The post-apocalyptic future won’t be so bad
By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer
One of the best sleeper video game hits of 2017, Horizon Zero Dawn is a post-apocalyptic dream. Societal collapse, the dangers of technological advancement, robot dinosaurs—this game has something for everyone. Its depiction of the future is at once bleak and hopeful, brutally nihilistic and oddly comforting. To fully explore its themes would mean completely spoiling the intricately-constructed story, so we’re going to avoid that. Instead, we’ll look at the concept, the music, and what it says about how we view the future.
Two things are immediately noticeable when you start playing Horizon Zero Dawn: One, the massive robot dinosaurs, and two, the dense and sprawling environments. The core concept of the game can be summed up with a giant metal Tyrannosaurus rex walking in a quiet wintery forest. Horizon blurs the line between natural and unnatural; in fact, many in-game legends have the robots as part of the natural world, along the same line as humans and animals; robots are viewed as being simply another aspect of life on Earth. This is pure futurism—a distant future where technology is seamlessly woven into the world, and advanced mechanical constructs are as ordinary as the trees.
The environments are the basis of the sometimes-jarring juxtaposition of a robot in a forest. Lush jungles, wide woods, massive deserts, and frozen tundra feel untouched by civilization, with most traces of mankind having been wiped away centuries before the story starts. This is also pure futurism, with the return to nature after we collapse, and the idea that humanity is very temporary. While the plot does go on to argue against this point of humanity’s transience, the imagery is undeniably impacting as once-massive cities completely vanish underneath dirt and new growth.
The music continues this theme of technological juxtaposition, fusing smooth synth riffs with violins and gentle, wordless singing. The result is something special: A video game soundtrack that reinforces both the atmosphere and the plot with each new encounter. Just like the robots in the game world, the synth sounds exactly as natural as the singing, incorporated perfectly to make something greater than the sum of its parts.
For Horizon, humans are not the greedy, destructive monsters that so much media makes us out to be. Instead, it portrays us as smart, tenacious, adaptable, and, more than anything else, a part of nature. Ultimately, Horizon works to show how distinctions between artificial and natural exist only in the imagination, and that humans, our creations, and the natural world can and do co-exist if we put a little work into it. Despite being post-apocalyptic, Horizon is optimistic about humanity and the future of the planet.