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Off TopicMar 12, 2020 2:00 pm CT

Exclusive doesn’t need to mean forever, as Horizon Zero Dawn gives us a PC port

There is a game where you hunt and kill robot dinosaurs. The game is named Horizon Zero Dawn, and it came out in 2017, at a time when I didn’t own a PlayStation 4. As a result, I didn’t get to play it for two years, and I had to sit and seethe in my jealousy as PS4 players got to play a game that is literally made up of my major interest groups.

I mean, hunting and killing robot dinosaurs. And also robot prehistoric mammals — there are robot sabertooth cats and robot megafauna of all sorts in this amazing game. So when I read that we’re getting a PC port, my first reaction was negative. I mean, I barely managed to scrape together enough of a Christmas to finally get a PS4, and then only because it came with a bundle with Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, and the remastered The Last of Us. Of those games, HZD is my absolute favorite — it’s my top five games released this decade.

The future is now

I think that Sony releasing this game on PC after a decent interval — it’s been three years — is an excellent way to approach console-exclusive titles. If people didn’t pick up a PS4 by now, with the next-gen console around the corner, they’re not going to. So why not make some money selling one of the best games in recent memory to PC players? It serves as a bit of advertising for Sony and their various game studios, letting PC players finally get to see what’s so amazing about Guerilla Games’ open world bow’em up RPG and thus, when the inevitable sequel comes to the PS5, they’ll be all the more likely to pick that up.

But Horizon Zero Dawn is more than a fun, engaging open-world game about robot beasties and hunting them down. It’s the story of Aloy, played with a sense of gravity and pluck by Ashly Burch — a young woman who grew up an isolated outcast on the edges of the Nora tribe in a world where ancient ruins of glass and steel are mostly grown over by plants and the wild places of the earth include not just deer and boar but metal animals ranging from small hunters to vast Tallnecks. There are a lot of twists and turns to the story. I’m not going to spoil it for any of you PC-only gamers who are going to finally get to experience it, but I will say that the voice acting is generally superb, the story is compelling, and it’s got some interesting things to say about how we might well end up in really bad places if we don’t pay attention to how and why we use technology and the dangers of unchecked capitalism.

Between this and The Outer Worlds, Ashly Burch has voiced in two games that really are amazingly strong indictments of capitalism, produced by some pretty big corporations.

An open world that is integrated into gameplay

What I really loved about HZD is how perfectly meshed the storytelling, worldbuilding, and gameplay are. I’m generally not the best at games that deal with a lot of archery but here, it can be picked up really fast and there’s a fun hyperkineticism to it all that makes stalking and fighting these robot beasts a real trip. The crafting system works pretty well — you’ll make use of almost all of the robots you kill. The talent trees are deep enough that you can really choose if you want to be a long range sniper, a tricky trap-laying ambusher, or a skirmisher who switches between the bow and the spear to finish off your prey.

If you’ve missed out on this game because you didn’t have the right console? This move by Sony and Guerilla Games gives you a chance to finally see what all the fuss is about. And frankly, it’s well deserved fuss. This is a great game. Making it available now will probably mean a whole lot of people will pick up a PS5 when it comes out, if HZD2 is announced as a console exclusive. I won’t lie, if they announced that, I’d sell organs to make the money to pick it up. Getting to meet Aloy, Rost, and other characters from this game is a real treat and Ted Faro is possibly the most chillingly realistic villain any game has ever produced — a technologically savvy but short sighted man who steals and profits off the work of others only to unleash a disaster on us all by his lack of vision and forethought, who makes things worse at every step.

Exclusive doesn’t need to mean forever

I know some folks are upset about a former PS4 exclusive suddenly not being exclusive. Maybe I should be one of them — I could have spent that money on something else instead of buying a PS4. But really, this is a three-year-old game and the console’s life cycle is almost over — making more sales on it by offering it on a new platform is a solid move and it will serve to generate interest in what comes next. It’s a great game, and this means more people will get to see it, and I think that can only lead to bigger and better things for the sequel.

But I won’t pretend — I dislike console exclusivity. I’ve never been a fan of it, because I feel like it hearkens back to the days of the Nintendo vs. Sega arguments that I think ultimately stifled some creativity and kept certain games out of the hands of their potential audience. I didn’t play some of the biggest Nintendo games of the 80s and 90s entirely because I didn’t own the console that could play them. Taking this step now, letting a game be an exclusive for a good long while but not forever? That just feels smart to me, and I hope we see more moves like this in the future.

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