3 Things PC Gamers Can Expect From Horizon Zero Dawn And Death Stranding

Both Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn are releasing on PC in 2020, and expectations are high. Here are three things PC gamers can expect from these upcoming titles. If you're looking for a post-apocalyptic open world and memorable storytelling, these games have got you covered.

Horizon Zero Dawn and Death Stranding coverCreated by Dutch development studio Guerrilla Games, the Decima game engine has seen its most pronounced use with Horizon Zero Dawn and Kojima Production’s Death Stranding. Both games began their lives as PlayStation 4 exclusives and have been massively successful. Fortunately for PC players, both Horizon Zero Dawn and Death Stranding are set to be released on PC in 2020, and expectations are high.

The hype is not unexpected, as both titles were important entries in this generation of gaming. For Guerrilla Games, Horizon Zero Dawn demonstrated that the studio could apply the same artistic creativity and engaging gameplay design found in the Killzone series to an open world third-person game. Kojima Productions also benefited greatly from Death Stranding and were able to show the world that a new studio headed by the legendary Hideo Kojima could compete with the best.

Horizon Zero Dawn references can be found in Death Stranding.

Horizon Zero Dawn references can be found in Death Stranding.

This is what PC players can expect from these two PC ports.

1. A GOOD STORY

Sony exclusives are known for their narrative-driven, single-player experiences. Horizon Zero Dawn and Death Stranding live up to these expectations, and will be bringing expert storytelling to PC.   

Horizon Zero Dawn imagines a future where human beings have returned to a primitive way of life following an apocalyptic event. The few things that remain of the old world include dilapidated buildings, remnants of old technology and, of course, robot dinosaurs built for war.

The game centers on Aloy, a young girl who has lived her whole life as an outcast. She is raised by a fellow outcast named Rost. To become a member of the Nora tribe, she undergoes the Proving. However, the event is disrupted by cultists who, Aloy learns, can control corrupted robot dinosaurs known as machines.

Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition PC (Steam) trailer

Aloy finds herself on a quest to unravel the secrets of these machines and to discover the mysteries of her own origins. Her journey has her going up against machines many times her size. Learning to get the best of these mechanical beasts feels like finally reaching the peak of a seemingly insurmountable mountain. She also makes friends along the way and learns about different ways of living from the different tribes she encounters.

Horizon Zero Dawn’s story provides a unique science-fiction plot with a primitive twist that both entertains and warns of the potential destruction that technology and warfare can wreak upon our species. Players are not left to take a passive approach to the story and instead can make choices with regards to Aloy’s dialogue with other characters. Dialogue options are divided into three categories, namely: heart, brain and fist. The choices players make allow them to decide how Aloy responds to situations.

Horizon Zero Dawn screenshot

One of the many dialogue options available to Aloy.

Death Stranding may be another post-apocalyptic story, but it brings with it enough eccentricity to truly feel unique in the video game landscape. Sam Porter Bridges, the protagonist of Death Stranding, is a delivery man who possesses a few special traits. He is phobic of human touch and is mostly silent and stoic. Most importantly, however, he possesses DOOMs which allows him to sense BTs (Beached Things) which are beings from the realm of the dead.

This ability is useful in a setting where the world has been hit by the ‘Death Stranding’ which has unleashed BTs onto Earth. These creatures bring with them Timefall which is a time-bending kind of weather that deteriorates all infrastructure.

All the chaos brought on by the Death Stranding has rendered America fragmented. By making key deliveries and establishing a network to reconnect people, Sam hopes to rebuild America.

Death Stranding - Official PC Release Date Trailer

Told in an unconventional style typical of Kojima, Death Stranding is a story of real human connections in a world that has left people divided. It is also a story of growth, self-sacrifice and the delicate balance between life and death.

2. AMAZING VISUALS

The graphical fidelity and jaw-dropping visuals produced by the Decima engine has been nothing short of picturesque. Whatever expectations PC gamers have for Horizon Zero Dawn and Death Stranding‘s visuals, it is likely that they will be surpassed.

Both games feature environments that make players feel as though they are partaking in an epic adventure. Death Stranding offers a world that is as harsh as it is exquisite. The landscapes Sam must trek across provide a beautiful kind of austerity that has a knack for making players self-reflective and contemplative. Lush jungles, desolate deserts and highlands with twinkling snowfall paint Horizon Zero Dawn’s map. 

Horizon Zero Dawn screenshot.

The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is sublime.

Much of Horizon Zero Dawn’s beauty comes from a design philosophy dubbed ‘BBC-realism’. It is inspired by nature documentaries. As the game’s art director, Jan-Bart van Beek, explains, when nature documentaries are made:

“It’s all shot in perfect condition, at the perfect time of day, with exactly the right dramatic light angle, cloudscapes and weather. There is a lot of cinematic grading to add contrast, atmosphere and saturation to the screen. It’s a film process that takes weeks to find those conditions and film a 10 second snippet.”

Horizon Zero Dawn attempts to capture these perfect moments that occur in nature and tries to make them permanent fixtures of the open world. As van Beek continues:

“In Horizon we wanted to give them the sense of being in a 24/7 version of BBC’s nature, where it is always at its most epic, most impressive.”

For this reason, Horizon Zero Dawn is a delight to simply get lost in and explore. Every nook and crevice is as scenic as a David Attenborough documentary, and sunsets are beautiful enough to rival their real world counterparts. This is one of those games where you will probably spend as much time in photomode as you do completing quests.

Horizon Zero Dawn screenshot

One of the many beautiful environments found in Horizon Zero Dawn.

Although Death Stranding takes place in the USA, its setting is inspired by the primordial-looking expanses of Iceland. The black rocks and grass that grows like green carpet over everything create an atmosphere that feels lonely, as though the game is trying to nudge players towards an existential spiral into their own minds.

The environment is beautiful to admire, but it is also equally as fun to explore and navigate. Players must make use of tools such as climbing rope and ladders to find ways across steep mountain faces and rugged terrain.

Horizon Zero Dawn screenshot.

Sam climbs a ladder laid down by another player.

The weather is usually overcast and oppressive, making delivery trips feel as though they are as much a psychological battle for Sam as they are a physical one. However, these dark moments are all worth it once players arrive at their destination, see the sun come out and can finally breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they have done their bit to reunite America.  

3. INNOVATIVE GAMEPLAY

Gameplay is arguably the center of any good game, and both Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn do not falter in this department.

When PC players take a first glance at Horizon Zero Dawn, there may be expectations of the game being a typical over-the-shoulder third-person shooter. However, the game presents unique innovation to this formula that provides an engaging gameplay experience. Aloy is armed with stone-age weapons such as slingshots, spears and a bow and arrow. The machines she goes up against are far larger than her and easily overpower her. Hence, it is necessary for players to rely on wits instead of brawn. This involves setting traps and learning the attack patterns of enemies. It is also involves figuring out the weak spots of machines and taking them down by attacking their individual components.

For example, broadheads, which are machines that resemble bulls, have canisters containing a green substance known as blaze. Aiming your arrow for one of those could result in an explosion that takes down the broadhead and, potentially, any other broadheads nearby.

Horizon Zero Dawn screenshot.

Aloy watches a psychedelic sunset with a tamed broadhead.

Flying machines such as stormbirds may need to be tied down as part of an attack strategy and machine such as thunderjaws can have their cannons shot off so that Aloy can use it against her enemies.

This kind of emergent gameplay ensures that players can find unique solutions to problems. Every encounter with a machine is a unique one.

Death Stranding is a game where form follows function, and the gameplay accentuates much of the themes introduced by the narrative. The game takes the form of a hiking simulator. Players must carefully plan their cargo, paying careful attention to weight as well as the expected obstacles they could encounter along their delivery route. The journey involves making use of tools and structures to get Sam over and across difficult terrain.

Horizon Zero Dawn screenshot

Aloy takes on a machine.

The objective is to reconnect isolated groups of humanity and re-establish an interlinked continent where information is freely shared, and humans can help each other. However, by aiding Sam along his journey, players also learn to forge connections with others. This is enabled by the online features of Death Stranding. Although players cannot directly interact with each other, structures built in one player’s open world can be seen by others. Hence, a conveniently placed ladder laid down by one player could potentially help dozens of other players.

Additionally, players can collectively build larger structures such as roads and bridges by contributing raw materials for the benefit of both themselves and other players. This reminds players although it may feel that way at times, they are not truly alone and that their actions have the potential to benefit others.

Death Stranding screenshot

Bridges are one of structures that players can build together.

Death Stranding does feature shooter elements that can be found in many other mainstream games. Personally, I found these moments to be a distraction from the aspects of Death Stranding I love most. The slow-paced gameplay involving getting Sam prepared in his comfy private room before undertaking a long, cross-country hike over a gruelling landscape is something that cannot be found in other games, and it is what makes Death Stranding special.

It is immersive, escapist fun. Most strikingly, it is addictive.

Death Stranding screenshot.

One of the many surreal settings found in Death Stranding.

PlayStation owners have had their fun with these two titles, and it is wonderful that PC players will get the opportunity to experience what the Decima engine is able to produce. Have fun!

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