Horizon Forbidden West Review — A New Frontier Full New Of Problems

The high­ly antic­i­pat­ed Hori­zon For­bid­den West has final­ly been released and, to my sur­prise, it’s not exact­ly what I had expect­ed. Not to say that the work Guer­ril­la Games put into this beau­ti­ful piece of art will go unno­ticed, because it has­n’t, but it’s not exa­clty all I was expect­ing. This is what hap­pens when expec­ta­tions are too high and your eager­ness to gain a new expe­ri­ence leaves you a tad blindsided.

First off, let’s start with the sto­ry. It’s a direct con­tin­u­a­tion from Hori­zon Zero Dawn (because why would­n’t it be?) where Aloy is first being seen six months after the bat­tle at Merid­i­an where she defeat­ed HADES. She’s been search­ing for a back­up of GAIA, the AI that helped to ter­raform and repop­u­late Earth after it was destroyed by FARO’s mat­ter-eat­ing machines. In order to do this, she must trav­el to the For­bid­den West–a volatile place con­trolled by bru­tal Tenak­th tribe.

Horizon Forbidden West Review - A New Frontier Full New Of Problems

How­ev­er, after breach­ing the thresh­old of Tenak­th ter­ri­to­ry, Aloy quick­ly finds her­self in more trou­ble that she ini­tial­ly antic­i­pat­ed. Of course, I’m not one to ful­ly spoil plots for peo­ple, so you’ll have to spoil it some­where else.

When it comes to how Hori­zon For­bid­den West actu­al­ly runs, it typ­i­cal­ly does well–but it does­n’t always reach the mark. I’m play­ing on a PS5, with HDR ren­der­ing on in Per­for­mance mode and frame drop is still appar­ent at times. Flash­es also dart across the screen (although it’s not too often), Aloy’s legs twitch when stand­ing on slight­ly raised sur­faces, envi­ron­men­tal col­li­sion issues, as well as some oth­er minor visu­al errors. 

Horizon Forbidden West Review - A New Frontier Full New Of Problems
Plant stuck inside this unbreak­able objects, could­n’t be picked up

Out­side of the afore­men­tioned visu­al prob­lems, For­bid­den West has an absolute­ly beau­ti­ful world. I missed the wan­der­ing herds of Lance­horns just doing their busi­ness in a grass laden breezy field or the group of Scroungers who are guard­ing their piles of junk. There is some­thing grat­i­fy­ing about see­ing this uni­verse; about see­ing sophis­ti­cat­ed machin­ery sur­round­ed by des­o­lat­ed struc­tures of the past that cre­at­ed them. Same can be said for the con­trast of native wood­en archi­tec­ture lit­er­al­ly inter­twined with pieces of build­ings from the Old Ones.

Since this title takes place in the west, there’s also plen­ty of bio­mes for Aloy to tra­verse through. This includes desert areas with dunes, tall rock for­ma­tions with plen­ty of shrub­bery, and even the Las Vegas strip. Then you’ve got the trips to the beach and the leisure­ly swims you can take in machine-infest­ed water. There is also the frozen moun­tain tops to scale, and mas­sive, lav­ish under­wa­ter zones to explore.

Horizon Forbidden West Review - A New Frontier Full New Of Problems

As a side note, char­ac­ter mod­els have also been refined with excel­lent detail, includ­ing affects like beads of sweat on flushed faces from being in the hot desert.

Horizon Forbidden West Review - A New Frontier Full New Of Problems

Com­bat in Hori­zon For­bid­den West plays exact­ly the same as Zero Dawn did–containing melee, ranged, ele­men­tal, and stealth styles. Play­ers can use a num­ber of weapons, traps, and potions to aid them in tak­ing down the aggres­sive machines–plus it’s sim­ple to change up styles once equip­ment is obtained to do so. I found myself eas­i­ly falling back into the same rou­tine I had in the pre­vi­ous game, and because the con­trols haven’t changed..as the say­ing goes: it’s like rid­ing a bike.

While the com­bat basics remain the same, the Skills have been com­plete­ly reimag­ined and it is refresh­ing to see a new tree lay­out, as I found Zero Dawn’s rather hum­drum. Each sec­tion revolves around one aspect of com­bat, like stealth, melee, and ranged, just to name a few. 

These sec­tions can be cus­tomized to an indi­vid­ual play­er’s style, with each por­tion includ­ing sev­er­al dif­fer­ent skills made up of the two new Skill types. Weapon tech­niques and Val­or Surges are those new types and they make tak­ing down the stronger ene­mies far faster than before. Obvi­ous­ly, this is a plus, as the larg­er machines require a decent amount of time to takedown. 

Weapon Tech­niques are the less pow­er­ful of two addi­tions, but can still pack a punch. These are tied to spe­cif­ic weapon types, such as a Hunter Bow or a Bolt­blaster, and they pro­vide the weapon with a unique attack. Only one Weapon Tech­nique can be equipped at a time. Val­or Surge is like an ulti­mate abil­i­ty, giv­ing Aloy a hefty attack or pas­sive abil­i­ty that great­ly improves one aspect of com­bat. For exam­ple, I’ve been switch­ing between Radi­al Blast–which pro­vides a pow­er­ful shock­wave from the Aloy’s spear that dam­age ene­mies with­in a cer­tain radius–and Powershots–that bol­ster dam­ager by a per­cent­age for a num­ber of shots.

Per­son­al­ly, I find these Skill changes to be what Hori­zon need­ed to fresh­en up the com­bat and make it a bit more lively.

When it comes to the open-world aspect of For­bid­den West, there is so much to explore and do. It can hon­est­ly be over­whelm­ing at times. it feels like every camp you pass has anoth­er side mis­sion for you attend to, on top of the already long (but impor­tant, infor­ma­tive, and nec­es­sary) main quests. I’ve even been to the same set­tle­ment sev­er­al times, just to have the local gos­sip give me anoth­er rumor to fol­low up on.

Horizon Forbidden West Review - A New Frontier Full New Of Problems

I enjoy hav­ing plen­ty to do in a large open-world game like this one, but it seems a tad chaot­ic when actu­al­ly work­ing through the vast map. Also, a por­tion of the loca­tions are clus­tered togeth­er, mak­ing it frus­trat­ing to just search an area for a col­lectible or fight off a Rebel camp with­out a herd of machines inter­fer­ing with the bat­tle. Oth­er than that, every new addi­tion made in For­bid­den West, from small cus­tomiza­tion options to mas­sive machines and gear, have real­ly ele­vat­ed the expe­ri­ence. Vari­ety is always appre­ci­at­ed in a large open-world game. 

If you’ve played Hori­zon Zero Dawn, I would rec­om­mend get­ting Hori­zon For­bid­den West just to see the con­tin­u­a­tion of the sto­ry. It’s just as spec­tac­u­lar and spell­bind­ing as when I first learned the truth about GAIA and FARO, who Aloy real­ly was. It was an exhil­a­rat­ing expe­ri­ence, one that is repli­cat­ed in For­bid­den West.

The game is beau­ti­ful with explo­ration and the addi­tions of small things like armor dyes and face paints goes to show that Guer­ril­la focused on all ele­ments of the sequel. Aloy’s Focus is now a more inte­grat­ed tool and she gets more inter­ac­tive with her envi­ron­ment, such as being allowed to grap­ple onto objects and swim under­wa­ter indef­i­nite­ly with a div­ing mask. These addi­tions, plus all the adjust­ments made to the Skills, have giv­en Hori­zon For­bid­den West just the right amount of oomph–making it a com­pelling sequel.

On a side note, I was not a fan of how the DualSense con­troller was used. I just felt that that could have imple­ment­ed more ten­sion when pulling on a bow string, or dif­fer­ent types of vibra­tions for ele­men­tal dam­age types. I still believe House­mar­que took this prize when they made Retur­nal which, in my opin­ion, has made best use of the DualSense.

If you own a PlaySta­tion 5 and you’ve played the pre­vi­ous title, when you get the chance, grab a copy of Hori­zon For­bid­den West.

I am a Platinum lover and an ex- Cod-aholic. I've been playing games since I was 5 years old and I refuse to quit, despite my mother's attempts to get me to. God of War and its successors are my all time favorite games.

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