In an interview with Official Playstation Magazine, Horizon Zero Dawn's Game Director Mathijs de Jonge detailed the game's weather system, and lingered on the nature of lightning in particular. Mathijs de Jonge said:
We had some prototypes, for example, we had some lightning strikes that would randomly hit enemies or randomly hit the player, but it just felt unfair because you have no control over it, it just naturally happens and suddenly you have a lot of damage. So we took that out in the end.
These differing approaches are a good example of how what works in one game doesn't necessarily work in another. Ostensibly, these games are both open world action-adventure RPGs. While Horizon Zero Dawn is a new IP, Zelda is an old familiar and we know what it's all about: Finding the appropriate armor or magical doodad to overcome fantastical obstacles.
In Zelda, that bolt of lightning isn't exactly random. It's the result of wearing heavy metal armor in a heavy storm. Within the ruleset of the Zelda genre, where you sink or swim in water temples based on whether or not your shoes are particularly heavy, that sort of environmental behavior is expected and workable. If you're in an area where lightning is a threat, the solution is simple: replace your metal breastplate with a leather jerkin. If you don't, you get what's coming to you.
From what we know of Horizon Zero Dawn, it's a very different game despite the genre crossover. Your problems are unlikely to be resolved by equipping the right mystic doohickey. The weather isn't a puzzle, but an obstacle forcing the player to adopt new strategies. Mathijs de Jonge expands upon this:
We have - in a region that you haven’t played yet - we have dust storms as well, which really limit the visibility down.
The Zelda franchise, and Breath of the Wild in particular, asks you to use your items in clever ways to overcome the environment. Horizon Zero Dawn, and games such as Metal Gear Solid V with similar weather systems, use weather to create dynamic combat. When you don't have a vast inventory of thingamabobs at your disposal, these elements can't be too punishing—and being randomly struck down by the Hand of God isn't compelling gameplay.
Your worst case scenario is the player gets frustrated and stops playing, but more likely, the player learns storms suck and decide to hunker down and wait it out rather than play through it. If that's the case, you might as well have not included it at all.
Horizon Zero Dawn is a Playstation 4 exclusive slated to release February 28. If you want to learn more, check out its trailer or the story of its creation. If Breath of the Wild is more your speed, we have you covered.
What do you think about weather effects in games? Let us know in the comments!