Summer Book Club Review: The Art of Horizon: Zero Dawn

Welcome to VGBlogger’s Summer Book Club! All summer long, we will be providing weekly book reviews across a wide range of geek favorite categories, including art, comics/graphic novels, fantasy, gaming, and sci-fi, and welcoming you to join in on book discussions in the comments. So whether you’re heading out for a road trip, going on vacation, lounging beach/poolside on a nice sunny day, relaxing inside away from the summer heat, or simply searching for a good read to fill your free time, follow our Summer Book Club for our top picks of what you should be reading during these hot summertime doldrums. Please enjoy!

Killzone has always been a graphical powerhouse, each installment squeezing every last ounce of polygon-pushing might out of whichever Sony platform it has appeared on. But as technically impressive as those games have been, they’ve been known for their gritty realism and usually drab color palettes, not so much for being pretty or having a distinct sense of artistic identity and direction. With Horizon: Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games has finally matched its pure polygonal prowess with a rich, artistically vibrant game world.

The Art of Horizon: Zero Dawn, at 192 pages, chronicles the exhaustive creative process Guerrilla’s art team went through over six years of conceptualization and development, all an effort to realize an open-world experience larger and more diverse than anything before it. Mission accomplished, as this hardcover masterpiece by Titan Books demonstrates.

Unlike most art books, which present artwork in general categories like character designs, environments, props, costumes, and so on, The Art of Horizon categorizes everything by tribe. Each chapter focuses on an individual tribe, compiling illustrations, sketches, and paintings that tell the cultural story of said tribe. Aided by informative creator commentary, this format allows you to better learn about the thought process behind the different tribal cultures and how they compare and contrast in terms of dress, hairstyles, architecture, religious customs, iconography, levels of advancement in technology, and overall societal development.

Naturally the book opens with the Nora tribe and a spotlight on the game’s red-headed heroine, Aloy, where you’ll learn about her core influences from the story of David and Goliath, as well as her evolution from a character who was originally going to be played as a child, youthful and expressive, to the more mature, realistic, and believable character that was ultimately portrayed in the game.

In addition to the tribes, the game’s iconic machines and dino-robots are featured in a dedicated chapter, complete with commentary on how the artists found inspiration from the animal kingdom past and present, used exaggerated shapes to construct a visual language establishing each creature’s function within the ecosystem, and set out to find that perfect balance between natural and organic creature design blended with elements of advanced machinery and technology. A robotics professor was even consulted, all for the sake of authenticity in accomplishing this goal.

Keeping thumbnails to a minimum, the book is brimming with page-filling art and gorgeous two-page spreads that convey the sense of awe and wonderment Guerilla sought to and did achieve in the game. These action shots and environmental vistas, usually drawn with Aloy somewhere in the foreground dwarfed by a machine or set piece in the background, represent the grand scale of the game world in such a way that it’s easy to become lost in a piece, not wanting to turn the page.

I do have to say, though, that a couple of the larger images are heavily artifacted and grainy, like they were poorly upscaled from a low resolution. One spread later in the book is particularly murky. Thankfully this really only applies to one or two glaring cases, which is a small percentage but still disappointing given the overwhelmingly gorgeous quality seen throughout the rest of the book.

Even with a couple blemishes, one thing’s for sure: the post-post-apocalypse has never looked so beautiful. Scroll down the page for a gallery of sample photos to get a sneak peek inside the book.

Buy From: Amazon or Titan Books for MSRP $39.95.

Disclosure: Review copy for The Art of Horizon: Zero Dawn was provided to VGBlogger.com by Titan Books.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!