Horizon Forbidden West is finally here and it’s bigger and better in every way than its predecessor but hasn’t been able to captivate me the way the first game did. Am I burnt out by open-world games? Sure, who isn’t? Is the lore too complicated? Somewhat. Did this feel less like Horizon Zero Dawn and more like an open-world Ubisoft game? Yes. Is expecting a game to allow me to fully escape from what’s going on in the world truly possible? Probably not.
But ultimately I found the game was far too complicated and full of long cut scenes that got in the way of me having fun. I’m here to wreck robot dinosaurs. In every way, Horizon Forbidden West has built upon the game that came before it. Improving and adding a ton of new features that make your experience much meatier. Developer Guerilla took their rock-solid base from the first go around and expanded on it, and got a little too ambitious in the creation.
Once again you play as Aloy as you go on a time-sensitive mission full of mystery to save the world. Along the way, you will meet a large variety of characters, many of which could either be with your friend or foe. There’s a huge grey line running down the center of these people.
The story is conveyed much better this time around via cutscenes vs audio and text files from the original game. That said, the story is incredibly lore-heavy and users who skipped the first game will be very confused this time around. Being as how I hadn’t played the original game in over 5 years I was also confused quite a bit during the storyline. I’d highly advise watching a recap on the first game on YouTube. I fell in love with the story the first time around, this time around I felt bogged down. My brain wasn’t processing the number of beats it had to remember.
That said, there’s a whole lot of story here and deep down it’s very good if you have the patience to see it through. I wish the game didn’t depend on overly long monologues, especially at the start as the pacing is incredibly slow and I was quite bored by my first few hours playing the game. It’s not till you pass a certain point does it start to get interesting. When I say bored, I mean I fell asleep twice within the first few hours waiting for the game to open up.
The world of Horizon would benefit greatly from having a book tie-in and possibly even an animated series. There’s a lot going on here and I’d love to really sink my teeth into it. You might be thinking, I sound confused about my thoughts, and I am. I am as confused as the storytelling.
What I Loved:
- Both Performance and Graphic Mode are incredible experiences and the fact you can switch back and forth between them seamlessly is a hell of a treat.
- Facial expressions are phenomenal. Out of this world. It is the best I’ve ever seen.
- I don’t think I’ve ever said this, but the swimming is awesome.
- The environment looks fantastic, there is literally something to do every which way you turn.
- Aloy gets a much-needed upgrade when it comes to personality. She’s far less one-note which was a big piece of my criticism the first go around.
- The Skill Tree is fantastic and really allows you to tailor the game to your playstyle.
- The most visually impressive game I’ve ever played.
- Side quests are a serious upgrade from the original game. They are engaging and quite lengthy and introduce you to a whole heap of great characters.
- The strategy board game minigame, Machine Strike is incredibly addicting. I love it. I could just play that for hours.
- Robots are wicked, and fighting them is always fun. There are a million ways to destroy these big bad boys.
- I like that the world has rich lore, it just gets overly complicated at times, especially when it’s so easy to miss what’s going on by not finding the correct supplemental items hidden throughout the map
- Riding on the ROBOT is fun but it sure is easy to miss items when doing that.
- Motion controls are actually great. Turn those on for a real fun bow shooting experience.
- Combat is improved from the first game but still isn’t great. It’s getting there and I hope is something the team works on for the next game. There’s going be a next game right?!
- The human encounters in the wild have gotten way more kick-ass. Fighting enemies with your fists and spear feel great.
- This is both a like and a dislike but the whole game is simply overwhelming in every aspect. From the map to the combat to the story. It’s just a lot.
- There’s a great sense of freedom in this game, as long as you don’t get stuck on a cliff.
- Lots of collectible costumes and upgrades for your weapons.
- The PS5 Dual Sense never added anything to the game.
- Grinding the same loot over and over sure gets boring.
- The controls felt overwhelming and too ambiguous. There are just so many ways to things to remember I can’t imagine leaving this game for more than a few days and coming back to it and expecting to know what to do.
- The momentum was often interrupted by cut scenes.
- The game needs more defence options. Other than spamming the roll button there aren’t many ways to evade enemies, especially ones that can one-shot you.
- The grappling hook aka the Pullcaster was just ok. It never really impressed me, and I wish you could highlight things that could be hooked.
- I experienced a number of bugs and visual errors during my play-through, I’m sure these will be addressed in the near future.
- There’s a lot to do, but a lot of it ends up being all the same just in a different location.
- The incredible slow start. The first few hours are a snore.
- The hair. Look I might get some flack for this, but the hair was very distracting in both Performance and Graphic mode. It just awkwardly disappears and takes me out of the immersion.
I struggled writing this review, as I’m unsure why this game wasn’t clicking with me. I figured if I kept grinding it out I would relive that sensation I had playing Horizon Zero Dawn, but unfortunately, that never happened. There’s so much to love here but I am hopelessly overwhelmed by just the sheer amount of things to remember and do. Perhaps it’s because my personal life has a to-do list a mile long, it’s hard for me to focus and get lost in the game. Or maybe this just isn’t the game for me. Not every game is. I do love simplicity, and this is the polar opposite of that. I am going to keep going with this game, but I need a breather. Sometimes you just need to put the controller down and walk away for a bit. At least by then, the bugs and performance issues will probably be a thing of the past.
With all that said I really hope this game gets another sequel. Guerilla has certainly set the stage for a whole lot more of Aloy and her friends.
TLDR; If you want a game that is going challenge you mentally, then pour yourself a big ol’ cup of coffee and enjoy the long ride.