It’s been five years since we’ve last seen Aloy, and Horizon Forbidden West heralds a return not only to our favorite outsider but to the post-apocalyptic United States that is as equally beautiful as it is dangerous. Horizon Forbidden West is an action roleplaying game developed by Guerilla Games and published by Sony.
Following Aloy, the outcast that saved Meridian, Forbidden West opens six months after Horizon Zero Dawn ends. We get a summary of the last game and what Aloy has been doing for the past six months. After defeating HADES, the rogue AI that tried to end all life, Aloy leaves Meridian to find a backup version of GAIA as a final effort to halt the degradation of the world. However, her lead falls short, and she heads back to Meridian with nothing to come of it. After returning, she finds that Sylens has backstabbed them all and stolen HADES. Sylens contacts Aloy and bids her to come find him in the Forbidden West which is inhabited by new tribes, both hostile and peaceful, and creatures that will prove both challenging and fascinating.
The beginning of Forbidden West feels a tad slow primarily because it’s a reintroduction to Aloy, so some may appreciate it while others may be waiting for the game to get to the point. Thankfully, the developer weaves this reteaching of all the mechanics into the story with Aloy teaching Varl, a character from the first game, how to use the Focus. Nevertheless, the start doesn’t capture the same awe and mystery of the first game’s beginning with a young Aloy finding mysterious technology and getting ready for the Proving—a competition that would determine the rest of her life. Despite the slow start, though, Forbidden West manages to imbue life into the story by focusing on Aloy’s relationships, delving into the secrets behind the source of the apocalypse, and exploring all the new tribes in the West.
Aloy has come far since the first game’s opening sequences. She’s no longer an outcast, and her name is known far and wide. So while Forbidden West doesn’t focus on Aloy’s growth and fight for her place in the world, it instead focuses on Aloy’s relationships, both new and old. After being so used to working alone and relying on herself, Aloy’s real struggle is asking for help. We’ve seen the strong-headedness that we all know and love develop over the last game, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that she’s adamant about saving the world alone. But it’s not just her world to save; it’s everyone’s. So you’ll have help along the way with Varl and the occasional extra character aiding Aloy’s journey. And while the new tribes you’ll come across are fascinating and fun to interact with, there’s plenty of focus on the relationship between Aloy and her old friends.
While nice, that’s also where the game may be hard to pick up. There are plenty of characters to stumble upon from the last game, and they speak to Aloy as if the player has played Zero Dawn from start to finish. If you’re new to the series, this may be particularly aggravating. Thankfully, you’ll meet more new people than old ones with the new area to explore, but you’ll definitely miss out on some heart-to-heart moments if you don’t understand the past. However, if you’ve played Zero Dawn, you’ll love to see all the familiar faces and appreciate these interactions.
Forbidden West brings back everything to love about Zero Dawn: an open world that melds survival skills with long-distance and melee action, allowing all sorts of playstyles. Stealth, trap-making, long-distance or close-quarter combat–it’s your prerogative to build Aloy how you want through a rather extensive skill tree. And while the combat will be very, very familiar, there are plenty of new elements to get used to.
The combat has been enhanced with the Valor Surge system, providing limited-time buffs to Aloy which are particularly helpful in battle. They range from increasing damage resistance to turning invisible for better stealth or releasing an electrical blast that can stun machines. They’re an integral part of the skill tree, so they’re easy to unlock and build Aloy around and extremely fun to play around with.
Traversal has also been upgraded with freeform climbing and tools such as the Shieldwing–which allows gliding–and the Pullcaster–essentially a grappling hook. These not only make getting around a blast but also introduce new traversal puzzles. Additionally, we see a whole new area to explore: underwater. With the Diving Mask, there’s no limit to where you can explore in this open world. However, with new places to explore come new enemies as well. The most significant additions are water-based enemies. But we also see new terrestrial and aerial enemies that will provide plenty of challenges. With old enemies returning as well, there’s an impressive diversity to the enemies in Forbidden West.
But perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of the game is the visuals. The landscapes you’ll explore are beautiful and wild, and the Forbidden West introduces new ecosystems. With the setting being the western US, players will stumble upon recognizable locations such as Yosemite Valley and the ruins of San Francisco. The new tribes are nothing you’ve ever seen before; they’re diverse, and their designs are not only fascinating, but their cultures are compelling to explore. Add in the perfect voice acting, and Forbidden West is an absolutely stunning sequel.
While some newcomers to the series may stumble in areas relating directly to the previous game, there’s plenty of new content that will excite both new and old players. Horizon Forbidden West builds upon Zero Dawn by adding new enemies, traversal options, combat, and a massive new map to explore. With the absolutely stunning cinematics, gorgeous ecosystems, and compelling story, there’s so much to love about Horizon Forbidden West.
Horizon Forbidden West is available now for PlayStation5 and PlayStation4.
Horizon Forbidden West
- Rating - 9/109/10
Horizon Forbidden West builds upon Zero Dawn by adding new enemies, traversal options, combat, and a massive new map to explore. With the absolutely stunning cinematics, gorgeous ecosystems, and compelling story, there’s so much to love about Horizon Forbidden West.