The thing about open-world games is that they are only as good as the world that's been created. A boring, banal world yields a boring, banal game that players can't wait to escape.
The world of Horizon: Zero Dawn, on the other hand, is beautiful, fascinating, and, at times, anachronistic. It is filled with wonder and mystery. It is the kind of world that you want to be in, even if it's just to sneak through the tall grass or stand on the edge of a cliff as the sun moves across the sky.
The game, exclusive to PS4 and developed by Gueriila Games, is anchored by a compelling story, too. It's a world where society is structured around a matriarchy. The people are hunters and gatherers, and although they hunt wild pigs and turkeys, they also hunt machines.
Where the machines come from is only one of the mysteries that you explore while playing the game. Another is the parentage of Alloy, the smart, capable young woman who is at the centre of the story.
When you first become Alloy, she is an outcast. As an outsider, she comes to the world with the same sense of curiousity that we do as players. It also means that she's able to have one foot in two worlds: the simpler one she lives in as well as the highly technological one that preceded it.
The tension between human and machine, so often a theme in video games, becomes overt in Zero Dawn. Using a bow and other basic weapons, Alloy hunts the machines that are metal and gear analogs of large flesh and blood animals. She gathers resources from the machines that she can use to modify her weapons and clothing, and she trades with merchants.
The story in Zero Dawn is Alloy's coming-of-age tale, and she is the kind of independent and able protagonist we've so often seen, but so rarely as a female. Ostensibly, this is only the first game in a series, and I'm already anxious to see where Alloy will go next.
There's a lot that you can do in this game, and parts of it might seem repetitious to some. I didn't find it to be boring, though. Alloy's world, the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn, is a place I want to spend time.