Nearly five years after the incredibly well received release of Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerilla Games has brought its fiery haired Aloy back for Horizon Forbidden West. The world is much larger this time, and while it can likely be a little too busy, Aloy’s journey is another one you’ll want to settle into.
What Is It?
Several months after the events of Zero Dawn, Aloy sets off further into tenacious lands to investigate the deeper mysteries of the Zero Dawn impacts on the world. Here, she has another opportunity to save the world, but this time on a grander scale. By heading out to the western regions of the United States, she can find out more about why machines and lands have been infected, and possibly save the technology that could give the entire Earth the reboot it needs. Naturally, these new lands bring more daunting machines, enemies, and situations to overcome. Reluctantly, Aloy must also learn to work as a team, with new and returning characters coming to her aide.
Why Should I Care
Considering the size of the game, there’s bound to be something you’ll end up caring about, but any jokes aside, the game is well managed with how it paces out its story, side quests, errands, and other activities.
The story and Aloy’s development shines above all else. For the story, it manages to tell a strong second part even while ending on a note that will bring about a bigger third. However, it doesn’t feel like much of a transitory piece, as it brings a full story and a reasonable resolution to the table without dragging out the story beats for too long. In this sense, the pacing and reveals work better than the first game, as you generally know what you’re dealing with but the twists add to the ever growing issues you must overcome. With Aloy herself, it takes her in a better direction by giving her allies she must seek help from. The relationships can develop enough without necessarily taking on related side quests, which helps build up enough emotional narrative that seems realistic. When certain situations turn drastic, the payoff is valid, but doesn’t feel like it was done for simplistic shock value; they feel earned and beneficial to Aloy’s growth (even if it can fit into a trope).
Meanwhile, the size of the game can work incredibly well for Forbidden West and enough against it to other degrees. On the positive side, which I really enjoyed, side quests, errands, unlockables, and challenges provide a consistent yet varied approach to developing your skills and beefing up your stats that will help significantly at the end of the game. I found taking out rebel outposts, unlocking cauldrons, and completing side quests to be the most worthwhile endeavors. And as much as I enjoyed the story, I often found myself going back to side quests and errands as part of my exploration or desire to build up weapons and skills. Side quests varied in shapes and sizes, so nothing felt overly stale.
That said, all of these activities do create some pacing issues for the game. The map itself is huge, and even though fast travel is a great and necessary option, it’s only an option if you happen to have unlocked a nearby shelter or fireplace. If not, you’ll be doing a lot of running, riding, sneaking, or fighting (or a mix of all of that) to get there, which can take some decent time. Additionally, some areas early in the map can’t be completed until you unlock some abilities that come just halfway through the story or almost entirely at the end, so they’re easy to forget or annoying to have to backtrack towards.
Pacing issues do pop up with some side quests and errands. Many are a hearty challenge, but some tack on two or three additional steps or responsibilities that drag out what would have otherwise been a perfect mission. It can either leave you with wasted time because you just had to check off a couple of boxes that a cutscene could have, or completely bruised up because you had to suddenly fight yet another boss-type enemy. Luckily, the level indicator in the menu can give you an idea of how long it may take, so it’s something to be mindful of.
And let’s talk bugs! This is something you might encounter from time to time. From my experiences, it’s really Aloy falling through the map somewhat out of the blue (and it’s hilarious). Nothing really completely ruined progress or broke the game, but in talking with others, that may vary. Either way, take advantage of loading up quick saves, and save often (just in case).
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
No doubt, Horizon Forbidden West is an absolute pick up for your PlayStation, either 4 or 5. Even playing on PS4, it was an absolutely beautiful experience to behold. The expansion of Aloy’s story was completely worthwhile. Horizon will give you a complete package of story, action, character, and adventure. It ends on a solid note but allows for more story to be told, without the current experience being undercut. I’d highly recommend getting this when you can, if you haven’t already.