Horizon Zero Dawn was just the introduction to the fascinating world of Guerrilla Games and the unlikely hero who would do anything to save it. The sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, takes everything to an exciting new level with its new mechanics and immersive lore. Guerrilla Games improves upon the latter game’s shortcomings and isn’t afraid to borrow popular features from other well-known series, such as Uncharted, Mass Effect, and Assassin’s Creed. The result is a game that is not only fun to play, but also full of surprises and wonder. Zero Dawn was a great proof of concept, but Forbidden West shows that Guerrilla Games still has plenty of thought-provoking and compelling places to experience Aloy’s adventures.
Forbidden West is set six months after the events of Zero Dawn. Aloy’s discoveries have only raised more questions and dangers, forcing her to head west for answers. With a few returning characters and plot links from the first game, Forbidden West isn’t ideal for newcomers looking to embrace the story. Guerrilla’s writers skillfully expand Horizon’s rich lore and delve into the series’ sci-fi elements, which are the sequel’s most gripping aspects. One of the best things I’ve had was putting together Aloy’s journey, but certain reveals and “ah ha” moments aren’t quite as satisfying without the full context of the first game. The overall story kept me busy, but certain parts feel rushed, and I was disappointed that mean characters like Regalla didn’t get more time to shine.
In the latter part, Aloy’s journey has often been lonely, but Forbidden West puts other characters at the center of its success, which is a nice change. Returning faces like Varl and Erend show more of their personalities, and newcomers like the good-hearted Zo and tragic warrior Kotallo have interesting backstories that explain the beliefs and values of their tribes. To make these budding relationships more authentic, Aloy sets up a home base, a la Mass Effect, where she can chat with her companions about new developments in the main quest, get to know their thoughts about each other, and get to know them better personally. level. I loved watching the base fill with new members and see new areas emerge. In any case, I wanted more time to interact with the characters. It was so nice to be around them and listen to their chatter.
The world is the star of the show. Forbidden West is an engineering marvel, with breathtaking vistas, vibrant underwater passageways and lush jungles. Each locale has its own flavor; wait till you see Las Vegas. Traversal has been greatly improved, with smoother climbing mechanics and a new tool called the Shield Wing, which works almost like a futuristic umbrella to let you descend from great heights. But the constant sense of discovery of the world really had me glued to my controller. Forbidden West is a much bigger game than its predecessor, with an impressive number of quests and items to discover. The story-focused side missions add so much to the lore that I never wanted to miss any of them, as they provided great insight into the tribes. One side mission forced me to choose between two imperfect characters vying to lead a tribe, while another made me fight the vilest combination of machines flying atop a Sunhawk.
The side content allowed me to unlock new locations and dungeons, and this doesn’t even factor in the extra activities like clearing Rebel camps, climbing Tallnecks to reveal more of the map, and exploring Cauldrons for new machine overrides . I didn’t expect such a dense and expansive world, and I always felt like I had something to do. Side missions offer great rewards, making them worthwhile – some of my best weapons and armor came from these pursuits. I especially liked revisiting settlements to see how some of the environments and their inhabitants changed with my actions. And as a nice touch, even more side missions would open regularly.
Combat is still adrenaline-pumping business, and the satisfaction of beating monstrous machines never goes away. You can expect more destructibility and bigger battle scenery, and I loved how the variety of the locations, from fighting in tight spaces to rocky areas with lots of places to hide, kept things fresh with new strategies to consider. Forbidden West allows you to embrace your own playstyle and offers many ways to gain the upper hand over machines. This has its pros and cons. I loved the creativity at my disposal, such as shooting weapons from machines and using them against the enemy or causing chain reactions with specific elements to cause big explosions. But at the same time, I’ve never felt a growing sense of power that keeps combat interesting over time, and much of this comes down to my disappointment in the skill trees.
The skills you learn through the skill trees feel more like small perks than exciting upgrades. For example, you can unlock the ability to set up faster traps, more powerful potions and extra ranged damage, in addition to weapon techniques that do everything from guaranteeing a knockdown shot to more damage to the shredder. The best addition to the skill trees is Valor Surges, which are special attacks that you tactfully unleash. I wish there were more of these options to experiment with, because once I unlocked and fully upgraded the radial blast, which creates a powerful AoE shockwave, I never found another that felt as valuable. Some others include dealing more damage with melee attacks and a damage-absorbing energy shield for a limited time. That said, the skill trees were so unimportant to my success that I let my skill points pile up 10 without even touching them.
Fortunately, the game is full of valuable improvements that make for a better experience, from a cleaner HUD to less inventory management. My favorite improvements were the ability to use Aloy’s focus to see climb points and her ability to label specific machine parts in a different color for easier targeting. The latter is useful for important upgrade resources, as certain machine components are crucial to upgrading your armor and weapons. Upgrades are therefore a bigger investment of time and I got tired of fighting the same machines repeatedly. In terms of performance, I ran into a few minor issues in addition to some bad AI paths and bad checkpoints, but none of these were significant issues that caused me a lot of frustration. I was actually impressed with how smoothly the game played, given its size and scope.
Horizon Forbidden West reaches a new high bar for Guerrilla Games. It does more than surpass its predecessor; it takes Horizon’s fiction into captivating places and builds a rich world that rewards you for the effort you put into it. Most of the time, it’s an entertaining experience, complete with breathtaking moments and unforgettable battles.