I’m playing it this weekend for work.
Five hours in:
I’m pretty bored. The world is constructed out of many large boulders in a way that feels intensely gamey; the lighting and grass is up to par but it lacks the understanding of natural spaces that Witcher 3 has.
The combat is the most interesting part but struggles in its place in an open-world game. You’ve got several bow-like weapons: a shortbow, a line-trap setter, a grenade-lobbing slingshot. Battles heavily favor stealth attacks to take down stragglers/watchers on the edges, setting traps, and being prepared for the main target. Unfortunately this fights against only partially-designed open world areas that you may be tromping through to turn in a quest reward. You can tell they know Monster Hunter and want to get a quick version of that in but they would have needed to structure the world more like Dragon’s Dogma (several linear paths connected in thick branches) to get that result.
You’ve got melee and it’s well-animated but without lock-on it’s very difficult to know when to time your leaps out of danger. Again, there are pieces that might be used to construct a Monster-Hunter-y fighting system but it’s just a bit too loose and moves towards generosity too often.
Progression is weak; the skill tree is pretty boring and the crafting doesn’t yield interesting results, but a lot of busywork.
Interestingly they added BioWare-style quests across the map. Unfortunately they tend to be the most banal ‘help save my X who has run off’ with added moralizing possibly. It’s probably preferable to repeatable minigame activities, though. Quests have an unfortunate tendency to generate endless ‘follow the footsteps’ activities.
The world is best described as verdant post-apocalypse. It’s evident they’ve read Book of the New Sun and are trying to pull of some similar bits but the literalness of the visuals and thudding quality of the writing kills it. Most interesting has been a feint towards an imperial Roman power and its interactions with tribal religions which have sprung up in pockets. Pretty well done in concept but the writing often kills it.
They’ve been paying attention to Naughty Dog and are following Storytelling 101. There are a lot of obvious beats but it is motivating mission goals well; I cared a lot more about winning her proving ground because it meant so much to her than I would if it was just running for my life, for example. The main character is well-voiced and intentionally modern-sounding as she challenges the tribal culture.
Speaking of, there are several intentional steps to challenge AAA notions of ‘what must be done’ to sell; they aggressively front their female character’s role in a primitive, aggressive, male-dominated world and contrast the local tribe’s matriarchy with the habits of the other cultures. It’s milquetoast but novel in a game of this budget. Incidentally, the story is that the main writer left my current company because he wanted to push this direction; the Important Men at my company lacked any courage to make such rogue decisions as a lady on the box!