I bought Horizon Zero Dawn knowing that I would not finish it immediately. Why? The answer is simple.
I know myself. And I know that Mass Effect: Andromeda is coming out next Tuesday. Characters from Dragon Age: Inquisition, a game that came out in 20-fucking-14, are still rattling around in my brain, and another character-heavy action Bioware RPG is coming out next Tuesday.
I haven’t started a new game since before January, because I’ve been too worried that I’ll start a new game and never finish it — because I’ll be playing Mass Effect. And yet — I bought an entire PlayStation so I could play Horizon Zero Dawn (OK, and also The Last Guardian, and eventually more Kingdom Hearts and The Last of Us).
I’m setting up painstaking systems of traps for my machine enemies, leaping up cliff faces to help out the latest extravagantly dressed tribesperson I just met, riding metal horses over rabbits and other small game. I know I will not finish Horizon by next Tuesday. I know that I’ve got a significant portion of the game ahead of me, and that on top of that, I love crawling around mountains for every last collectible.
But I’m no longer worried that I won’t come back to it; the game is just that good. And I’m not worried that I’ll have no idea where to start when I get back — because of the versatility of Horizon’s quest log.
Much has been written about Horizon’s many small, nearly invisible quality-of-life features. Let this be my ode to Horizon’s quest log, and let it begin with the level of categorization here.
Only three of the categories in the left column here contain actual story quests, the sorts you get by talking to vital NPCs. The rest, from Bandit Camps down, are categories for location-specific challenges — if you discover one on the map that’s too difficult for you, it will be automatically put in your quest log for later.
From this initial view of the quest log, you can scroll through and observe all of your quests at a glance, including whether they’re too high-level for you and — this might be my favorite feature — how far away they are. Just want to go do the nearest thing? You don’t have to spend a bunch of button taps and stick waggles comparing map locations. It’s right there: Just look at the number next to the footprints icon.
Set an active quest, and a marker will lead you to it — not as the crow flies, but actually by following the forks and turns of decent, human roads. Just came back to the game after two months? Can’t remember the best way to get around that mountain? Not a problem.
Select any of these categories and you’ll get a more detailed scroll-through of each quest in it, with a bit of a plot reminder of why you’re doing it, what you’ve done for it so far, and what your next step is. With a button press, you can also see precisely where the next objective is on the map. And, whatever, that’s pretty standard quest log stuff, but I do want to give a shout-out to the implementation of the “show on map” feature, which makes it just as easy to inspect the whole map area, instantly set that quest as active and start traveling to it as it does to take a quick look at its location and then go back to the log.
But perhaps the crowning feature of Horizon Zero Dawn’s quest log is that it can also be used to track your resource gathering. Two to three months from now, when I finally come down off my Mass Effect: Andromeda high, I hope I still remember where I am in the plot of Horizon Zero Dawn. I know I won’t remember how many fish bones and rabbit skins I need to find in order to upgrade my potion-carrying capacity.
But it’s OK, because whenever I encounter a merchant who wants a rare material in exchange for a high-powered weapon, or I’m one turkey gizzard short of a bigger quiver, I can enter that resource deficiency as a quest in the “Errands” section — not a separate crafting list — using a single button press. That quest entry will tell me what I need, and what I need it for. And just like the location-specific challenges, those quests will hang out in there until I’m ready to do them. They won’t disappear and have to be hunted down in the crafting menu if I set something else as “active.”
So thank you, Horizon Zero Dawn, for understanding that I am going to leave you for Mass Effect: Andromeda. It’s comforting to know that you’ll keep the lights on for me while I’m in space.
I’ll try to bring you back a souvenir.