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Change YoY: -2    My Rating: 9.4 / 10

For quite a few years after its release, Horizon Zero Dawn was my favourite open world game ever by quite a significant distance. From the moment I first played it, I absolutely loved just about everything it had to offer. The world was intriguing and beautiful, constantly pushing me to find the next secret or new location beyond the map's edge, the characters, Aloy especially, quickly hooked mewith their stories, and the audiovisual side was absolutely fantastic. The score by Joris de Man, The Flight, and a few others is exceptional, and visually the game remains one of the most beautiful open world titles I've ever played thanks to its brilliant art direction. More than a few times I found myself simply stopping to admire the game's gorgeous locations and just taking everything in. I must also commend the voice acting, especially by Ashly Burch as Aloy, though the rest of the cast is great as well.

I also found the gameplay a lot of fun, as the game made me feel like I was constantly improving alongside Aloy, and over time toppling more and more dangerous robots. Each encounter with a new enemy felt dangerous and tense, but as I learned more about the various robots fighting them became almost second nature as their attacks and various tells became almost second nature, just like what Aloy goes through in the story. The expansion to the main game, The Frozen Wilds, is also one of the best DLC releases ever in my opinion, as it expands the world, the story, and the gameplay of the base game without ever feeling tacked on. In general, I loved discovering more about this world that Guerrilla Games created here.

There are, naturally, some issues with the game as well. In the main game, the conversation animation never quite works right, the characters' mouth movements very often feeling unnatural and stilted. Fortunately, they improved the system a lot in the DLC. I also often found myself running out of inventory space, even with full upgrades, leading to quite a lot of annoying fiddling throughout the game. All of that is ultimately insignificant, though. The story, setting, the mystery surrounding the past, the characters, music, visuals, and gameplay are all wonderful, and though it's no longer my favourite open world game thanks to a pair of titles that were released in 2022, it remains not only the best game of its release year, but one of the best games of its entire generation.