Horizon Forbidden West is set in the already magnificent world of 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn. But this time it’s more impressive and hugely expanded. Guerrilla Games took this sequel to something next level by graphics, story and every other way they could have done. They adopted many things from other games like Uncharted, Mass Effect to give the best experience to players.
Horizon is set in the aftermath of a holocaust that nearly wiped out civilization. Thousands of years later, civilisation has arisen that is a blend of prehistoric and futuristic, particularly in the shape of main character Aloy, who straddles two worlds with her high-tech gear.
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Horizon Forbidden West – Cinematic Trailer
Local wildlife and other tribes are your adversaries, but the latter are mostly mechanical, cable-sinewed metal monsters that seem like a combination of animals, dinosaurs, and straight-up fantastical beings. They also spit acid, fire, and electricity, so expect to see enormous chrome boars vomiting acid, a giant serpent spewing acid, and my personal favourite, a strangely dragon-like creature with a lower mouth formed of chainsaws. You’ll fight through these with a mix of old and new weapons, which means you’ll largely be leathering things with a spear that also has wi-fi connectivity.
Everyone in this new world has become accustomed to the dangerous robots roaming the streets, and they’ve just gone about their business, and one of the more fascinating aspects of Forbidden West is investigating how society continues to function. The wise strategy in Forbidden West is to send Aloy out into the vast scary – and titular – forbidden West, which means there will be a slew of new civilizations to connect with and investigate.
Aloy, though, is Forbidden West’s greatest asset. After saving the whole world during the events of Zero Dawn, Aloy has become one of the most popular persons in known civilisation, a far cry from the loner she was at the outset.
She’s lively, friendly, and completely unconcerned with the east’s newfound devotion. Despite the fact that she is clearly haunted by the task, her world, and her role as the saviour of humanity, most of the established characters in the game are furious at Aloy for skipping out on her own celebratory party after the first game, and while most of them want to help her with her newfound task of saving the world again, she steadfastly refuses help from anyone. Again.
Because it’s a tapestry that enhances the rest of the game, nailing this story is a vital part of why Forbidden West is so fascinating. Forbidden West would be a rather middling open-world game if it wasn’t so much fun to pluck at strands in the game. Even better, Guerilla Games recognizes that it’s merely busywork and follows in the footsteps of Assassin’s Creed by rewarding you with significant incentives for each quest, whether it’s a weapon for launching exploding javelins or a few skill points to explore the game’s vast skill trees.
Many players will be flitting from task to task as if they have a fetish for being lauded by NPC mission givers, and be certain that the game will continuously throw stuff at you, whether it’s an armful of fetch quests, fighting a combat trainer, or simply upgrading your gear.
Strike, Forbidden West’s own in-game title deserves special mention. This is a board game with collectable pieces that Sony is clearly hoping would scratch a similar need to The Witcher’s own Gwent, and it’s really rather engaging, playing out like a low-level tactical strategy game that’s a good break from all of the spear-stunning robots.
Unfortunately, when you’re actually playing Forbidden West, it’s at its worst. The action is reminiscent of Monster Hunter, with you aiming for weak points and attempting to rip off armour and components in order to obtain the greater treasure. It’s a fun loop, but the combat is sloppy and imprecise, and dodging strikes may be clumsy. Aloy also spends a lot of time with her bow, but it’s also a bit sloppy in combat.
You can get around this by immersing yourself in the game’s stealth mechanism. Even if a robot spots you while you’re crouch-running towards them, you’ll often have enough time to slip over the ground towards them and launch a stealth attack before they can notify anybody else. Bow assaults from stealth are equally simple, and as you progress through the game, you’ll find that these stealth attacks can disable most enemies’ formidable weapons or abilities before combat even begins. After all, the fire-boar can’t spray you with lava if his tank has already exploded, destroying much of his armour, can he?
Later on, when you get more tools to deal damage, this is mitigated, and combat becomes more engaging, but until you nail your battle flow, no one will blame you for putting out an audible sigh, and that clunkiness will remain no matter what you have in your bag of tricks.
Platforming can be clumsy at times. The previous game’s obsession with daubing bright yellow Aloy-brand climbing paint on everything you can interact within the game has continued here, which is a shame because finding a route becomes less about looking at a route and considering potential paths to the top and more about looking for that flash of yellow that will allow you to progress. The quantity of handholding you get varies by region, but you’ll seldom get through a leaping puzzle without at least a couple of yellow-marked handholds. It’s the largest party foul in Forbidden West, and it’s a problem that lingers throughout the game.
I tried to ascend one of the yellow-painted ladder rungs while in a dark hole, but it fell off and dropped to the ground. The path to the top was obstructed. I’d already used the Pullcaster – which is effectively a grappling hook – to rip a hole in the roof and pull a crate down into it earlier, but I was unsuccessful.
In the end, visiting Forbidden West is akin to visiting a theme park, but with a grumpy elder cousin who constantly chastises you for walking off. There’s joy in every direction, but you have to engage with it in the way Guerilla wants, or you won’t be able to enjoy it at all. The frequent verbalizations of Aloy, the yellow climbing paint, everything irritates me. It feels strange to bring it up because I believe most players would prefer a few hints to none at all, but I felt that Forbidden West was so eager to show me the path that I didn’t receive the satisfaction of figuring things out for myself.
Despite this, the mix of the unique world, intriguing narrative, and Monster Hunter-lite action make this game more enjoyable than the current wave of open-world adventure games. There’s enough wonderful stuff here to drown out the open-world fatigue, and it’s also quite charming.
Horizon Forbidden WestHorizon Forbidden West
- immense, open world
- Engaging stealth
- Looks fantastic
- minor stability issues
- Combat is hard at beginning
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Horizon Forbidden West is now available to pre-order on Playstation 4 & Playstation 5 and will be released on February 18, 2022.