Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition (for PC) Review (2024)

Horizon Zero Dawn was one of 2017's hottest games. It stood as one of the best PlayStation 4 exclusives, right up there with Bloodborne, Spider-Man, and the God of War reimagining. Now, more than three years later, you can enjoy its open-world action on PC, thanks to the $49.99 Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition. This PC game contains the base game, plus The Frozen Wilds DLC (an additional area featuring more story content and collectibles), and easily holds up as a huge, dense, worthwhile adventure.

Aloy, Hunter From the Future

This is a post-post-apocalyptic game, where everything ended so long ago that there was time for new societies and customs to grow (similar to Adventure Time or Thundarr the Barbarian). In Horizon Zero Dawn, the world we knew was destroyed by an unknown event countless generations ago, and all that’s left are overgrown ruins and wildlife-like machines that rule the land. Civilization hovers between the stone and bronze ages, with tribes and kingdoms living alongside herds and robot packs they don't understand.

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You play as Aloy, a member of the superstitious Nora tribe with uncertain origins that seem to be connected with the old Metal World. After the tribe is attacked, Aloy is sent beyond her people's sacred lands to find out why—and hopefully better understand where she came from.

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Into the Wild

Horizon Zero Dawn is a third-person, action-adventure game set in an open world that's similar in structure to Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed, God of War, or Far Cry. Aloy uses her spear and various bows, slings, and other tools to explore a sprawling land of various settlements, bandit camps, and ruins. As she explores, she earns experience which increases her level, giving her increased health and additional skill points for unlocking new abilities in a relatively simple skill tree.

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Aloy is a capable hunter and fighter, which is important because the wild holds many dangers. Most machines are hostile in some way, requiring careful maneuvering to navigate around them or effectively attack them. Stealth plays an important role, with tall grass hiding your movements and letting you thin enemy groups before they're aware of your presence. You can set traps and snipe from hiding places, and if you spend the skill points, you can perform silent instant kills as machines and bandits walk by.

When fighting breaks out, Aloy utilizes a large variety of weapons. Aloy's spear is her only melee weapon, but it's effective at knocking off enemy armor plates and causing significant damage to both machines and humans. She also employs bows for shooting enemies at different ranges with specialized arrows that cause elemental damage (or have other effects). She even uses tripwire guns and slings to fight and control the battlefield. You start with simple and limited weapons, such as a basic bow and arrow and a shocking tripwire gun, but eventually you'll juggle multiple slingshot-launched bombs, manually placed traps, sniping- and medium-range bows, and an arrow-shotgun that fires bolts at close range.

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It's easy to be overwhelmed if you aren’t prepared for combat. Thankfully, Aloy has Focus, a relic from the old world that serves as a short-range scanner by highlighting nearby machines and humans. Focus also lets you follow tracks and see the intended paths of nearby machines, giving you a distinct upper hand when sneaking and stalking.

The action and exploration feels suitably challenging, without being overbearing or unforgiving. You need to stay aware of threats while you’re outside, but staying close to paths will keep you relatively safe and let you decide when and where to engage enemies. Combat is varied, with multiple ways to effectively deal with threats. There's a good mixture of direct fighting and stealth.

A Massive Map

The game is huge, with a sprawling map that covers miles of land across various environments, from forests to frozen steppes to deserts. Thanks to the inclusion of The Frozen Wilds DLC, Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition is larger than the original game, with a frosty region added to the map that becomes accessible partway through the game. It’s nicely dense, filled with settlements, ruins, machine grazing areas, and bandit camps you can explore on your own or zig-zag between while performing quests.

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The game's main story keeps you occupied with one or two primary quests at a time, but you can pick up many secondary quests and errands from non-player characters. Successfully completing these missions rewards experience points and useful items. The quests range from rescuing stranded people to finding lost items, and they provide incentive to explore the map.

There are many collectibles to find outside of side quests, such as metal flowers, ancient vessels, and tribal artifacts. There are also scalable vantage points and mysterious machine ruins called Cauldrons to explore. Rushing through the main story might last a dozen or so hours, but really clearing the map can easily take 60 hours or more.

Like many open-world games, Horizon Zero Dawn feels a bit repetitive after a while. It offers satisfying quests and locales, but clearing out bandit camps and running errands wears on you. The huge world and open structure prevents the game from feeling very tightly paced or focused, which drains a sense of forward momentum. This is a fairly common issue with big games like this, but it’s one to keep in mind.

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Because the map is so massive, you need convenient ways to travel around it. A good part of the game is spent exploring on foot, but you can eventually tame machines and ride them like mounts. The dozens upon dozens of campfires that serve as save points in the game double as fast travel locations, letting you zip between them when you're outside.

Under the Hood

Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition requires a PC to pack, at the minimum, an Intel Core i5-2500 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 GPU, 8GB of RAM, and 100GB of disk space. Its recommended specs include an Intel Core i7-4770 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, and 16GB of RAM.

I played the game on a PowerSpec 1510 gaming laptop with an Intel Core i7-7700 CPU, a GeForce GTX 1070 GPU, and 16GB of RAM. The in-game benchmark revealed that the machine pushes Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition's polygons at a 51 frames-per-second average, with all graphics options set to High.

In addition, my PC reliably runs Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition at the Ultimate graphical setting (2,560-by-1,080 ultrawide resolution), while maintaining a frame rate above 30fps. The game occasionally chugs for a few seconds at this setting, with severe frame rate dips, but these moments are few and far between. The performance drop generally indicates overworld loading than any action-related issues.

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At the highest graphical settings, Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition looks excellent at ultrawide, 1080p resolution. The game's a three-year-old title, so it doesn't match the graphical detail found in recent games like Ghost of Tsushima or The Last of Us: Part II. Still, the environments are full of little touches that add to the world, such as tall grass that sways in the wind and shifts as you sneak through it.

Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition's artificial wildlife really makes the game stand out from other open-world adventures, like the recent Assassin's Creed games. The machines are intricate and move smoothly, behaving like neon-wrapped wild beasts that are just as likely to fire lasers at you as they are to charge and pounce.

Human characters are detailed and realistically animated, though their facial expressions aren't particularly lifelike when compared to The Last of Us: Part II. People don't look like goofy mannequins, but you won’t mistake them for actors, either.

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Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition (for PC) Review (17) Why You Should Game on a PC

From PlayStation to PC

Horizon Zero Dawn was critically acclaimed when it came out in 2017, and it still stands as a fantastic game in 2020. The PC port is capably produced, with strong performance even on mid-range gaming hardware. It offers a massive, fascinating open world to explore, one that's filled with primitive tribes and mysterious robots; you can easily lose dozens of hours stalking, fighting, and discovering its secrets. If you didn't play it when it came out on the PlayStation 4, now's the perfect time to pick it up. Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition earns our Editors' Choice.

For more Steam game reviews and previews, check out PCMag's Steam Curator page.

Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition (for PC)


Editors' Choice

See It$49.99 at Steam

MSRP $49.99


  • Engaging, varied combat

  • Striking caveman-meets-sci-fi aesthetic

  • Huge world to explore


  • Open-world repetitiveness

  • Occasionally chugs for a few seconds in spots

The Bottom Line

Horizon Zero Dawn's PC port lets you hunt robot animals and explore a massive post-apocalyptic world on your own computer, with consistent and reliable performance.

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Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition (for PC) Review (2024)
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