April 12, 2017

Horizon Zero Dawn Content Guide + Review

The Hunger Games meets Skyrim.

Release Date: February 2017

Developer: Guerilla Games

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Platforms: PlayStation 4

Genre: Action RPG

Content Verdict: Caution Advised (For Bloody Violence and Moderate Language)

Content Guide:

Violence/Intense Content: (7)

General Violence: Players take on the role of Aloy, a young hunter with a motivation to discover her origins. Trained in combat, Aloy takes on foes of robot and human substance. Combat is marked by a frantic pace and heightened intensity.

Robots surge with electricity when shot, finally exploding after taking enough damage, strewing wreckage across the environment.

Human enemies can be struck by arrows or spears; the arrows impale their bodies, with cries of pain, with resulting blood. When struck enough, they let out a death cry and collapse. 

Players can also strike them with fiery darts, which briefly sets them alight. They collapse after being burned a significant amount, but the actual detail in the injury (the immolation) is little,. 

As mentioned, players can also attack enemies with spears when the combat gets up close and personal. A "wet" slicing noise is heard, with a small splash of blood and cries of pain. On occasion, the camera will linger on the stabbing, but once again, with minimal detail.

Guns are wielded against various foes, with bloody results; we see blood clouds bursting out and hear impact noises as the bullets thud into their bodies. (7)

Storyline Violence:

--A man is shot in the back by an arrow, a burst of blood as it impales him through his chest. He removes the arrow swiftly and engages in a knife-fight with his attacker. They wrestle with each other in an extended sequence, cutting and slicing repeatedly. The former man ends the fight by stabbing the initial attacker in the chest, a slice heard but the knife is obscured by the man's shoulder. (7)

-Two people can be executed after surrendering; they are impaled quickly by a spear, with no blood shown and a brief sound effect heard as they collapse, dead.

--A group of people are shot by arrows, some of which are flaming; the impacts of the arrows are shown, with the characters crying out in pain and collapsing. (6)

--A woman is shown lying on the floor after apparently having been tortured; we see a bit of blood on her face, running down from her nose. She has a brief conversation with a man before dying. (6)

--We see a couple of mummified corpses inside a room. A video recording shows that they died from asphyxiation due to the room being drained of oxygen. We briefly see them struggle and fall over. (5) 

Sex/Nudity: (3)

--A couple of verbal references, some referring to pornography, according to the ESRB summary. During my time with this game, I didn't come across any sexual references.

Language: (5)

Infrequent uses of S**t, A*s, and other profanities.

God and Jesus' names are used in vain.

Spiritual Content: (4)

--Tribal magic is an integral part of the story. A tribe of people profess belief in a "Goddess", whom they perform several Native American-esque rituals to, which include marking participants, "blessings", dreamcatcher imagery and so on.

An extended scene revolves around the tribe kneeling before "prayer lanterns", which they light and send off into the sky. The tribal leaders then keep praying to the "All-Mother", the sacred goddess of their belief.

They refer to certain robotic creatures as "demons" and even refer to "curses". All of these, however, are shown to be caused by technology and not any kind of magical force. 

A ritualistic cult is mentioned to be worshipping a specific kind of "devil", which later turns out to be something non-spiritual. (4)

-References are made to Greek Mythology and its respective gods, with all having a specific context in the storyline. For a deeper look at the spiritual content in the game, please refer to the conclusion below.

Drug Content: (4)

--A couple of references to drinking, alcohol, and hangovers. A man is implied to be drunk in a few scenes, and talks about drinking his sorrows away. (4)


Players are given moral choices throughout the game, allowing a player to be compassionate, logical, or vengeful. These choices have very little impact on the game besides dialogue choices, but they can add a bit of depth to an otherwise black-and-white "Hero's Journey" story, involving you as the Hero who sacrifices for those lesser than you.

Themes: Religious repression, death and rebirth, cloning, artificial intelligence, family, betrayal, fanaticism.


I was having a lot of trouble writing this conclusion, as Horizon: Zero Dawn actually does have a lot to talk about. However, as this is a Christian site, we will focus on the aspect of religion in the game.

Not shy to treat narrow-mindedness with the appropriate criticism, Zero Dawn's story involves a lot of power-plays from multiple groups with conflicting motivations. The first of which is a pagan-esque belief system viewing some of the AIs in the game as "gods".

Upon figuring out that the machines are nothing more than just that, the heroine of the story doesn't mince words with her former tribe regarding her former beliefs. Errant religious beliefs are shown to have destructive effects. Ignorance is ignorance, and keeping people in the dark for fear of "offending" them isn't an option.

While the treatment of cults might be uncomfortable for some Believers who see it as having parallels with mainstream Christianity, especially in Evangelical circles, the message is in line with what we believe here at KVR Gaming. Any kind of cult-like system of beliefs, excluding reality and refusing to listen to outsider opinions (so long as they are truthful or containing elements of truth) is wrong.

Now, as I'm seriously lacking time to be able to do a full review, I'll just give you a quick one here: The open-world seems to be fun, with plenty of skills to upgrade and lots of bang for you buck. The story is compelling, and takes on some surprising and highly intriguing twists. The characters are okay, even if the "dead eye" effect of the facial animations makes them look a little, well, dead.

If you have a PS4, get the game. Play it. You won't regret it.

Content Verdict: 16+

For Bloody Violence and Moderate Language

Outro: Thanks for tuning in again. Quite an interesting game, right? Well, let me hear it. What are your thoughts on The Hunger Games-I mean, Horizon Zero Dawn?

Let me know in the comments below. Be sure to share for all your friends and family to join the discussion. Check out my YouTube channel, follow my Twitter, all that good stuff.

Until next time!

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