Horizon Zero Dawn PC
Game Reviews PC

Horizon Zero Dawn PC Review: Tweak to Perfection

The year 2017 was a stacked year for game releases. But there’s no denying that Guerilla Games’ brand new PlayStation exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn was one of the best that year. Its a unique game that blends a dystopian landscape with tribal politics and mechanical monsters. At the forefront of this is Aloy, a tribe outcast who’s keen to learn the secrets of her past. Now we have Horizon Zero Dawn PC, which is the Complete Edition of the game. If you’re a PC gamer who is thinking about grabbing this one, I hope this review will help.

As an older game, there’s not much reason to expand on the narrative of Horizon Zero Dawn. You either played it already or will have a fantastic time experiencing it for the first time. I’ll summarize by saying that Aloy’s journey is one full of exhilarating twists and turns. It’s a journey of discovery, in a setting that blends stone and bronze ages with technology. This is a story you give yourself to and enjoy the ride.

Horizon Zero Dawn PC

How Does Horizon Zero Dawn PC Perform?

The release of Horizon Zero Dawn on PC means that those who might have missed this gem back during its initial release have no reason to ignore it now. But how well does a PS4 game of this caliber translate to the world of PC gaming, where optimization is a complexity for most?

This is a game you’ll need to fine-tune to get it running at optimal levels based on your PC build. If you have a powerhouse rig and you’re shooting for 4K 60fps then the options are certainly there. You could even go 4K unlimited frames-per-second if you have the power to support it. But there are some graphical settings you may want to tinker with to get the best performance.

For instance, it may be better to run the High shadow settings instead of Ultra, as the gap between High and Ultra shadow detail is slim. If you were running at 4K with unlimited fps then changing a small setting like that could give you some extra frames to work with.

Horizon Graphics Settings

Most settings on High already look on par with the PS4 Pro version of Horizon Zero Dawn, if not better. This is a three year old game, so when it comes to visuals, it’s not doing the same things as Ghost of Tsushima or The Last of Us 2. Therefore I had no problem dropping to a mix of High and Medium settings to boost my game’s performance.

Minimum Requirements
Intel Core i5-2500K
Nvidia GeForce GTX 780
Intel Core i7-4770K
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060

The build I played the game on was a 16gb RAM, i5-2500K, GTX 1060 unit. A 2017 PS4 game shouldn’t have an issue running at PS4 Pro levels on my build but no matter how much tweaking I did, I noticed the frame-rate was never 100% stable. I attempted to cap my frame-rate at 60fps, but the game still dips far below for a few seconds every now and then. Not to mention, there are various animations in the game that move at a set 30fps. After some research, I was able to find that players who were using a superior card to the 1060 were also experiencing occasional frame-rate dips from time to time. So there may be something happening on a deeper level that prevents the game running butter smooth like it did on PS4 Pro.

Aloy hearts in photo mode
The game also has a cool photo mode

Is This a Fun Game?

Horizon Zero Dawn is a game that blends some of the most recognizable game mechanics from other IPs and turns them into something of its own. Every time I pick up this game I feel at home because it has the same feel as other games I’ve enjoyed. On her quest, Aloy can do the following:

  • Crouch in bushes and hide from robots
  • Draw enemies to her location using sound
  • Stealth kill
  • Melee attack
  • Aim and shoot her bow n’ arrow. Her native weapon
  • Climb up large structures
  • Descend high structures using a zipline

And many more familiar mechanics associated with the action adventure genre.

Throughout your sessions there are many elements to pick up and collect that you can use for crafting. There are cool abilities to unlock on the skill tree that feel rewarding while progressing through the many missions. If you’re familiar with adventure RPGs that are set in a sandbox, you’re going to feel at home here. The gameplay isn’t exactly innovative in its approach but it does excel in providing a thoroughly entertaining experience. Where Horizon shows originality is with its setting and storytelling. And the combination of these two things push this experience way past the Above Average mark.

A nice touch in this version of the game is that you can adjust the field-of-view. I noticed that by default the camera was very close up behind Aloy, which quickly got annoying when I wanted to see more of the surroundings. Well, the field-of-view slider under the Display Settings fixes that no problem, giving a wider camera view. This is something I appreciated.

Horizon Zero Dawn arrow mechanics

Can Horizon Be Played With Keyboard and Mouse?

What I love most about the PC is the amount of options you have to tailor each experience to you. And Horizon Zero Dawn allows you to use whichever controller device you’re comfortable with. For the purpose of this review I played with the Dualshock 4 and then with keyboard and mouse. The Dualshock 4 gave me the exact controller experience I had when I played this game on the PlayStation 4.

Surprisingly though, the Keyboard and Mouse controls felt great to me once I was familiar with the button mappings. One would expect a PS4 game not to translate so well to a keyboard and mouse format, but veteran keyboard users shouldn’t have too much of an issue getting comfortable with the feel of the game. Plus, there’s nothing quite like aiming a bow and arrow using a mouse. Should you want to switch up some of the key bindings there are options to do so.

My Verdict

Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition
has always been a game I would recommend to anyone who’s looking for a meaty sandbox experience to keep them busy. And despite it having many familiar mechanics, its unique setting and enemies give it just enough originality to stand on its own.

Horizon Zero Dawn PC

But while Horizon Zero Dawn boasts 60-80 hours of compelling content, this port hasn’t exactly transitioned smoothly to the PC. If you buy this game then be prepared to do some tweaking to get the most optimal performance. Depending on your build, this could end up being a balancing act between graphics quality and performance.

Usually, some tweaking wouldn’t be a big deal as many PC gamers are used to doing some initialization with each new game they play. In the case of Horizon Zero Dawn, I get the idea that there’s something not quite right in the game’s code. No matter how low I was willing to get with the graphics options, there always seemed to be some level of frame-rate dips, even in many of the cutscenes. The day one patch fixed a ton of initial problems that I faced, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the game saw at least one more optimization patch in the future. If that happens, then I can honestly say that Horizon Zero Dawn is a game that no PC owner should miss out on.

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