Horizon Forbidden West Review: Our Favourite Machine Killing Heroine is Back and She has New Tricks up Her Sleeve

Horizon Forbidden West is the sequel to the excellent 2017 game Horizon Zero Dawn from Guerrilla Games that takes forward the story as an ideal sequel.

I did not play Horizon Zero Dawn until it was released for the PC version since I did not have a Playstation back then. And when I did, the tale of the shunned Aloy hit me hard and the meta of killing fantastical mechanical animals intrigued me beyond anything.

Needless to say that I was excited to see how Guerrilla Games continues the tale of Aloy, Sylens and god-like AI named GAIA. To that end Horizon Forbidden West holds up to the promise made by the developers at the end of the first game of a new chapter that will bring an even more exciting tale.

Horizon Zero Dawn was released back in 2017 and in 2020 Guerrilla Games first announced Horizon Forbidden West. The developers took their time to bring what can only be described as an apt sequel that brings an evolved experience to the players.

How Does the Tale of Aloy Continue

At the end of the Horizon Zero Dawn, Aloy appeared to have defeated the malevolent AI named HADES that was a subroutine of the mother AI GAIA. HADES had gone rogue and reactivated killing machines in order to wipe out the humans that presently populated Earth.

Forbidden West begins with Aloy coming to know that HADES had not been vanquished but had escaped before it was destroyed by her. Sylens had captured HADES and was using its knowledge for plans and means of his own.

And Aloy had to go West into the territory of the formidable and aggressive Tenakht territory to track down HADES. Now I wish to keep this review spoiler free and to that effect will only reference certain aspects of the storyline that really makes the game stand out even as a sequel.

The game introduces new clans like the Utaru and the Tenakth. The Tenakth are an aggressive people that includes the Skyland, Desert and Lowland Clans.Unlike last time, the enemy that’s really pulling the strings this time are humans, albeit none of the clans that I just mentioned.

Aloy has to travel across the various terrain of the Forbidden West that include some mountains, desert and tropical forests in this chapter of the tale. As for our protagonist, she is lonelier than before. In a world that is technologically ignorant, she has amassed technological understanding which in turn makes her shoulder the burden of trying to save the world on her own. But her friends convince her that she needs the help and can do with some allies. This plays a major part in the progression of the main quest of the game.

A Combat System that Relies on Skills in Taking on the Enemies

The skill tree this time around is more diverse and has some special skills that boosts Aloy’s capabilities for a limited amount of time. This includes dealing more damage with her weapons or a stealth mode that essentially makes her a Stalker. Skills, like in the previous game, will be the make or break element in taking down some of the big machines.

The case is similar with weapons that introduce some new ones and even two new elemental damage types that will be effective against different types of enemies. It is essential to scan a new enemy before engaging in order to understand what it is weak and strong against.

Combat like last time includes ranged as well as melee attacks that are done with a bow and the spear respectively. Bows attacks combined with elemental effects do the most damage while the spear is good for taking on the smaller and medium sized enemies. It is not the best idea to get close to some of the heavyweight machines to land spear blows since almost all of them have ground slam or similar AOE attacks that will leave you reeling. They have strong ranged attacks as well so the idea of just engaging them from a distance will also cost you.

The developers have introduced new machines this time around some of which are relentless in the ways they will hunt you if you happen to engage them. The two heavyweight combat class machines that were teased in the trailers are the Slitherfang and the Tremortusk which have so many different attacks that you will need to be at your most alert when fighting them. Like the previous games machines are strewn in almost every nook and cranny of the map and will need you to be vigilant.

Like last time, machines can be overridden this time around as well. The map is rather big and you will want to use overridden machines to travel around when getting to some of the far off destinations when not using the Fast Travel feature. The Fast Travel feature needs you to use a fast travel pack or be near a campfire to work. You can learn to override new machines like last time by taking on the different Cauldrons that are strewn across the map. Overridden machines either turn into mounts or help in combat. And the developers seem to have heard the pleas of the community and added a surprise this time which is the ability to fly in the game. Albeit a little late into the storyline of the game players will be able to override Sunwings and fly across the map unfettered by the problem of facing machines or rebels below.

Stunning Visuals with Some Excellent Motion Capture

One of the bigger complaints last time around was that the motion capture and facial expressions of the characters seemed a bit lacking which somehow undermined the excellent storyline. The developers seemed to take that bit of critique personally and came back this time with some of the best motion graphics and facial expressions in the characters that I have seen in video games. Even the subtle expressions of some of the characters seem reproduced perfectly which complements the storyline.

I started playing the game before the launch day patch was introduced, and had come across some clipping and glitches which saw Aloy fall off when trying to jump on to a beam or trying to catch hold of a ledge. There were even some places which had vegetation floating in the air. But most of these issues were fixed with the launch day patch and the last bit of the storyline I finished had things running smoothly.

Forbidden West has some excellent locations in the game that offer exquisite vistas that can be captured with an effective photo mode. The vegetation, animals, terrains look extremely well modeled and even the characters have details in them that go down to the minutest facial hair. I played the game on the Sony PS5 which ideally offered the best experience.

The game ran perfectly on 60FPS at 1080p, and sadly I could not try out the game on 4K since I don’t have an appropriate display. I ran the game on the performance mode before the day one patch came out since the Resolution Mode had a slight bit of V-Sync issue. But post the patch that seems to have been fixed as well.

The game’s main storyline took me about 35 hours to complete and this includes side quests that you have to complete in order to achieve the necessary levels to continue with the main storyline. The side quests are made to fit seamlessly into the story and offer some serious digressions. Some side quests are rather difficult and will have you fighting not just one but even two heavy machines at the same time.

Horizon Forbidden West: A Worthy Sequel Indeed

I was rendered a fan of the game Guerrilla Games had come up with in 2017 and I have to say that they have lived up to the promise and offered something more. Forbidden West has heart, and it shows that hard work the team has put into it.

The game comes back with an engaging combat system that keeps combat fresh even after hours of gameplay. It has enemies that will make you strategise and take different approaches based on the terrain.

The characters and their stories are endearing and will make you eager to know what happens to them next. The game brings in new kinds of enemies and even adds a twist in the end that keeps things open for a next game which promises to bring and even bigger challenge. In all its a thoroughly enjoyable game and a recommended play that is a well deserved sequel to the Horizon Zero Dawn legacy.

Horizon Forbidden West Review

4,999
9

Visuals

9.0/10

Gameplay

9.0/10

Storyline

9.5/10

Combat

8.5/10

Music

9.0/10

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