Horizon Forbidden West review – gear and clothing in Las Vegas

When I think back to Horizon Zero Dawn, I don’t remember much about the tribes of his post-apocalypse world. Sure, I remember they were superstitious and scared of technology, but most people would be if giant, mechanized dinosaurs kept crushing their loved ones. We would at least think twice before using our toasters, huh?

Forbidden Horizon West is much more memorable, much richer. It sells the fantasy of entering an alternate view of Earth where belief systems have been shaped by their environment – an Earth where terraforming machines have gone rogue. I will always remember the first time I went to Plainsong, a village built out of abandoned satellite dishes with bamboo paths meandering across the board, the wicker weaving blending with the basin of the plate.

The fields and paddies surrounding the village are contaminated with blight, a poisonous growth that reddens the soil and crops while shooting noxious spores into the air, suffocating the citizens of Plainsong, the Utaru. But the inhabitants of Plainsong continue, convinced that their “gods of the earth” – docile machines that take care of the Earth – will put everything back in order. Each Utaru carries a seed encased in a jewel strapped to their chest, allowing them to give back to the land they worship when they die. Everyone who lives here is tied to the place because the trees and bushes are their lost friends and relatives. Rather than becoming perpetual consumers, they are in harmony with the earth. The Utaru was stabbing a spear into you before you could even mutter the words “unfungible”.

Ecological benevolence is also central to the game. The message of hugging trees doesn’t always synergize with a game where you murder thousands of animals so you can craft a quiver that carries more arrows, but it does. Tactfully handled in the story itself, which asks disparate people to come together against an existential threat. It helps that the quality of the writing here is much improved over the first game, even tackling the mechanical war elephant in the room – colonialism – by having you actively fight against tribal oppressors. You are not there to take over. Sure, you might be encroaching on this new land and using its resources to craft better gear, but all for the purpose of fighting off the true invaders.

Back east, Aloy has become a legendary figure after her heroics in the first game, but she soon realizes she can’t do it all on her own. She is forced to learn the importance of family ties in this new land, while the game also explores nature versus nurture and the impact of our circumstances on our character. It just takes a little time to get there.

west forbidden doesn’t give the best first impression. The first few hours are laborious and almost feel like a different game from the rest. One of the key new features is the ability to climb most surfaces, scaling steep cliffs as long as there are holds. In the opening section, the escalation is prescriptive and the levels are linear. Later, you get the Shieldwing, an energy canopy that allows you to glide across the map, and the world opens up to you in ways that weren’t possible before. Later still, you unlock the ability to fly and the sky becomes your playground. Oh, and Aloy’s knee slide now lasts longer if you do it downhill, Apex Legends-style. Add the ability to swim and west forbidden the world becomes much larger, allowing you to express yourself as you travel, rather than being funneled down wide grassy corridors.

From caves filled with bioluminescent flora, to snow-capped mountains, to humid swamps, lush jungles, ruined cities and arid deserts, this is a beautiful place to spend 70 hours. , fireflies come out and thousands of stars dot a sky filled with fluffy clouds. west forbidden might have the most beautiful skybox in games. During the day, rain can fall, sandstorms can erupt, and mini-tornadoes occasionally spin through the dust bowl (Honestly, if you think Geralt’s ‘howl of the wind’ was a little too much in The Witcher 3, wait until you hear “sand in my shoes, rain on my face, the crunch of snow under my boot, sweat in my ass” and Aloy’s dozens of other weather musings). Once you’re there and exploring properly, or throwing spears into a huge robotic bear, it’s easy to forget how much the opening drags on.

Another odd design choice is the way it tutors flashpoints – moments where you’re asked to choose Aloy’s response to a situation, potentially altering the story slightly – as if acted as a major mechanism. You can count on one hand how many times you’ll have a say in shaping Aloy’s personality in west forbidden – it almost feels like it was planned to be more of an RPG at some point and then it was scaled down and then the devs forgot to hide the evidence.

On the gear side, though, it’s more of an RPG than ever. There are many types of weapons, from tripwire launchers to javelin spears that puncture and tear machine components. One of my favorite new additions are the jai alai-style cestas that fire boomerang discs that latch onto the armor and spin, crushing it in a shower of sparks. Between each salvo, you have to position yourself to catch the disc on its return. Take it out three times in a row and it turns into an explosive payload for his final film.

Obviously the story is what pulls you through the action, but the main loop is near perfect even outside of that. You hunt machines, loot components, and craft and upgrade equipment so you can hunt bigger and deadlier machines. These machines give you better loot, allowing you to craft better gear and hunt even more dangerous prey. You can also upgrade with food, scan machine weaknesses, and prepare hunting grounds with traps before a big fight. Proper preparation allows you to win fights faster, which is even more vital when trying to cut a specific piece of machinery. If you moved the story further into the background, it would essentially be a single-player game monster hunter with high production values. Just don’t say it monster hunter fans I said.

Every machine you fight feels heavy. Tailed Whips overturn ruins and tear trees by their roots. And despite the fact that some of them have huge health pools, the machines never feel like arrow sponges. Every hit that connects feels significant, sometimes tearing an armor plate from their chassis and revealing the wiring underneath. Stick a Thunderjaw – a mechanical T-rex – with javelins and it will look like it just had a long acupuncture session the moment it falls. Fire volleys of arrows at a giant, poisonous metal snake and you can see it writhing in pain with each impact. There are plenty of story-based games where the combat gets in the way of the plot, but the mechanical enemies are so well done that’s never the case here. It’s just a shame that the same can’t be said for human battles.

Fighting humans was one of the worst parts of the original game, and it still is here. Guerrilla Games has done a good job giving you more melee options with the spear, and there’s a lot more nuance to fight, but it just doesn’t feel satisfying to fight humans. Aloy is a machine killer who takes down massive behemoths with arrows and other primitive weaponry, but ordinary people can take a headshot and barely wince. She would also really need to learn defensive techniques aside from rolling. A block button and a parry system would add a lot.

A field in which wes forbiddenIt doesn’t improve on the original, however – and quite dramatically – it’s the side quests. There are plenty of them, and almost none of them rely on simple fetch quests. Sure, explore their core and you’re still jumping, climbing, and fighting, but they all either tell a standalone story or flesh out a new group of characters. Some even have bespoke animations and scenes that you can only experience if you take the time to tackle them, like enjoying a hot air balloon ride over the ruins of Vegas. Then there’s Machine Strike, a chess mini-game that acts like west forbiddenthe answer to The Witcher 3is Gwent.

The companion characters are also brilliant – a big improvement over the first game, in which I remembered the guy with the jerk but not his name or anything about him (his name is Erend and he’s much better in this one). Before entering the main map, you establish a home base, which you fill with NPC friends over the course of the story. Visit them between main missions and you can really dig into their personalities and motivations. Kotallo, a stoic warrior tribesman played by Red Dead Redemption 2‘s Noshir Dalal, is a personal favourite.

Horizon Forbidden West Review - Kotallo

While the cast’s performances – including Ashly Burch as the lead – are mostly high quality, there’s something about the implementation in some scenes that’s slightly off. Sometimes their eyes dart abnormally or their body language doesn’t match the scene. Aloy often lacks emotion too, which is clearly a directing problem because there are scenes that prove it’s not because of Burch’s lack of range – she’s a brilliant actress. It’s a combination of directorial and technical hiccups that undermine performance.

Apart from a few minor issues, west forbidden looks like the game Guerrilla wanted to make with Horizon Zero Dawn. The world is better, the way you move through it is improved, and the variety and quality of enemies you face are matched only by the versatility of the arsenal you use to take them down. The characters are deeper and the writing is sometimes as sharp as the tip of a mechanical spear. From that first trip in Plainsong to the secrets you can uncover beneath the Las Vegas desert, west forbidden is packed with moments that will take root in memory.

Written by Kirk McKeand on behalf of GLHF.

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