Horizon Zero Dawn, do you remember it? Do you remember the journey of young Nora outcast Aloy? The world fell in love with her as she saved her world from the dangerous machines led by HADES. A rogue A.I. with malicious intentions. 5 years have passed and now we get the second part of Aloy’s quest in Horizon Forbidden West.
I have a confession. After 5 years away from Aloy and the gang, I have almost completely forgotten what happened. The game does its best to naturally reintroduce you to the post-apocalyptic Earth Aloy hails from. The game opens 6 months later with Aloy trying to find a backup of GAIA so she can truly save the Earth.
The reason for this is the planet is dying. Machines are going wild, crops are dying and animals are being poisoned by the very air they breathe. Aloy is scrambling to find the GAIA backup to try and set Earth back on track. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles in her way. From a newly revived HADES to a group of dangerous humans Aloy is completely out of her depth. Is this too much for even Aloy to shoulder? Maybe.
Into the West, the Forbidden West
With all this happening to Earth and the only possible solutions in the Forbidden West, Aloy must traverse this new and dangerous land. Along the way, she’ll make new allies and encounter terrifying new machines.
So what works in Horizon Forbidden West? Honestly, the game is gorgeous. I played Horizon Forbidden West on the PlayStation 5 and it just looks exceptional. The various locales you visit, from barren deserts to lush jungles and snowcapped mountaintops, are beautiful. There were several times throughout my playthrough where I simply stood still and took it all in. This was helped by the ever enjoyable Photo Mode. This allowed me to save some of my sweeter memories. Now while you’re looking at those beautiful vistas the creatures that inhabit them, from the humans to the machines and the animals, are a mixed bag.
While the humans look great visually there is a strange sense of the uncanny valley about them. It has something to do, in my opinion, with their eyes. The characters at times do not look at each other, their heads will wander and they look like mannequins, very well designed mannequins but mannequins nonetheless. Also, I found the game did not load quickly enough. There were also rendering issues with buildings/characters popping in on a semi-regular basis.
I will say though the machines, on the other hand, are phenomenal. To the point where I genuinely got worried when I fought certain types of machines. The flying machines in particular scared me. The Sunwing many players will find are real pains in the ass.
Prepare yourself for an exhaustive adventure
In Horizon Forbidden West to combat all these machines, you have a plethora of weaponry at your disposal. All you need is the shards and components to buy them and you will have an arsenal to bring down any mechanical beast. So much that in my opinion you can easily be overwhelmed by the multitude of weapons, outfits, coils and dyes.
I say this because every weapon can be upgraded several times, enhanced with coils and then you have various outfits that have enhancements on them that can then be upgraded too. If that doesn’t have your head spinning enough watch out because Aloy herself can be upgraded across multiple skill trees. Each skill tree gives Aloy new abilities and enhances her passive abilities. What surprised me was the number of abilities on each skill tree. There are between 25 to 30 abilities on each skill tree and I tried to spread out my points to try and cover all my bases.
Not everything is chrome and shiny
You do need all these abilities though as you will be on a vast quest to save the world. The Forbidden West is huge and unforgiving (especially at harder difficulties) and so many people need your help. If you’re not focusing on the main quest you will be bogged down by side quests, errands, jobs, hunting challenges etc.
Though the main questline itself is engaging the sidequests can be a slog to get through. Many of them are fetch quests, also if you’ve played Horizon Zero Dawn you’ll notice that the sidequests have a similar style to the original. The developers have definitely gone for a: if it’s not broke, don’t fix it mentality. There’s nothing wrong with this but at times the game did feel like a high-end DLC rather than a brand new entry.
On the gameplay front, little has changed. You hunt your metallic quarry with your traps, bows and bowcasters in tow. If there’s been any change the melee combat has been given more attention. It is unwanted in my opinion as there is no blocking, no lock-on system. Melee combat is basically, duck dodge, dive and then destroy. It’s rough and frustrating. I found myself fighting the same optional boss for a solid hour because I found the whole system quite clunky.
I found Horizon Forbidden West a conflicting experience. For every part that I enjoyed there was an element that took me out of it. While it is brimming with content not all of it is fun. I also imagine this will be a completionist’s nightmare with the sheer amount of collectables, weapons and areas to explore. If I can sum it up it would be this: It feels like the studio has fallen into a routine similar to Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed franchise.