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Photo copyright:Guerrilla Games

Horizon Forbidden West

Fantastic sequel which expands the horizons of the world

Last month
2024-04-14
gaming
Action-Adventure

Game review

Release date2022-02-18
PublisherSony Interactive Entertainment
DeveloperGuerrilla Games
PlatformPlayStation 5
Playtime78 hours (69 hours main)
ProgressCompleted + Platinum

I take notes as I play the game for things that I think deserve a mention. If something was not mentioned, it is considered "fine" and not noteworthy in any sense.


Horizon Forbidden West

This is a great sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn. It expands on the concepts and reveals a lot of new perspectives that were limited in the first game. Like the first game, this is what Ubisoft open-world games are supposed to be, but they never succeed in delivering to this level of expectations.

Pros

  • Great map design
    As in the original, the 3D zoomable map is great and is one of the best kinds of maps we have in games at this point. It's easy to locate yourself on a 2D plane and provides a good understanding of both terrain and altitude. Bethesda should take notes.

  • Amazing graphics and art style
    Few games to date take such good advantage of HDR visuals combined with an amazing art style. It offer a very colorful world and gives deeper depth to the graphics with big variations in forest, sea, sand, snow, etc.

  • Best water in gaming
    This game has the best water physics and graphic fidelity I've ever seen in gaming. When diving underwater, it also features natural water behaviors like water currents.

  • Human animations
    It shows great idle animations for what looked like every character in the game, as well as NPCs, which made it much more alive and included daily life conversations than most other open-world games. When you are very far away, you can't see the NPCs moving, but the surrounding environment is still dynamic.

  • Cinematic moments
    Even for side missions, this game had great cinematography, cuts, and montage direction. Many times it showed more emotion from the characters as well as facial animations.

  • Side quests isn't overwhelming
    In a game like Witcher 3, the type of side quests becomes overwhelming, and it's easy to lose track. I found this game struck a good balance in dealing with the side missions.

  • Side quests
    This game has great and interesting side quests, some of which, in other games, would be highlights of the story moments, like the whole balloon sequence over the Las Vegas sky.

  • Voice logs
    I felt this game had much more improved voice logs than the first game. I enjoyed listening to them every time I found one.

  • Alva
    I really liked Alva as a character; it could be that she and I share some personality traits.

Neutral

  • Varl
    From the initial hours with his new great beard, I wanted him to become a more important part of the game, maybe even have his own DLC chapter. But instead, they decided to kill him off.

  • Inventory system
    The inventory management was quite bad in the original game and it was a huge negative. It's still not a great system in Forbidden west, but it's neutral at this point. In this game, you have a "stash" like some older RPGs where overflowing resources go to. However, depending on the type of resource, what you can carry is limited. I still prefer having 99 or 999 as a single inventory slot. What was annoying was legendary gear required resources that you could only carry 15 Sludge, even tho you had hundreds in your stash, which made me always ensure that in my weapon wheel, I always had a secondary precision bow or a secondary hunter bow which I could craft any arrows with resources I could stock with 200 of instead of 15.

  • Day/Night Cycle
    I like how you can progress time at camps, but it's not a great system. Sometimes I would leave the game running for a while just to progress to the morning or night right before I started a quest, or as I was climbing up to a viewpoint. I would have preferred a system like in Assassin's Creed Origins where, after you unlocked the day/night skill, you could just go into time progress and stop it whenever you wanted.

  • Missing interactions
    There were several parts of the game I had completely missed out on unlocking; things like the painter or stitcher. I remember I didn't unlock them until around 45 hours in, but by that time, I had collected a lot of face paint and stitcher dyes.

  • Looting
    It's fun being able to loot everything from monsters, but you can also loot any chest that belongs to someone else. I wish there were a system for soft consequences when stealing from other humans in the game. Example, there there's no penalty if you stealth stole it and fled, but the harsh penalty of getting caught could be that you end up paying the person a fine and not getting any items.

  • Trophy list
    The trophies isn't as comprehensive as in other games. It's a bit easier than I expected for this kind of game. Where other games would, for example, have a bronze trophy for completing the easiest time trial at all the hunting grounds, a silver trophy for completing all on medium, and a gold when you complete all the hunting grounds within the shortest time limit, this game has one trophy for doing a couple on the easiest and nothing when you complete everything of something. Sometimes there's an in-game award, but no trophy. And this goes for most things in the game.

  • Voice acting
    Voice acting overall is really great, but with this game having a lot of different tribes and showing off many different cultures, it lacks any real accents, it was a bit too american english throughout the world. I rather seen more accents you can hear in Assassin's Creed, or to differentiate English of it's region of origin, as in Final Fantasy XII.

Cons

  • Graphical issues
    At rare times, there was some clipping on the clothes of the humans, but what was more noticeable was when you were flying the Sunwing at higher altitudes in more open areas like the sea, then you saw more pop-ins in the distance.

  • Cliche intro/ending
    Both the intro and the ending were quite cliché and something we've seen many times over. The intro is a pointless mission that leads nowhere, and in the end, the partner you thought would help you, turns on you.

  • Intro pacing
    The intro, from the moment you start and get to the first settlement, took around 2-3 hours. It's set up as a tutorial but lacks any impact to set the stage. It plays out like the first dungeon you go to after your initial hours of a game, but instead, it's the first thing you do. It felt like it was executed in the completely wrong order.

  • Assassin's Creed jank
    Sometimes the climbing has similar issues to those in the Assassin's Creed series, where you try to jump to a ledge and it does something completely wrong. Or there are places you think you can climb or jump, but you can't.

  • Bad world exploration = bad story pacing
    Once you start entering the Forbidden West, you also begin to hit a lot of places that are dead ends due to "Blocked path (missing tool)." This game does a poor job compared to Zero Dawn in terms of encouraging the player to explore the new world they just encountered, as all these "special tools" are locked behind story progression.

    For someone like me, this made the story progression completely messed up. I can accept the missing tool, but when I was trying to get to the big Tallneck and couldn't because I just wanted the map to show as I progressed through the game, it was too much. It made me go straight to rushing through story missions without any exploration until I reached the freedom point, which is the SECOND-TO-LAST mission of the game. By that point, I was 38 hours into the game. After I got the flying mount, I went back to the level 10 areas to continue my exploration of the world.

    This is a classic mistake old RPG games made, such as some of the Final Fantasy games where the ship wouldn't unlock until the far end of the game, completely hindering actual exploration during the playthrough and instead causing a huge pacing gap around 90% into the story, where you spend half of the time or more of the game without any story progression.

  • No big city
    I feel like every grand RPG should have a big city, a centerpiece of interest. This game had a centerpiece, which was Plainsong, but it still just felt like just a larger tribal place, not a big place like Meridian was in the first game.

Burning Shores

  • End boss
    The real end boss of the game is in the DLC. It's an very epic end game battle that was missing from the main game.

  • Great DLC
    Overall the DLC is a great addition to the main game. It adds a some good story parts to both Aloy as well the world it self.

Final thoughts

The game is a great continuation and opened up a lot of what is still to come. It did feel like Horizon took inspiration from the Tales of/Star Ocean games or other classic JRPGs where it's a stark contrast between the developed world and an underdeveloped world, however instead of there being a second or third twist or act of a single game, this is going to be its own third game in the series.


Final score: 9/10