it is fair to say that Horizon Zero Dawn is a massive departure from the very good-looking but linear FPS experience that was the Killzone series.

Thankfully, the reward was worth the risk and the departure for Guerilla Games has paid off with great reviews (so far), and as a result, Horizon is gaining a lot of momentum coming up to its release. And that's in part due to the developers being confident enough to release review copies to critics ahead of time -- perhaps to better position itself in the news cycle that's sure to be dominated by news of Mass Effect: Adromeda once that highly anticipated sequel drops in March. 

How Does Horizon Zero Dawn Compare to Mass Effect: Andromeda?

Both Mass Effect and Horizon Zero Dawn are action role-playing games set in science fiction universe. But while Mass Effect's story is focused on an advanced human race escaping a cataclysmic event on Earth and exploring new galaxies in order to start again, Horizon flipped Mass Effect's story by focusing on the remnants of the human race on Earth, who are starting again after suffering an apocalypse of their own.

So not only do the people of this world have to deal with surviving against the dangers of a powerful and more dominant species in the form of robotic dinosaur creatures, they also have reverted back to a tribal state, one where there is no real presence of technology left.

So while the stories and the settings of both games are thematically different, the science fiction that drives both stories is rich with lore and intrigue. Each game has the potential to define the sci-fi genre for this generation of consoles. And on top of that, both titles will no doubt offer a great deal in terms of character-driven story and RPG skill tree systems. But I'm going to look at two aspects of Horizon Zero Dawn that may do better than Mass Effect: Andromeda based on reviews and previews: Combat and Open World.  

Combat in Horizon Zero Dawn vs. Mass Effect Andromeda 

Mass Effect 3's combat system, which employed sound cover mechanics where players could snap into cover for accuracy, has now been replaced with a more dynamic cover to cover system in Adromeda. This is meant to help players immediately adapt to the terrain and situations in which they find themselves. And while this sounds great in theory, there have been complaints that this new system can feel imprecise and a bit fiddly in comparison.

Andromeda has reportedly also gotten rid of the "powers wheel," where players control comrades on the battlefield. However, the game has added a new boost jump, which can help players reach higher ground for better vantage points and strategy development. The battle system looks very enjoyable and seems to be far more fluid than previously seen. But it doesn't look like the gameplay has evolved that much from ME3 -- it's essentially a run and cover shooter with an added jump mechanic.

In contrast, Horizon's battle system isn't a run and gun affair like ME. Instead,  it's a system where you need to carefully plan your attack, especially against larger enemies. That's because there's a real sense of strategy in place, as the game forces you to become a hunter. Rushing into battle will get you destroyed.

The prey you hunt will get deadlier as you progress, so you'll need to adapt your approach strategically by setting up traps and finding weaknesses. The battles are a real visual treat to behold, too, and are epic in scale -- so much so that you will come away from Horizon with some very memorable battles and a true sense of achievement.

Usually, combat that is this cinematic and satisfying to participate in are found in linear action games and (very rarely) open world games. And as a result, every battle in the game feels like an all out choreographed action-set piece. But not in Guerilla Games' newest. Horizon Zero Dawn should be the new standard for battle systems going forward in an open world game -- it really is that good.

The Open World And Its Environment in Horizon Zero Dawn

Now that BioWare (and current previews) have confirmed that Mass Effect: Andromeda is not an open world game, we can expect to go back to the zone-hubs that were popularized by the Mass Effect series in the first place. While I'm a fan of the zone-hubs in the previous games, they still felt somehow linear or on-rails in comparison to the seamless world of Horizon Zero Dawn, which contains no loading times between areas.

While it could be expecting too much for a Mass Effect game to be as open as Horizon, BioWare could take a similar approach as The Witcher 3, which wasn't a seamless game either, but instead felt massive and open at the same time. That's what I'm looking for -- bigger, more explorable worlds, not drab linearity. 

Conversely, the environments in Horizon Zero Dawn feel alive, dynamic and truly unique, and not just because the game plays host to some of the best visuals this generation has ever seen. For a game like this to stand out amongst a whole list of other open world games set in a post-apocalyptic speaks volumes. As most games of this type opt for a typical brown/gray color palette, HZD is colorful and full of lush greens and blues. Even the desert land is a sight to behold. 

Another feature that helps the world of Horizon feel so alive is the opportunity to participate in emergent events with unscripted moments, like where you may come across other humans battling against metallic monsters, robots turning against each other, and even wiping out enemy bases. I'd like to see something like this implemented in Andromeda, either in the city hubs, helping NPC's, or participating in random events. Such design would certainly encourage more intra-planetary exploration.

 

With Horizon Zero Dawn's release falling in the same month as Mass Effect: Andromeda, the question, which once was, "How would this new IP fair against the more well known and popular series" has now become "Will Mass Effect be as good as Horizon Zero Dawn?"

Either way, if you're fan of sci-fi and massive RPGs, then both games are undoubtedly going to be absolutely worth your time.

What do you think? Will Horizon Zero Dawn be better than Mass Effect: Andromeda? Will the opposite be true? Or will both be great games and in contention for Game of the Year? Let us know in the comments below!

Published Feb. 26th 2017

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