1000 years ago a cataclysm destroyed life as we know it, nearly wiping out the human race. Machines rose and cities became ruins as nature took back the land. The humans that were left fell into a tribal system. From one tribe, an outcast, the hunter Aloy, fights against the machines and tries to learn the secrets of the lost civilization. This is the the plot to Gureilla Games’ new PlayStation 4 action/role playing game, Horizon Zero Dawn. One of the best aspects of this open world game are the stunning visuals that continue to impress long after you’ve started. From giant dinosaur robots, to plant covered ruined cities, the look of the game keeps pushing the player to explore every inch of terrain it has to offer. With The Art of Horizon Zero Dawn being released, gamers can see how the visual style evolved and relish the beautiful designs this game has to offer, without looking over their shoulder for a bandit or robot trying to kill them.
The Art of Horizon Zero Dawn (Titan Books)
The hardcover book, which clocks in just under 200 pages, is written and compiled by Paul Davies who has worked in gaming journalism for publications and websites including Official Nintendo and Computer & Video Games. I liked his approach and balance to the book as he doesn’t spoil the many full color pictures with too much text, but does lend useful descriptions and interviews by the artists who worked on the designs in relevant places throughout book. The insight from the artists help flesh out the many conceptual drawings and how they evolved, giving explanations for why certain choices were made, like picking weapons for a particular tribe or why the hair style of the lead protagonist was modeled a certain way.
The book starts with Aloy, the game’s main character. In designing her, you learn how the team originally had a younger vision of the character, but made her more mature in order to give more freedom in the narrative. It’s interesting to see how much thought went into designing her, in terms of showing parts of her personality in the clothes she wears. Her individual style is more unique than others of her tribe, which gives insight to her status as an outcast. She is both part of the traditional Nora tribe and at the same time an individual who doesn’t conform wholly. It’s these kind of insights that give the reader more depth and an understanding of the process of designing the game, which they may not consider when playing it. The designers realized that not all of the features of Aloy’s costume were entirely practical, but took great pains to ensure the costume was believable and consistent, which is amusing when you see comments on message boards from players who point like to point out details they may think are mistakes, but in actuality were given more consideration than is apparent.
The book is broken down by the tribes you encounter in the game, with explanations about each’s capabilities and focus, and how that played into how not only how their garb would look, but also their posturing, buildings and weapons. Since it is a large coffee table-sized book, there is plenty of room for each piece of artwork used for the tribes to stand out and be studied in detail. There is a section featuring an example of each tribe’s characters in various poses and dress along with explanative text and interviews. Further you will find a section on weapons, buildings and locations that fit with the theme of the tribe, and on it goes for each of the game’s six tribes (if you count bandits). Rounding out the book is a section on the animalistic robots that roam the land and finishes with a look at the decaying cities that now are covered in vegetation.
The artwork is beautiful; many hand-drawn and water color portraits fill the large book’s pages. The insight into the thought process behind every art design choice is very interesting. Author Paul Davies couldn’t have done a better job with the balance of explanatory text and letting the art speak for itself. However, if you aren’t a fan of the game, there simply isn’t anything for you–which is true of all game-art books, unless you have an interest in game design in general. It’s not a necessity for players, but it’s a very good at what it does, providing background context to what makes Horizon Zero Dawn so visually appealing.