Saturday, April 1, 2017

Horizon: Far Zenith

With 2.6 million copies sold in the first two weeks, I think it's safe to say Horizon: Zero Dawn is going to get a sequel.  The question is "where to go from here?"  As it turns out there's a lot of possible directions the series can go (spoilers to follow, obviously).

In the debut trailer for the game, the narration explains that the Old Ones built towers that reached the sky.  This might be an exaggeration, or it might not.  Amongst some of the text files that players can find scattered about the world, several mention a project called "Far Zenith."  Much like the Zero Dawn project, it was an attempt to preserve humanity in the face of its imminent destruction by the Faro Swarm.  Instead of going underground though, the idea was to use a spaceship called the Odyssey to relocate to a neighboring star system.  Sadly, it was a total failure due to an matter/antimatter power generator accident while exiting the solar system.  That might make it sound like a dead end story-wise, but in order to build something like the Odyssey, I think there would have to be pretty extensive infrastructure setup in orbit around earth.  Things like an space elevator connected to a ring habitat and geosynchronous assembly yard would definitely be within the realm of possibility.  Here's the kicker though, "why would anyone go up there?"  As it turns out there could be a very good reason to do so.

After defeating Hades, Aloy's next task is to reboot Gaia and re-establish her connections to the seven surviving subordinate AI systems.  The thing is, maybe that has to be done by someone onsite with Alpha Prime access.  If that were the case then Aloy might have some traveling to do.  I think it's safe to assume that each of the subordinate AI mainframes (with the exception of Hades) are in different locations than Gaia.  Poseidon, for example, might be located in some underwater base.  While Artemis, Demeter and Eleuthia (in charge of reintroducing animals, plants and humans respectively) are in all likelihood located on the surface of the earth somewhere.  Hephaestus is probably in a Cauldron under a mountain somewhere.  On the other hand AI constructs like Aether and Minerva (atmosphere and communications) might be located in orbit above the planet.  Given their assigned tasks, it makes sense for them to be in those locations.  There's also the question of Apollo, which brings us to the after-credits stinger.

Hades and Sylens are still out there.  The latter is continuing on his quest for knowledge while the former is a bit of a wildcard.  Some have suggested that any DLC for the game might revolve around these two characters.  Obviously, finding a backup of Apollo would be Sylens' dream come true, but Hades' motivation is a bit more muddled.  It's not clear if he is simply following his programming or has become a completely rogue entity after having his system hacked by a as of yet undisclosed third party.  While there's no evidence to support it, I wonder if Elysium has anything to do with all of this?  Maybe the last humans left alive, after the Faro Swarm stripped the planet bare, found a way to preserve themselves in their underground pyramid?  Cryogenic freezing, consciousness uploading or some kind of underground closed ecosystem might have preserved them beyond their intended tenure.  It's certainly a possibility when you consider what a madman Ted Faro was.  Part of me has a mental image of the inhabitants of Elysium continuing to exists and dwell underground like the Morlocks from The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

Story aside, I think there's  also some room for technical improvements.  For one the water physics could use another pass, particularly with regards to how it interacts with things moving into, through, and out of it.  Lip Syncing and facial animations (while not as bad as Mass Effect: Andromeda) could stand some improvement, as could the way robotic herds operate.  Instead of remaining in at set zone, think it would be a lot more interesting if they migrated across large portions of the map.  This might make it a bit harder for the player to find particular types of robotic animals, but I think the problem could be circumvented by having hacked Tallnecks constantly update the player via moving map icons.  I also have this idea of a nomadic desert people who shepard robotic camel/turtle robots that have a big tank (or two) of fresh water on their backs.  Being able to ride a Sawtooth would be cool, or even more awesome - a Stormbird.  Fighting against ape-like robots in the jungle or forest might be fun as well.  Although that last suggestion might be a bit too on the nose given the name of the developer that made Horizon: Zero Dawn.  Regardless, I look forward to seeing what the come up with next.

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