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Some minor spoilers for early in Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Played over the weekend, which mostly consisted of KILLING ROBOT DINOSAURS! Which is fun. Not surprisingly, I kinda like KILLING ROBOT DINOSAURS!

Plot wise, don’t have much. Stalked some dinos, made some fire arrows, met some hurt dude who wanted me to find his daughter, said ok, as one does, that sort of thing. Was very surprised when one type of dino could shoot at me. I was all up on high ground, picking dinos off, thinking “Ah HA! Can’t get me up here and WHATTHEFUCK I guess you can.”

Two things:

Plot: Aloy tells hurt dude that “he’ll become an outcast” if he talks to her. And she seems to care about that not happening to him. The not outcasts REALLY want people to stay away from outcasts, don’t they?

Mechanics: So here’s something else about this game I kinda love. For the “get blaze for fire arrows” bit, you needed blaze, yes? But if you SHOT the blaze on the striders, you couldn’t GET the blaze. So the game, through mechanics, gives you a choice on pretty much every encounter: Kill this thing the easy way and get less loot, or do it the hard way and get the rare loot you may need. Or other tactical decisions: Is it worth it to spend five regular arrows to get enough blaze to make three fire arrows? Or do I not need those fire arrows and I should save my regular arrows?

We’ve talked about games giving you a decision about “Do I fight these guys for loot or avoid them?” But I’ve never seen a game make you think about HOW you fight in terms of what loot you’ll get if you win.

Oh, and jumping and swinging the spear mid air to whack important parts of dinosaurs up high makes me feel like a damn superhero and I love doing it.

I dunno, man. I’ve sat down with this game three times and each time I’ve found something I kinda love. Three for three is a pretty good start.

Feminina:

I need to try the superhero jump attack! I’m too in love with “silent strike,” where you just lurk in the grass and then kill them when they come by. I’ve been doing it at every opportunity. Man, I love me some stealth assassinating.

Ooh, maybe you do superhero, I’ll do assassin, and that will be different!

In favor of my approach, you always get the blaze with silent strike, and you don’t use any arrows at all. Man, I love me some stealth assassinating. I know I said that before, but it bears repeating.

In terms of how you attack being relevant to the loot you get…yeah, true, it seems more intentional here. I feel like I have played games (Tomb Raider, maybe?) where, say, you can take a perk that gives you extra loot if you pull off special moves…? But that doesn’t foreground the strategic decision of how to approach a fight in quite the same way. Here, as you say, you can hit the weak spot, but then you don’t get to keep that as loot, which is a nice touch.

Speaking of hitting circle, I’m so used to that being the “back” button that I keep hitting circle to get out of the scan mode when I’m using my earpiece, and then I do a fancy roll out of nowhere like a weirdo. Which does turn off the scan, but…all the robot dinosaurs point and laugh. I need to learn to click R3 again instead.

On gameplay, I think I might move it up a difficulty setting. I started on Normal, because normal, but it’s been pretty easy. There have only been a couple of dangerous moments, and it seems like maybe there should be more, to keep the excitement level up and all.

Although one was when I was looting one scrapper (answering my “are there carrion-eater robots?” question) and another one came out of nowhere (translation: I wasn’t paying attention) and jumped on me, which was an effective surprise and reminder to pay attention and I kind of loved it.

Butch:

I haven’t had good luck with silent strike, mostly because I’ve been sloppy about checking around. I’ll get too transfixed on one dino…I will wait on it…patiently…then BOOM silent strike and oh yeah he had three friends right over there I’m so fucked.

So I guess I’m good at stealth assassinating. Just less good at the 12 seconds thereafter.

But the jump attack. It told me to go mess up those target dummies, so I figured ok, I’ll do it. Practice a new mechanic. So I whacked some armor off, and there was still armor on the top half of the dummy, so I thought maybe if I……. THAT. WAS. AWESOME.

I killed a watcher yesterday by shooting it from afar, it charged me, it did its “I’m gonna jump and kill you” thing and at JUST the right time I jumped, twirled, spear RIGHT to the eye.

Gotta admit, cooler than stealth.

You do love stealth assassination… Until you spear jump.

Or, really, until the game gets too hard for you to do it. Even in Assassin’s Creed, a game that was pretty much made for the player to stealth it up, you eventually just said “Fuck it, who wants more knives?” Now imagine you have one REALLY BIG KNIFE and you can jump, too. Same difference.

Yeah, the perk thing doesn’t really count. That I sort of see as just a reward of extra loot each time. “Ok, you made it to level 7, so, if you want, more stuff with each kill.” It doesn’t change how you approach each kill, just drops more each time. And I always thought the special moves stuff was more to get you to do the special move. If one could talk to the game:

“Please oh please oh please do the special move!”
“I don’t want to. It’s hard.”
“PLEEEEEEEEAAAAAASE? We worked so hard programming it!”
“No. The shotgun works just fine.”
“What if we give you a trophy for using it ten times?”
“You’re kidding, right?”
***game starts crying***
“Oh…what….”
“WAAAAA! WE WORKED SO HARD!”
“Oh, ok, look. Let’s make a deal. I’ll do it, but only if I get more shotgun shells…..”

HA! It’s only a matter of time before rolling to get out of scan mode costs me a stealth kill.

I was thinking the same thing about difficulty. Especially as the spear seems to be rather devastating. The first time I used it, I did so out of panic. I missed the eye or something, and pissed off a watcher, and it charged and I was all ‘AIEE I can’t get another shot off and all I have is this stupid spear’ and I pulled R2 and knocked the thing into next week with one hit. So once I got the message that “Meh, if you don’t aim your shot just so, you can just whack it a couple of times,” the game lost some of its edge.

Even though I have not met scrappers (but I’ve heard of them, so you get a pass on spoilers) something appearing out of nowhere has happened to me more than I care to admit.

Feminina:

OK, about that messing up the target dummies–how? I didn’t do that, which leaves me behind in the spear jumping competitions.

I wanted to do it, but I couldn’t figure out how to switch weapons and equip my spear. I assume it told me how at some point, but I was probably admiring the landscape and missed it, and obviously I couldn’t be bothered to look it up in the options or anything, so I just wandered off to look for Rost.

But YOU can tell me!

Running around in the world, I find I sometimes have my spear equipped and sometimes my bow, so I’ve used them both, but I don’t know how to intentionally swap them. (Maybe it just automatically selects the one that makes sense for the combat situation, and I’ve been overthinking it?) Help me! Help meeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! I’ll totally go back and beat up the dummies!

Butch:

You don’t have to equip it! If you aim a shot with your bow (L2), you use R2 to fire. But if you are NOT aiming, just pull R2. Or hit R1. R1 does the short, fast, knock armor and stuff off attack, R2 does the strong, slow, knock the watcher into next week attack I told you about earlier. I had my bow in my hand when I panicked and pulled R2 hoping it would do SOMETHING and boy did it do something.

Feminina:

Oh man…I WAS overthinking it. OK. I’ll try the spear jumping thing.

Butch:

Overthinking it, and not panicking nearly enough.

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