There is a good setting, and indeed a good story, hiding in the back third of Horizon Zero Dawn. The first two-thirds make reaching that excellent payoff perhaps a little too frustrating, but at the same time I am not entirely sure how I would have presented it differently. The game spends hours presenting a hostile, superstitious and often annoying world which genuinely feels like the sort of tribalistic society that would emerge in a post-apocalyptic world, but at the same time it plays so heavily on how regressive the world is it becomes difficult – from perspective of the protagonist, and by extension the player – to forgive them enough to save them.
Note: This review also talks about the plot of Turn-A Gundam, as well as discussing details of the story of Horizon: Zero Dawn.
What set the various series of Aria out as an interesting story both on a personal and conceptual level was their idyllic – genuinely utopian – attitude. Nostalgia for an imagined urban society less insular of the past, as well as a future of economic security where people worked for pleasure rather than survival, provided a backdrop for a series of stories about personal identity and the importance of doing what matters personally, rather than what others might expect. It ended on a hopeful note – the characters all found their places within society and life continued despite the changes that everyone underwent. In this way the story as a whole was a comforting one about coming to terms with how – even in a society where nobody truly lacks for anything – live must change and not stagnate.