Horizon Forbidden West Review thumbnail

Horizon Forbidden West Review

An awe-inspiring sequel

Mary Billington

Reviewed by playing a PS5 on 🏹

Horizon Forbidden West is also available for PS4

Horizon Forbidden West is rated Teen by the ESRB

Aloy returns in a sequel to the brilliant Horizon series and this time, she's travelling through the expansive and varied Forbidden West.

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Horizon Forbidden West screenshot 1
Aloy gazes ahead at the many adventures that await her

After saving the city of Meridian from collapse in her first adventure, Aloy hasn't been seen by her friends in quite some time. Meanwhile, she's been searching for a backup of GAIA for months with no luck then she's joined by her old friend Varl as she investigates yet another possible backup location. Varl eventually convinces Aloy to come back to civilization and when they return to the site of her battle with HADES only to find that it's been stolen, Aloy sets off on another adventure and follows new clues to restore GAIA. v1d30chumz 44-192-38-248

The story in Horizon Forbidden West is grander than the first with Aloy befriending a lot of major characters from many different tribes along her journey. At each new story location, Aloy enlists the assistance of others and offers them help in return; sometimes forming a relationship strong enough to recruit the character to a new base of operations which is unlocked just a few hours into the campaign.

Horizon Forbidden West screenshot 2
Hey, it's a cameo from Mark Zuckerberg!

Along her journey, Aloy inspires the people she meets to play an active role in restoring the planet, improving human connection, and bringing back culture. I particularly enjoyed when she helped one man start his dream of building a new Las Vegas which is something I didn't see coming. Although there are many characters to meet and conversations to be had which is great, I felt like the story was missing the personal touch that Horizon Zero Dawn got just right. I loved discovering many new tribes and cultures but through it all, Aloy remains unwaveringly focused on saving the world out of duty more than anything and she's revered in almost every city she visits. It's less compelling than Zero Dawn's underlying theme of being treated poorly as an outcast while helping the world anyway.

As you travel west, you'll come across a vast landscape with an astounding amount of variety that manages to naturally blend different regions beautifully. I remember being amazed by the world of Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West takes it even further with changing weather patterns, colourful and otherworldly scenery, and even underwater diving. You'll get to explore the ruins of Las Vegas and San Francisco, too, and the use of colour and light is handled very well as you'll witness many breathtaking scenes while the giant moon hovers behind you. There are many beautiful touches such as when you trek through glowing grass on a mountain or take in holographic coral that creates a neon backdrop as you swim through wreckages. Occasionally, I noticed textures pop in slowly but it was quite rare. The soundtrack matches perfectly with the atmosphere as well because the music ebbs and flows with the onscreen action.

Horizon Forbidden West screenshot 3
Machine goes down; material count goes up

Speaking of action, Aloy has a large assortment of weapons to use against a huge variety of machines in Horizon Forbidden West. The classics like the bow and tripcaster are back and there are some new additions such as the boltblaster which does massive elemental damage at the expense of mobility and the shredder gauntlet which unleashes sharp discs that have a wide range. When using weapons, the DualSense adapts the triggers so you can feel different levels of resistance depending on your actions. It also does a great job of making the controller emit effects that correspond to the weapon such as drawing a bow and the sizzling sound of electricity.

There's new adventuring equipment, too, such as the shieldwing which allows you to jump off high surfaces and glide to the ground, the diving mask for swimming great distances underwater, and the pullcaster for uncovering hidden paths and moving objects. It's a whole lot of weaponry and gadgets to get used to; so much so that it might be a little too much given that there are only so many you can equip and access with the right button combinations before you run out of space or your brain just can't keep track anymore.

Horizon Forbidden West screenshot 4
This guy looks like he's about to start a fight at a rave

As I mentioned, the roster of machines to fight has been expanded with some notable additions being tremortusks that are mechanical elephants, giant snakes called slitherfangs, and monkeys called clamberjaws. Some areas have hazards that can be triggered to damage the enemy such as unleashing a bunch of wooden logs to bury them. I applaud Guerrilla Games' attempt at switching things up with this new mechanic but ultimately found the boss fights to be too similar to Zero Dawn's and would have liked to see more imagination on display such as implementing interesting arenas that force you to make good use of your surroundings.

As you travel to your next destination, you'll be inundated with side-quests and collectibles to distract you from the main story with 9 different types of quests to dig into including melee pits and salvage contracts and, of course, rebel strongholds return. Some of the side-quests are quite in-depth and serve as a way to get to know more of the planet's inhabitants. You'll also meet players of a new board game called Strike. It involves strategically choosing and placing pieces on a board to position them with the best advantage when attacking the other player's pieces depending on the terrain, type of game piece, and location. It's a game that requires a lot of strategy and it can be fun to try and collect all of the exciting new game pieces as you take down your opponents.

Horizon Forbidden West screenshot 5
It's no Fort Condor but it'll definitely do

The skill tree system within Horizon Forbidden West has been given a makeover and it now consists of 6 different categories with a web of skills to unlock in each. After unlocking new skills, you'll have multiple opportunities to unlock new valor abilities. Now that I mention it, after charging it up in battle, valor mode gives advantages such as boosting damage from ranged attacks for a brief period or drinking a potion to boost healing and temporarily improve stats. It's easy to forget about the valor ability because it's yet another action to remember in the heat of battle but it can be handy when you're in one of the tougher boss fights.

One other thing before I wrap this review up; for some reason, I seemed to occasionally have trouble with Aloy's climbing. Most of the time, she will automatically jump to the next handhold or if it's far away then you can press a button to make her jump to it. However, I sometimes could not get her to move and she would end up going back and forth between two spots and refusing to move to the next handhold thus forcing me to take a different route up a cliff face. This didn't happen a lot but when it did, it was frustrating.

Horizon Forbidden West screenshot 6
Time for Aloy to get some faster internet

Aloy's journey through the Forbidden West is a grand one complete with awe-inspiring environments as you take down new machines with an expanded arsenal. Although the story is lacking the personal touch of the first game, if you're looking for an action-filled adventure with thoroughly enjoyable gameplay then you certainly can't go wrong with Horizon Forbidden West.

  • + Beautiful and varied landscapes with great use of colour and lighting
  • + New machines and gear freshen things up
  • + Many tribes to meet with unique cultures
  • - Story is less personal than Zero Dawn's and bosses are too similar to Zero Dawn's
  • - Traversal can become annoyingly buggy
  • - Equipment and abilities are cumbersome
8.9 out of 10
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Watch Mary play Horizon Forbidden West
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