The best thing about PlayStation is that it's reinvented itself time and time again. Sony's original console was defined by Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, but a contractual blunder meant that both series went multiformat. Sony had to reinvent itself, and we saw the introduction of Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper. Now on its fourth home device, the platform holder's certainly not retiring all of its fan-favourite franchises, but it is refreshing its portfolio as it does every generation.
And as Nathan Drake's adventures come to a close, it's Horizon: Zero Dawn that the Japanese giant will be hoping occupies Uncharted's space. This role-playing release from Guerrilla Games was rumoured for an eternity before its announcement last year, and it pads a gap in the manufacturer's portfolio: the Western RPG. Titles such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt have proven the popularity of this genre, but can the Killzone creator muscle its way in?
Unfortunately, despite going hands-on with the game last week, it's too early to say; the Dutch developer is not exactly known for great writing and story-telling, both of which are a pivotal part of any great RPG. The studio does know a thing or two about great combat, though, so it's no surprise that the demo we played emphasised this part of the game – the cumbersome gait of Geralt of Rivia and the ropey first-person swashbuckling of Skyrim is nowhere to be seen here.
Instead, the studio's concocted a "battle system" that would belong in an action game. Aloy, the title's red-headed protagonist, is armed with a bow, which she can use to switch out different arrows in order to assault her robotic foes. This armament enables oodles of combative options: tripwires can be laid to off escaping herds; tethers can string up metallic serpents, restricting their movement; fire arrows can augment elemental damage to your attacks.
And that's not all: Aloy can drop traps, lure enemies, and even scan them to find their weak points; she can tame beasts and climb aboard them, craft grenades, and use tall grass to stealth her way towards foes unseen. It's a dense, mechanical system that would feel right at home in an action game rather than an RPG – and that's exciting. The controls, while complicated, work well and feel right, minus some minor animation transitions which we imagine will be fixed before launch.
The jury, then, rests everywhere else. There's no doubt that Guerrilla Games can write a rich lore – those who read Killzone's back story will know that it's got serious chops when it comes to world building – but it's always struggled to incorporate its amazing ideas into the titles themselves. Horizon: Zero Dawn is going to be fun to play, there's no doubt about that – but will the quests be entertaining, will the writing be on point, and will the characters be interesting?
And will it be able to avoid the inevitable plot twist in which Aloy learns that she's from the "old world", and she survived the fall by being cryogenically frozen? Because that's obviously what the story's going to be about.
Do you think that Horizon: Zero Dawn has the chops to be Sony's next big franchise? Do you have any concerns about the game? Sharpen up in the comments section below.