It is not an understatement to say I adored Horizon Zero Dawn. I went in skeptical as I wasn’t always the biggest fan of open world games. Games like the Witcher series couldn’t hold my attention despite multiple attempts. What I found though was a game open and expansive, that played like a tight third person action game, with an engaging story and world.
So can you guess which game I was looking forward to most in 2022? That’s right, Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Not actually, the real answer was of course Horizon Forbidden West. But do go play Pokémon Legends: Arceus. It’s really good guys.
The game throws us back in with our old friend Aloy. The blight in the world is spreading, killing everything it touches. So, a reasonably important issue that should be dealt with sooner rather than later. Aloy is trying to do that by looking for a Gaia backup that will make all the machines good again.
This will make the world habitable for life, so kinda handy.
When she returns to camp after an unsuccessful hunt she discovers one of her old friends has set a trap resulting in Hades being released and headed west. We soon discover that the Forbidden West is an area obscured by a wall. Here a new group of people, the Tenakth, call home. It turns out that for generations the Tenakth and Carja were at war where…well the Carja were bastards that caught and killed a lot of them. This has changed a little and the Carja have been giving heaps of reparations to the Tenakth to try and make good.
It so happens that they are about to provide a new treasure chest of “we’re sorry” money. With gates opening and leaders present, this is a chance for Aloy to try to get passage to the west. A bunch of events happen, and Aloy winds up in no man’s land. It turns out on top of the drama between the three Tenakth clans, there is also a breakaway group. They are causing all kinds of havoc and death.
So here we have a fun time for Aloy. She wants to go find the parts of Gaia to save the world before everything and everyone dies. This should be a challenge on its own but she has to face a bunch of hurdles like regional politics and religions getting in the way. This frustrates Aloy who is trying to save everyone, and also deal with a new threat that has arisen.
Dun dun dunnnn…
If you enjoyed the story in the first game you should keep enjoying this. It’s a solid sci-fi story in an extraordinarily amazingly built sci-fi world. Like the first game I find the whole world so damn interesting. Seeing details like ancient containers (the boots of wrecked and rusted cars), ancient ruins (a hotel that is beyond repair), and so much more adds this awesome layer of mystery to the world. On top of this world is the world that grew from it, and this beautiful mix of primitive and futuristic makes it a treat to explore and learn more about.
The game is loaded with side quests. This can vary from glorified fetch quests and killing quests, but they are usually soaked in details that help expand the world. These all add a heap to the world, and I found myself regularly wanting to complete them and get distracted from the main story.
Saving the world is important, but this tribe needs water and they will get it trading machine hearts.
The game generally still feels good to play as well. The controls took me an hour to adjust to, but once you nail that gameplay feels smooth as butter. Flicking between weapons and ammo types on the wheel clicker makes combat so damn fun. This is important because you need that to be seamless as you rip off chunks off and kill massive machines.
There have been other crucial additions like excess inventory going to your stash removing a bit of that monotony. Though picking up everything in the world gets old fast. And other aspects have been added like gliding. So after you climb a massive tower you can glide down now rather than having to climb back down.
The game isn’t as bug free as I have hoped.
Unlike the first game, or at least my memory of the first game, the game isn’t free of bugs. There were minor things like NPCs getting stuck on objects, which were fortunately minor because each time it happened I was able to run forward to the next point of the quest and it carried on. There were other quirks like a machine moving out of the silent strike range, including when walking closer to me so instead of an assassination I hit the machine and started a massive battle.
But more annoyingly there was an issue where the frame rate would drop like crazy so the whole screen was stuttering. I was knee deep hunting an annoyingly fast machine when it happened the first time and I didn’t want to find out the hard way how long it was since an auto save so I powered through spending 30+ minutes on a junt that should have been five. I tried changing to performance mode, put the PS5 to sleep and woke it up, all kinds of stuff. It was only sorted by saving, closing and relaunching the game.
I even waited this long to see if they would be ironed out at launch with a patch but nope. It’s not a buggy mess, but it’s still a pain in the hole. I didn’t need to be fighting bugs as there were plenty of machines to fight.
Regardless of some polish issues, Horizon Forbidden West is an amazing game. I love the world they have continued to build. I love the clan politics, and I love how annoyed Aloy is with clan politics. And I even love the kangaroos equipped with whips. Play Horizon Forbidden West.