When Guerrilla Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment decided to release Horizon Zero Dawn on February 28th, 2017, the bold single-player action role-playing game achieved critical success and instantly became a new first-party PlayStation franchise. Having now sold over 20 million copies globally across PS4 and PC, it’s clear to see why a follow-up sequel like Horizon Forbidden West was both expected and necessary.
Horizon Forbidden West doesn’t just reuse the same elements that worked so well the first time around but it also introduces several key changes that elevate the winning formula to new heights. It works as both an incredible entry in the series and an undeniable early GOTY 2022 candidate. Here are more of my thoughts on what you can expect from Aloy’s next adventure should you decide to prevent mass extinction again.
The Red-Haired Warrior Returns
Forbidden West takes place approximately six months after the events of the first game. Having been successful in saving the world and uncovering secrets about her origin in Zero Dawn, Aloy now finds herself in the midst of an ongoing crisis created by both familiar and new adversaries alike.
In order to save all life from extinction, she must travel to unexplored western frontiers ripe with mystery, new tribes, and newly discovered dangerous animalistic machines. The western locations include reimagined post-apocalyptic versions of Califonia, Nevada, and Utah with important landmarks that stand out. All of the crucial themes like navigating through politics within a post-apocalyptic world remain present here, but every event and interaction carries even more weight under the current circumstances.
Without diving into any story spoilers, I can promise you that Forbidden West is just as compelling as the first game was. It builds upon everything that we learned previously and offers some twists and turns that keep things both interesting and exciting. Fans can expect reunions with old friends, heated encounters with challenging bosses, and plenty of memorable moments from beginning to end.
Horizon Forbidden West is an open-world action role-playing game played entirely from the third-person perspective, meaning that there’s an insane amount of things to see and do. In terms of new features, Aloy now has the ability to swim and explore underwater areas. You can descend into the water by pressing the square button and quickly ascend by pressing the x button. Being able to swim is a gamechanger because it helps you discover more loot and gives you another way to retreat from enemies if a battle starts to become overwhelming.
Traversal, melee combat, and climbing mechanics have all been further improved upon too thanks to new tools like the Shieldwing and Pullcaster. Using the Pullcaster allows you to discover alternate ways to get somewhere while the Shieldwing can aid you in gliding from one tall structure to another directly below or across from it. It’s worth mentioning that using your Focus Scanner is even more important now as the tool is the key to uncovering secrets within the world and revealing vulnerable attack points on enemies. Below is an overview of the main controls that you will have to get used to if you are playing for the very first time:
|Left Analog Stick||Move|
|Right Analog Stick||Camera|
|□||Shieldwing Deactivation/Toggle Quick Swap Target|
|△||Focus Tag Part/Use (Prompt)|
|D-Pad ←||Tool/Weapon Technique/Override Mode Shift Left|
|D-Pad →||Tool/Weapon Technique/Override Mode Shift Right|
|D-Pad ↑||Heal/Refill Pouch|
|D-Pad ↓||Tool Use/Hold to Open Hunter’s Kit|
|R1||Valor Surge (while using Weapon Wheel)/Melee|
|R2||Focus Tag/Pry/Melee Heavy Attack|
|Touchpad||Open Menu/Show HUD|
In addition to understanding and mastering the controls, there are various things to keep track of in general if your goal is to get 100% completion and explore everything that this game has to offer. Here is an explanation of these sections broken down into 5 keys areas as they appear in your pause menu:
Inventory – This is where you can see and equip the weapons, outfits, coils and weaves, tools, ammo, resources, and special gear that you have unlocked, purchased, or traded for.
Skills – There are a total of 6 skill sections including Warrior (31 points), Trapper (20 points), Hunter (29 points), Survivor (29 points), Infiltrator (29 points), and Machine Master (26 points). Each section has passive boosts, weapon techniques, and valor surge abilities that can all be unlocked.
Map – This is your view of the map and important areas of interest throughout the world including campfires where you can save your progress and fast travel. When you start the game, the map is covered in fog and you only are able to see more of it as you continue to explore. It’s worth noting that the map is incredibly massive in size and scale and it will take you a while to progress through it.
Quests – This is where you can see your active and inactive quests throughout the entirety of Horizon Forbidden West. There are Main quests, Sidequests, Jobs, Salvage Contracts, Hunting Grounds, Rebel Camps, Rebel Outposts, Relic Ruins, Tallnecks, Cauldrons, and Collectibles. When selecting a quest, you’ll be able to see the objectives and rewards earned upon completion in the form of XP and Skill points.
Notebook – This is where you can see a record of all the data unlocked in the game including Machine catalogue info, collectibles, character bios, data points, game progression, stats, and tutorials.
As I mentioned above, there’s a ton of content to sink your teeth into if you’re looking for a meaty action RPG. Even after spending over 40 hours in the single-player campaign on the main quests alone, I definitely intend to go back to complete every available sidequest over time. This amazing world begs to be explored and it’s very easy to get lost in the number of hours that you’ll spend playing this game which in and of itself is a testament to just how captivating it truly is.
A Superbly Beautiful Game On Both PS4 & PS5
To simply describe Horizon Forbidden West as a beautiful game would be an understatement. The vibrant colors of foliage as the season changes coupled with picturesque landscapes and painstakingly detailed character models brings life to an experience that is nothing short of breathtaking in every sense of the word. Animation and cinematic sequences are a lot smoother too this time around. If you own a PS5 and 4K TV, you do have the option of playing on either higher performance mode or higher resolution mode.
When it comes to describing the key differences between both the PS5 and PS4 versions of Horizon Forbidden West, it goes without saying that you can expect faster loading times, 3D Audio support, DualSense haptic feedback, adaptive triggers support, and higher detailed textures with improved lighting effects to character models and environments. All of these bonuses are made possible thanks to the PS5 hardware.
If you don’t own a PS5 and want to purchase the game on PS4, you are still getting a phenomenal-looking game without all the added bells and whistles. The PS4 version also comes with a free upgrade to the PS5 version should you be successful in picking up the new console in the future.
With so many positive things to say about Horizon Forbidden West, I do want to be fully transparent about a few of the minor bugs that I experienced in my playthrough. In one of these instances, very early into the game, I traveled to a point of interest where I had to press the triangle button when prompted to complete an objective. Oddly enough when I went to the area, the prompt didn’t appear. When I restarted the save point a second time, the prompt did appear with no problem and I was able to proceed from there.
The second instance happened much later in the game when I played through an intense boss fight in which after defeating all of the machines, there wasn’t a prompt or cinematic to indicate what was the next step. Just like with the previous issue, this was resolved right as soon as I restarted the checkpoint but it was a bit annoying to have to replay that fight over again. The good news is that after receiving a patch update over the last few days, all of these issues have been corrected and therefore you shouldn’t experience any of these particular issues at all starting from day one. It’s worth noting that your own personal experience may vary from my own but for the most part I didn’t have any other bug aside from these two and the game as a whole ran smoothly on PS5.
If you can’t tell by now, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Horizon Forbidden West and can’t recommend it enough. If you loved the first game and The Frozen Wilds DLC, then you owe it to yourself to see how Aloy’s story continues. Guerrilla Games have outdone themselves with the sequel and delivered a truly incredible action RPG experience.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Horizon Forbidden West for the PlayStation 5 provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.