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Some mechanics spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Was at a wedding over the weekend, so needless to say, I played no games, but we do have something to talk about because I’ve been looking at reviews for MEA and, well, let’s say I’m no longer worrying about finishing Horizon quickly to get to wonderful bioware goodness. They’re mixed. Gamespot gave it but a 6. It’s currently sitting at a 75 on metacritic (horizon is at 88), so it’s not a disaster, but…. I didn’t really read the reviews, as I want to go in open minded, but they say that “dull characters” seem to be a problem. This from the series that brought us Garrus, Mordin and Jack!

I’m slightly concerned.

We’re still gonna play it, though, right?

Feminina:

It will be unfortunate if we don’t love MEA as much as its predecessors, but I’m not going to send it back based on reviews I’m not going to read, so yeah, we’ll still play it. Remember, I played Assassin’s Creed for about three games past where I really loved it, so it takes a lot to drive me away.

Especially if there’s a possibility for a brooding love interest. Dull or not, a heavily armored and angsty romantic partner will probably be worth tuning in for.

Butch:

And if we don’t love it, we can always blog about why. Indeed, we shall.

But…I think reviews can be skewed based on expectations. “Not as good as the first” is an unfair reason to lose points. A game horizon probably got points for being new. It would be nuts to think a game had to exceed me2 to be good.

Even more, we tend to think older things were better. The original trilogy was flawed. It had some glaring flaws. And yet, we have this hype about this being the next entry in a series of holy scriptures of gaming. We forget the blah dialog, the icky voice acting of man shep, the linear level design. We tend to make very good things we enjoyed at the time flawless in our memories, then criticize new thinks for not being as good as our incorrect memories.

So I’m still open minded.

But it’s gonna have a tough act to follow as we’re playing Horizon.

How much did you play?

Feminina:

It’s true. We remember loving a thing, and can forget that we didn’t actually love everything about it. I did love ME2! But it wasn’t perfect, and I didn’t love every single frame, and I can still enjoy things despite not loving every single frame.

Even if this is a DA2-level game (ah, how people hated on DA2! but I thought it wasn’t terrible, and had some fun stuff in it), we’ll enjoy some things about it, and then we’ll complain at great length about what we don’t enjoy, and that’s the beautiful cycle of life.

I played…a number of hours. I may have hit level 22. And I’ve come to a point where I kind of need the game to cut me off for my own good (no more metal flowers for you! Get back to the story!), but it’s not doing it, so sadly, once you get past a certain point the world really opens up and you can pretty much go anywhere, and all those map markers become attractive nuisances.

But I’ll get myself under control and go back to the plot. Someday.

Butch:

Nope. Didn’t love every frame. And if ME2 got reviewed today, with the tunnel levels with crates to hide behind every five feet, and the icky lead voice acting, it would take hits.

I LIKED DA2. I did! We’ll play it.

You’re not almost done, are you? ARE YOU? Is this “get back to the plot” the endgame? And are those attractive nuisances interesting attractive nuisances? Or are you just pulled to them because you’re you?

And is that point where shit opens up after the thing at the stadium that I’m doing next?

Feminina:

Oh lord no, I’m not almost done. At least half the map is still under clouds.

I’m not even at Meridian yet! That’s how much I need to get back to the plot. I’ve basically spent the past week collecting trinkets and completing occasional side quests.

Butch:

Whoa, there’s, like, 11 levels of side quests between where I’m at and even GETTING to Meridian?

Damn.

Are they still interesting? Or does tedium set in quick?

And should I explore? I mean, usually games take you place to place, or zone to zone, in some sort of order of difficulty. So imagine my surprise when I was all “What’s just over here? Oh. That’s THEY FLY????” Am I coming back here when I’m stronger? Or do I have to remember to come back here?

So MEA is sitting there at a solid 75 on metacritic. That’s a green number, “Generally favorable reviews.” So not a time wasting disaster. I’m still looking forward to it. Just not rushing through Horizon. Not that I was, or even could given my life.

Feminina:

I’ve stumbled on a few interesting things while exploring, including side quests that I probably would have had to come back for later if I hadn’t found them when I did, and an intriguing location that I couldn’t get into and will certainly have to come back to at some point.

I’ve also stumbled on overpowered (for me at the time) things that I had to hastily back away from. (Those fly? Those are level 27? I’m out.) Presumably I would be sent back to a lot of these things by some adventure or another if I didn’t just wander into them on my own, but I don’t know that for sure. On the other hand, there are the ‘text datapoints’ and so forth that I think are probably only meant to be found by wandering around, and so to the extent that you care about those, you should certainly be exploring everywhere.

There are actually not all that many established side quests. Those there are have been interesting, but most of what I’ve been doing has been hunting down collectibles and dealing with corrupted areas and bandit camps. Not so much full quests, as things you can do to pass the time and get wildly overleveled before you proceed on the main story. A time-honored custom.

Butch:

Yeah, I’ve been dutifully searching for datapoints. Found some. Though I haven’t found any ruins that are from the “past,” and I’m pretty sure they’re out there somewhere. But this area was weird. It was just to the east of the bits where you had to destroy alarms (or not), and then the main story had me going west, away from the area with the flying things and all that. So maybe I’ll be back. Frankly, I only wandered that way because I expected to find the edge of the map, and was pretty surprised when that was not, in fact, the edge of the map. It wasn’t clouds! It was black! I figured “clouds=map, black=edge.” Nope.

Leveling up is a thing, it is. I still haven’t been to Skellege.

Feminina:

Oh, interesting…I don’t think I’ve actually wandered toward the black edges, because like you I figured “that’s where the map ends.”

Great: something else to explore. Ha.

Face it, you’re never getting to Skellige. Having to pay that dude 500 metal shards to use his boat will stall you forever.

Butch:

Eventually, the map must end, I think. But it did not end there. Nope. It led to large flying things and a whole lot of nope. Glint Hawks. Nope.

I’ll send you a screenshot of the map. It will fill you with unease that you missed stuff.

Damn that dude and his boat.

Feminina:

I am already filled with a deep unease just thinking about it. I’d better go right back to all those thought-they-were-edges and explore further. Meridian can wait!

Gotta hassle the glinthawks. (Those are annoying because they don’t like to land and let me sneak attack them. Damn their flying metal hides.)

Butch:

Are they really tough? They looked really tough. But if they’re not, I’ll go investigate and report back.

Feminina:

Well, they’re not technically that tough anymore, now that I’m level 22. They’re still annoying, though, because as I said they don’t like to land and engage in melee combat, and I’m just not all that great with a bow on a moving target. Not my forte. So it’s not so much that they kill me instantly, as that they zip around in the air and we pick ineffectually at each other until someone dies. Gets tiresome.

Maybe there’s a way to blast them out of the sky so you can stab them, like aard vs. harpies in TW3! I could use that.

Now, the NEXT flying thing you’ll meet, that’s still tough. I stay the hell away from that one.

Butch:

Oh goody, more flying shit that’s still tough at level 22.

Have you tried the sling? I still haven’t fired the sling.

I found that concentration is KEY on moving targets. I love concentration.

Feminina:

I haven’t gotten concentration yet. I’ll grab it next skill point. I keep looking at it and thinking “sure, that sounds nice, but I don’t even shoot that often–better get the next strike-related skill instead.”

And I continue to not be great at shooting, and therefore continue to not shoot, and therefore continue to think “I wouldn’t really USE that skill,” and so it goes.

I have used the sling, though. It’s OK. I mostly used it when I was trying to complete the tutorial about it, rather than getting it out in the middle of actual combat, but I used it a couple of other times as well. It has a pretty short range, so I’ve tended to try freezing something that’s pretty close but not close enough to silent-strike, and then it notices me and comes charging over, and I frantically sling more at it while trying to scurry away until I get the “NO AMMO” message, and then I give up and just whack the heck out of it until one of us is dead.

I think I don’t quite have the range down, or something. It’s probably one of those things that totally kicks ass if you figure out exactly when to use it. Which I may never do.

Butch:

Dude, concentration is the WAY. Gets all bullet time and shit. You can also get that if you aim while sliding, which is pretty much the coolest thing ever. Run up to something, slide, get almost right under it, freeze time, BLAM!

So cool.

I’m playing on hard, dude. I can’t just hack and whack. Turn up the difficulty!

Though I must admit, silent strike is pretty cool.

Feminina:

I don’t usually hack and whack, I usually slink and backstab. It’s just when things go all to pieces that I have to start flailing about with the spear.

I do love me some stealth assassinating.

Concentration next up, though, for sure.

Butch:

So very cool. And it makes headshots/component shots SO much easier.

Yes, headshots are a thing.

And don’t get me wrong: many an enemy has fallen to my spear.

Strange: one thing that some reviews harped on was that they didn’t like melee combat. Thought it was too hard to aim/stealth. I’m not getting that. I think it’s fine. Good, even.

Feminina:

I aim/stealth all the damn time and it’s fine. I mean, once in a while I’ll be absent-mindedly facing the wrong way and end up swiping at the air instead of stealth assassinating something, but that’s pretty much my own fault for not paying attention to which direction the enemy was in. I wonder how they wanted it to look/work?

It also doesn’t lock on in melee to the extent that some games do, so again, if I’m not facing quite the right direction I can swing at the air instead of the machine even in mid-combat (some games it’s more like, if you’re engaged with a thing, you’ll pretty much swing at it, but in some, including this one, you have to really make sure you’re facing it first), so maybe they wanted more of the automatic aiming?

Butch:

I don’t know. I don’t really like the “can’t miss” version of any combat. Turns it into button mashing. If you’re going to put a mechanic in a game where it matters where you hit an enemy in melee (see my experience jump attacking), then you should make the player work to do it.

No one’s ever happy. If the game is too easy, they complain. If it isn’t too easy, they complain.

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