Crafting is firmly at the center of Horizon Zero Dawn’s role playing game loop. Players will spend a significant amount of time harvesting resources, machine scraps, and flora to facilitate the construction of ammunition, traps, and health potions. But while many of these items are genuinely useful in combat encounters, I still can’t help but wish the crafting system had more depth.
Horizon does find a way to make use of harvested machine parts; they are used in tandem with metal “scraps” to purchase advanced weaponry and items from merchants. It’s a fine enough way of encouraging players to hunt and loot, but had those components been reserved for a more complex crafting system that allowed players to forge unique and exotic items with a more diverse array of special effects/stat boosts, it would’ve really opened up the RPG side of things.
Horizon’s traps and potions are fairly one-dimensional for an RPG; not much deeper than what we’ve seen in linear action games such as The Last of Us. How about giving players the option to combine crafted shock and explosive traps to create offensive items that cause AoE (area of effect) slow down and damage bonuses? More detailed and traditional RPG-like item options might have added another layer of strategy to the gameplay.
This also extends to the game’s modification options, too, which are bought rather than crafted. Similarly to The Witcher 3’s Mutagens – enhancements that could be created via alchemy to produce dozens of varying effects on one’s character – the ability to tinker with modifications would put further emphasis on“building” Aloy into a more specific type of character.
And weapons aren’t able to be crafted, either. This is a rather bewildering oversight, given that much of the resource gathering is about harvesting weapons from fallen machines. When you consider what a superb job games such as Fallout 4 did in making every piece of scrap or loot feel valuable thanks to the depth of its crafting and customization system, Horizon feels disappointingly shallow at times.