Back in 2017, Guerrilla Games broke free from making the FPS Killzone franchise to bring us what would be one of the most beautiful and fun open world action-RPGs in Horizon Zero Dawn. It introduced the world to Aloy who has gone on to become one of the new faces for PlayStation and appeared in many other company’s games since then whether it be Fortnite or Genshin Impact. Now five years on from making that original game Guerrilla is back with the sequel Horizon Forbidden West and after spending 40+ hours in this world it was every bit worth the wait.
I’ll start off this review by saying that I have finished the main story on the PlayStation 5 version and engaged with a ton of the side content. I haven’t 100% the game quite yet but I’m going right back to spend more time with Aloy in the forbidden west. I’ll also say that there will be no story spoilers here as like most things I review I feel like it is best you go in knowing as little about the story as possible. To give you an idea of what goes on in the story it picks up around half a year after the end of the first game and sees Aloy heading to the Forbidden West because her mission to save the world isn’t over with. There is a red type of plant called the blight spreading across the land killing everything along with dangerous looking storms in the sky. On top of that there is a new rebel tribe called the Tenakth led by their fearsome leader Regalla also standing in Aloy’s way and Sylens returns from the first game appearing to be up to no good.
The story in the first game was one of my favorite things about it as we got to slowly learn what caused the world to be in the state it was in while also seeing Aloy come into her own as a character. The story in Forbidden West is another roller coaster with plenty of surprises along the way that I didn’t see coming. While it doesn’t match the first game’s story it gets pretty close and that’s all I could really ask for. The game is packed with interesting and diverse characters throughout including returning faces like Erend and Varl while we also get to meet compelling new ones like Kotallo. The presentation when talking with characters is on another level from the first game too as characters are less static when conversing with the facial expressions and movement being much more realistic. It was very impressive to me that this went for pretty much every character I talked to throughout the game whether it was someone from the main cast or a side quest giver. Aloy has also grown more as a character and even though she comes off a bit sassy in this game I was here for it and got a lot of laughs out of how she would respond to people at times.
The world is Horizon Forbidden West is massive and full of various biomes, settlements, machines, and things to see and do. Guerrilla really made the world feel more livelier too as every settlement and tribe you come across feels distinct with people going about their lives in different ways. It reminded me a lot of going into towns in Red Dead Redemption 2 and watching how various people moved about and carried on with their lives whether it be watching them split logs or cook. Characters will even talk about things that happen in the world if you return to them later after events happen. As for the things you can do there is a bunch ranging from races, fighting arenas, a new board game called Strike that you can play against people in the world, secret treasure to hunt down and much more. It can feel a bit intimidating to see all the things on the map to do but I enjoyed every second of being back in Aloy’s boots exploring all that this new frontier had to offer. One puzzling decision that did bug me a little was how the team doubled down on how much Aloy talks while exploring. I don’t mind the talking so much as how she would outright tell me how to solve something before I had a chance to try and figure it out myself. It’s a minor complaint in an overall excellent game but one I hope the team addresses either in a patch or in the next game should there be one.
When it comes to exploring the land you have a lot of what you had in the first game as well as some new tools. While you still can’t climb anywhere like in Breath of the Wild, the team has made it a lot easier with many more points you can grab onto. Using Aloy’s Focus will make these grapple points more visible or you can toggle some option settings on should you so choose. It isn’t perfect and I did get stuck for no reason sometimes when climbing but those moments were few and far between. Machines can still be overridden and mounted for getting across the land faster and then there is the new grapple hook and glider. Both of these bring new possibilities to both exploring and the combat as no longer do you need to find a safe way down off a high vantage point as you can just jump off and glide safely down. In combat you can use the grapple hook to quickly fling yourself out of the way or up into the air and then come down with a melee strike or arrow shot.
Speaking of the combat it is just as exciting and exhilarating in Forbidden West as it was in Zero Dawn. There are both returning machines to fight from the first game as well as many new ones. Discovering every different type and fighting them in the first game was one of my favorite things about it and that holds true in this sequel. Whether it be the Slitherfang, the Tremortusk, or one of many others I found each to be fun to fight and bring down. You have an assortment of bows to use, returning weapons like the Ropecaster, as well as some new weapons like the Spike Thrower that launches explosive javelins. Melee combat against human enemies has also seen improvements as Aloy can do a lot more with her spear now. Aloy has more moves she can do and new abilities called Valor Surges allow her to pull off powerful, special attacks at times. You also have multiple skill trees that you can invest in now like Survivor, Hunter, Machine Master, and others. You can go about spending your points in different ones or if you prefer one type of play style just focus on one for the time being. Overall, your options when in combat and how you build your Aloy are much more robust now.
To say Horizon Forbidden West is beautiful is an understatement. Playing on the PlayStation 5 this game may be the best-looking game I’ve seen yet. You have a choice of two different modes to play on with those being fidelity where the game runs at 4K resolution at 30 frames per second or performance mode where the game runs at a lower resolution at 60 frames per second. I played on both but opted to stick with the fidelity mode to get the most out of the visuals. Everything in the world is chock full of detail whether it be the character models, the machines and all their moving parts or the grass, sky, and mountains. The water is maybe one of the biggest visual improvements from the first game as while it looked poor in that game, here it is some of the best water I’ve seen done in a game. The soundtrack is another excellently composed cinematic score and the voice acting is superb throughout from all the actors whether it be Ashly Burch, Lance Reddick, John Hopkins, Angela Bassett, or one of the many others. I also want to give a shout out to the DualSense features in this game as they make the experience better. You feel the tension on the triggers when pulling back Aloy’s bow while subtle Haptic feedback when moving through grass also makes the experience more immersive.
Horizon Forbidden West takes mostly everything that the first game did so well and improves on it to make it one of the early must-have titles for the PlayStation 5. The story is once again full of unexpected and emotional moments and the characters throughout are memorable. The gameplay has seen many improvements to make exploring this gorgeous world and fighting the dozens of different machines fun and exciting. Add those things with the top-notch visuals, soundtrack and performances and you have what is sure to be a Game of the Year contender come the end of 2022.
*Horizon Forbidden West is available now on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4. PlayStation 5 version reviewed. Review copy provided by PlayStation for this review.
Horizon Forbidden West$69.99
- Engaging story full of twists and memorable moments
- Diverse cast of characters that are fun to talk to and get to know
- Exploring the world is fun and there is a ton to see and do
- Just might be the best looking open world game we've seen
- New weapons and improvements to the combat make fighting machines and humans more exciting
- Had some minor bugs
- Aloy solving things for you can be annoying