The Accidental Tourist
Horizon Zero Dawn is one of those games where I don’t feel I can play unless I have two hours minimum to just sit there and play. It’s the kind of game where I will get easily sidetracked on my well-meaning way to the next stage in a story mission, so that the next time I look up at the clock, I’ve done everything but what I’d set out to do.
Yesterday was one of those days. I got home, took care of what I needed to, and then jumped into the game.
Because of an overheard conversation on either Twitter or Facebook regarding weapons, and because I was in the hunter’s camp that was the focus of said conversation, I stopped by the merchant and picked up a Carja Sharpshooter’s Bow. This fires precision arrows, but also fires special “tearblast”(as in “bear”) arrows that are specialized to knock armor and components off of enemies. I didn’t really need this bow, but I had been nursing the feeling that I was undergeared. I am still using the CE arms and armor, and a few encounters seem to be taking longer than they had previously, a sense I attribute to moving into more difficult areas, but also because I needed better weapons.
My goal was to travel to Red Rocks, which is the next step in a side-quest that isn’t the main quest but which takes me past areas where I need to be in order to progress the main quest. I am never not amazed by the visuals. The Red Rocks area is, in fact, made up of red rocks. I don’t know why that impressed me, but maybe because it was a subtle shift in ecology that eased me into the named zone. I don’t know, but I always appreciate the sense of being a trained hunter in an environment that obviously inspired Aloy’s hunting skills. The environment and the mechanics really support one another…at least, until they don’t, and that’s the best part.
As I was hauling ass down the road on my hacked broadhead mount I got a signal on my Focus that there was a powerful signal from over the northern ridge. Leaving the mount on the road like an abandoned car, I crept over in that direction and located a cauldron. I had gotten wind of this from a hunter in the last camp I was visiting, but the story was grim: the cauldron was heavily guarded, and there was something terrible behind the portal*. It sounded terrible at the time, so I vowed to return when I was of higher level (I was level 12 at the time). But I happened upon the cauldron just in the course of traveling, so what the heck, right? How bad could it really be?
There were two sawtooth and several watchers outside, who were easy to dispatch thanks to my new Carja bow. The cauldron opened using the same mechanism used to subdue dinobots, which is suspiciously convenient. The inside of the cauldron is 100% pure Cybertron — an advanced technological factory built into the mountainside that Aloy presumed to be the source of the never-ending stream of mechasaurs.
About 3/4 of the way through I ran into a shellwalker. A few nights prior I was demoing the game for some friends and we ran into a shellback in the wild who simply kicked my ass. This time, however, I had my new bow and a whole lot of cover. I used the tearblast shot to take out one of its claws and then continued to nickel-and-dime it from cover until I was able to take it down with my last tearblast arrow. I was pretty pleased, but I had no “echo canisters” and could not make any new tearblast arrows.
Cut to the inevitable end of the cauldron. When I first entered I had to rappel down from a ledge, which is the universal game signal for “I hope your affairs are in order because you’re either leaving on your feet or in an urn”. I knew there had to be a boss at the end of this thing, and sure enough — a fire bellowback. I hadn’t encountered this before, but it was a level significantly higher than I was. I was out of tearblast, but there was no other way out. Since the bellowback was dormant inside a force-field and didn’t seem to care that I was there so I crept around the edges opening crates. I’m glad I did because I was able to get enough echo canisters to make a few tearblast arrows. Once I was as ready as I figured I was going to be, I had to figure out how to drop that shield and start the fight.
Here’s the record of the event, which explains the rest better than I could
Thank goodness for the tearblast arrows, and that I had as many healing herbs and as many potions as I did. After reviewing the situation myself, I didn’t realize how many times I came this| |close to dying, only to pop a potion or stop in the right location to use my medicine pouch.
The benefit of the cauldrons is apparently that you learn to hack better creatures. I upped the override tool to the next level of creature although I can’t tell you what those are because nowhere (that I’ve found) tells you what levels allow you to do what to whom.
That was about it for the night. Not only did I not feel that I could top what I really felt was the “fight of my life”, but I had to attend to the more mundane task of “having dinner”. Thankfully I had bedrolls and was able to teleport to the nearest campfire to save the game because had I died on the run back to the campfire, I would have been really pissed off.
* One thing I really love about this game is how the humans — who have lost all sense of technology that came after 500BC — view technology at or beyond what we have today. I found a cache that offered me an “ancient bright bracelet” (a digital watch) and “ancient chimes” (a set of keys on a keyring).