Horizon Forbidden West Review
Horizon Forbidden West continues the story of Aloy half a year later after the events of the Zero Dawn, a young huntress of the Nora tribe sent on a quest to a mysterious frontier spanning Utah to the Pacific coast to find the source of a mysterious plague that kills all it infects.
On her journey across the uncharted lands of the Forbidden West, she encounters hostile regions filled with natural threats and ravaged by massive storms, dangerous enemies, and deadly machines, both new and old. As Aloy attempts to explore the wider and deeper parts of the Forbidden West, she discovers a vast array of diverse environmental ecosystems, including lush valleys, dry deserts, snowy mountains, tropical beaches, and ruined cities, both above and below the water.
Although I was a little late to play Horizon Zero Dawn, it quickly became one of my favorite games of last-gen. Between the character development, the landscape, the story….and I mean c’mon Robot Dinosaurs? What was not to like there. So as soon as they announced the sequel I was all in for a day one playthrough this time.
Similar to the first title Aloy is tasked with a time-sensitive task of saving the world….again….and this time she is literally the only one who can do it. This sequel did exactly what all great games should strive to do and that is enhance over what came before it. The controls and combat are enhanced for this game thanks in great part to haptics and the PS5 controller, feeling the pull of the bowstrings, feeling each strike of your staff into your foes, I cannot say enough for what this controller has done for gaming. This time around you have more weapons and customizations are your disposal, from the familiar fire, ice, and other elemental arrows to newer items like spear-launchers allow you to play the game as you want to. Personally, I like to start combat off via stealth, hiding in the tall grass or behind large piles or rocks and hit enemies with my bow, then rush in for hand-to-hand combat to finish them off.
Aloy’s skill trees in this game are quite extensive and really give you an extra layer to play as you want to in this game. There are six trees to customize for your skills: (Warrior, Trapper, Hunter, Survivor, Infiltrator, Machine Master) all with their own set of perks and advantages you can use to shape and customize your game style. Warrior is used to enhance your fighting and staff skills, Trapper focuses on traps, crafting, and efficiencies, Hunter assists with bow skills, Survivor enhances health and healing crafting, Infiltrator is for stealth skills and Machine Master helps you enhance your ability to take over and have machines assist you.
Some of the machines you encounter forces you to tackle them using pretty much every skill you have, and they are quite thrilling. Especially the bigger machines make for some truly EPIC encounters. Oh, and did I mention…. FLYING MOUNTS?!?!
Visually the game is an absolute stunner, from the lush forest environments, dusty deserts, chrome-covered cauldrons and snow-topped landscapes each area is unique in its beauty, sound, and design. The draw distance in this game is like nothing I have ever seen before. You could be standing at the top of a mountain and look down below and see in the far distance the machines roaming the fields, or the natives scavenging, smoke coming from campfires, it’s all there and breathtaking. I played the game entirely with my 3D headphones and was impressed there as well, of course, we know the voice acting is top-notch (and a few Hollywood elite added to the cast this time) but things like the clank of metal echoing in a cave, the babbling brooks, the animals in the weeds. There is truly so much to take in while you play.
The story is presented in a much better way this time, instead of relying so heavily on the recordings and text to fill in a lot of the lore of the world like it did in Horizon Zero Dawn, much of Forbidden Wests tale is done via the characters. The game feels a lot less lonely this time around. As Aloy has grown (but still continues to) she learns that her actions not only are to save the world but sometimes clash with other cultures and beliefs. Sure she could probably just barge in and take action but she is a different person this time around and is more accepting of others’ help. She does still come off as a jerk in some scenarios at first, but hey she’s trying at least. It’s a lot of pressure saving the world. The story also echos (scarily enough) a lot of what the world is going through today.
The world in Forbidden West is also very different than that of Zero Dawn. There is a lot more life in this world due to the multiple villages and encampments you encounter along the way, it makes exploring and traveling across this huge map much more interesting and fun to do. Every tribe you encounter gives birth to multiple side missions you can play through as well as a different look at their culture, customs, even costume design. The level of detail is never-ending.
The main campaign takes around 30 hours to complete. However there are so many additional activities you can do that add to that time greatly, and much like something out of Witcher the side quests are not just go here and fetch this, they often add a lot of story and take a good amount of time to complete. All in all, if you really want to explore all it has to offer you are looking more like investing 60 hours into this delightful game.
There is so much more to do and to explore in Horizon Forbidden West that I don’t want to spoil for you, but I will say this if you own a Playstation….This is a MUST buy.