Defeated the Sawtooth

Horizon Zero Dawn • Defeated the Sawtooth that threatened the Nora • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 88.0% (Common)

Before I write anything about my PlayStation comings and goings, I need to make one thing perfectly clear. I have switched back to my existing gamer tag.

I know, I know, I dedicated a whole narrative to why I was making the switch, but the news today that by this time next year we should (read:nothing locked-in) be able to change our PlayStation username has me slightly nostalgic for all my old trophies.

Look, I play my Sony console with such infrequency these days that simply knowing it’s coming is enough to keep me on the sidelines of the ecosystem for just a little longer. Emphasis on the little.

Anyway, let’s talk about something Sony does right – their first party lineup. Specifically, Horizon Zero Dawn which I (re)started after I made the decision to go back to the old gamer tag. Last time I started Horizon I fell asleep on the couch about 10 minutes into the game, so it’s not an all together bad time to be powering through.

I’m around about an hour in, and as a lot of great narratives have done in recent years, you start off as young Aloy, preparing for what is anticipated to be a ‘trial’, a ritual designed to allow her access to tribal leaders in anticipation of finding out about her undisclosed past. The ‘young protagonist’ seems to be a favourite narrative choice lately. It had similar echoes to The Last of Us, opening the level up with Joel’s daughter and even the switch midway through to Ellie. This played out as a soft tutorial to master her ‘Focus,’ a small AR device that gives her special perception, stalking and killing (collectively, ‘hunting’) the machines that inhabit the world.

By the end of my introduction, I successfully brought down the 31st Century equivalent of a sabretooth tiger, lovingly labelled as a ‘saw tooth’ in this game, but thanks to setting the game on ‘Story’ difficulty (read: the easiest), it was a relatively simple machine to destroy (three shots instead of the typical single shot which I’d been killing machines with up until that point).

And thus, I have concluded what feels like the tutorial. Even Rost, the paternal figure to Aloy in the game, describes the battle with the sawtooth as his ‘final lesson’, so now I’m ready to commence the trial.

The gameplay thus far has been incredibly reminiscent of Tomb Raider – so much so that I can see why Phil Spencer wanted to lock in that timed exclusivity with the rebooted sequel for Xbox. Aloy’s introduction into the main game world consists of traversing a large flying-fox setup rope much the same way as Lara does, throwing something over the top of it (Lara uses her climbing axe) and sliding down. It’s effective, obviously, but I had to smile at the similarities.

I’m also not sure how the point allocation works – I’ve selected a few skills to start with that seem to ‘best fit’ the way I expect to play. Two ‘slow time’ skills which will allow me to take headshots, as well as the skill to do an attack on downed machines … something I thought was missing from the get-go, but considering its one of the skills I managed to unlock in the first hour, it’s forgivable.

Look, thus far – I’m enjoying it. Perhaps the most surprising aspect out of it so far is Ashly Burch’s performance as Aloy. I haven’t quite worked out if it’s good writing or just a damn good fit for Burch as an actor – but the delivery is second-to-none. I’m very, very impressed.

This is probably the first time in a long time – perhaps Uncharted 4 or The Last of Us – that I’ve been compelled to sit through a PlayStation exclusive. As I said at the start – the first party line-up truly is second-to-none.

It seems like such a shame, but business, as they say, is business.

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