I did not expect to enjoy Forbidden Horizon West, not for the first hour or so at least. Or zero dawn introduces us to a sympathetic heroine who is alone in the world and reveals a shocking secret, west forbidden is, initially, the largest of the suites.
The Aloy of zero dawn is seemingly gone, replaced by a capable hero with a craving to find a MacGuffin and a tendency for excessive banter with his traveling companion. The tutorial area is beautiful but claustrophobic, and the inelegant and noisy section pissed me off to the point that I wondered why I was even playing anymore.
There were signs of west forbiddenThe best nature of scatters, however – consoles with glimpses of other important people and organizations involved in the fall, a new tool for exploration, and preparation for a massive and exhilarating battle.
My feelings have warmed towards west forbidden when I scaled a shuttle tower and dropped a rocket on a group of robotic snakes – the fate that all snakes, machines or otherwise, rightly deserve – and when I faced the lone survivor spitting brood acidI realized I was addicted.
Forbidden Horizon West plays it safe, maybe a little too safe for such a huge sequel, but it’s so well-designed and fun to play that I don’t mind – very much.
Note: Some story spoilers follow.
Horizon Forbidden West: Staying Safe in the Wild
Things calm down after the long prologue, where west forbiddenThe character finally begins to show itself. Aloy returns to a familiar place to recuperate and figure out where to go next, though things quickly get worse.
To no one’s surprise, someone had less than pure intentions in mind when they did this. [redacted] at the end of zero dawn. Aloy’s quest to restore the land, freeing it from the grip of the life-devouring red blight, now becomes a mission to be found [redacted] again and prevent them from potentially repeating old mistakes – or worse.
The story develops in surprising ways, and the new tribes and locations are exciting additions to a world that felt a little too planned and predictable the first time around.
Stopping them means a trip to the west forbidden, but not before stopping to chat with old friends, if you wish. This social element is a significant improvement over zero dawn, where it seems NPCs only exist to explain how the world works. Now they feel like real people with a genuine interest in Aloy, and it’s almost always worth seeing what they had to say.
Only if you like world building, though. The only disappointment in this regard is how Guerrilla stops short of turning relationships into a system. Horizon it feels like it wants to rely more on its RPG elements, but the choices you make have little effect on the regions you explore or even how Aloy’s friendships develop.
Entering the Daunt after bidding farewell to the people of Meridian was an uplifting experience, largely due to west forbiddendesign.
It is no surprise to learn that west forbidden follows a fairly conventional open-world format, with large but sometimes contained areas crammed with icons, viewpoints, quests and other mandatory “things” set out in the ledger of open world game design. What’s different is that most of them are actually interesting and worth experiencing.
Vista Points are fun little visual puzzles that give you a glimpse of how the world has changed since fall. Ruins are full of platforming challenges and puzzles, including crate sliding puzzles, much to my dismay, with valuable crafting materials and XP waiting for you upon completion.
Side quests in west forbidden are simply excellent, though: well-developed vignettes around environmental challenges and unique enemy encounters that do more than almost anything else to help bring Aloy’s world to life.
Not that the world itself is boring. The Forbidden West and its surroundings are absolutely beautiful, and there’s a happy symmetry to meandering to follow a river – the water in the game is stunningly beautiful – and stumbling across a new puzzle or the playgrounds of some machine you need parts. It may be static, but it’s still rewarding and there’s a kind of comfort to walking around in such a beautiful setting anyway.
Vertical exploration is just as rewarding but in a different way. west forbidden has jaw-dropping platforming segments where you run over shaky beams or bridges that you know are going to collapse, and even though you know you’re (probably) going to cross, there’s always that feeling that you might just as easily fall to your doom.
The Pullcaster is a truly fantastic piece of equipment that further improves climbing and platforming, allowing you to reach far holds or launch yourself higher if you need an extra boost.
Aloy is among the greats in terms of mobile and nimble video game protagonists, which makes some of the heavier design choices here all the more bewildering. She can somehow get down an old skyscraper at a speed that would make Spider-Man blush and not suffer whiplash after stopping with the pullcaster. If you try to grab onto a ledge two inches above his head? Forget it, unless there’s a yellow handle telling you the area is climbable.
It’s a weird limitation that sums up the bigger picture west forbidden is in. Compared to zero dawn, there were fewer instances of me thinking, “This could be better in a sequel.” But the ones I met still stood out. The fight is one, namely Aloy’s Skill Trees.
There are dozens of new skills in west forbidden and new weapon techs to ideally add new ways to take down machines, but I didn’t need any of those other than passive buffs. Combat is largely unchanged since zero dawn: shooting at weak points, laying traps, beating with sticks until stillness, repeating.
You get exceptionally fun new toys to throw, including explosive javelins and, my favorite elemental bombs. Outside of some of the most impressive encounters with what amounts to dinosaurs and elephants, a lot of skills just don’t seem necessary. Modified spears and the right kind of bow and arrows are still how you win most encounters. And that’s fine, for the most part. But I would have liked to see a bigger evolution of Aloy’s abilities instead of just bigger machines and Continued skills.
Horizon Forbidden West Review: The Basics
- Excellent sequel to Aloy’s story.
- Absolutely beautiful universe.
- Fun, exciting and challenging open world.
- Exhilarating platform.
- Still strong fights.
- It’s always the same fight.
- Disappointing and safe design.
- Potential for interesting systems and more, but Guerrilla never explores beyond the surface.
I was hoping Forbidden Horizon West would shatter expectations and take the series to bold new heights. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the sequel, but it’s also impossible to ignore that there’s so much material to justify doing so much more than just creating better looking, bigger worlds with more stunning settings. west forbidden is a very good game. It could be even better.
[Note: The writer was provided the copy of Horizon Forbidden West used for this review.]