Humanity, machines and Aloy’s beard

Title: Forbidden Horizon West
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Editor: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4
Release date: February 18, 2022

You would think that the theme of life after the apocalypse would play out as much as possible in the video game industry. With heavyweights like Fallout, dying lightthe Metro series and more, there are plenty of games that deal with the harsh reality of life in the afterlife; it’s life after everything else is dead. Horizon Zero Dawn however, took another direction. It was brilliant and beautiful, throwing away the concept of humans as monsters (well, mostly) for real monsters in the form of destructive machines. You climbed snowy mountains and ran through river valleys to save mankind. Now the game’s protagonist Aloy is back, but this time she’s heading to the wild west (“Jim West, desperado, rough rider, no you don’t want nada”) in Forbidden Horizon West.

Forbidden Horizon West picks up two months after the fight with Hades as Aloy realizes the fight isn’t over and the fate of this new version of humanity is still in jeopardy. She is the only one who can maintain the world they have, but to protect everything she cares about, she must travel to the barely inhabited lands of the Forbidden West to do so. With new environments, new abilities, and a few old comrades, she’ll have the fight of hers and everyone else’s life.

As soon as you leave the door, Forbidden Horizon West is wonderful. It’s a truly stunning game. While the environmental graphics are a sight to behold, it’s the character models that impress me the most. Every character, down to the NPCs, is well modeled and realistic. The fact that some brothers on Twitter have inquired about Aloy’s “beard” speaks to the complexity of the animation. Watch out, men…women have peach fuzz on their faces. We are mammals, it is part of our genetic heritage to have hair everywhere. The more you know… you know? You can see textures on Aloy’s face and discolorations like real skin.

The different terrains of the game are vast and different from each other. From snow-capped peaks to flowing waters of green foliage to arid deserts, each one is unique and just as stunning as the last. Something I notice in terms of graphics is the clipping issue. That was a problem in the first game, too. Things come and go pretty much all the time, and Aloy’s hair defies the laws of physics and eventually clips into other dimensions. Aside from that and some weird issues with the movement mechanics, the gameplay is really solid without too many issues. In terms of quality of play on day one, Forbidden Horizon West released pretty solid without any real game breaking issues.

While I personally find the first game’s story a bit more engaging, it’s still amazing to traverse the environments and stumble upon some old technology or the “ruins” of an old skyscraper. There are places on the big map where you’ll scan an old shattered image of a place from the past and it’ll be up to you to find where the photo was taken to put the pieces back together. It was a small mechanic but really nice when it happened.

New to the game is the inclusion of swimming and, even better, a glider. Color me impatient because I can’t tell you how much fall damage I took from jumping off a cliff or any height because I didn’t want to take the time to find the way to the bottom. Well, now you don’t have to! Jump off anything and slide safely to solid ground. Speaking of gliding, the amount of similarities between Forbidden Horizon West and Dying Light 2 Stay Human were strange to say the least. Both have gliders allowing for more vertical exploration, both have pulse sensors to let you collect all items in an area, and both games have a character named Lawan. I’ve never heard that name in my life before and within a month two of the biggest games to come out in 2022 have characters named Lawan. You know that squinting meme from Futurama? It was my face with each new coincidence I encountered. Pretty soon I was squinting so hard I couldn’t even see the game.

My favorite parts of Forbidden Horizon West should be the quality of the dubbing. This game does not play with their dubbing. Even one-rated NPCs have better voice acting and character development than some entire games. John MacMillan’s Varl, John Hopkins’ Erend and Lance Reddick’s Sylens are phenomenal. While Ashly Burch is an absolute powerhouse of a voice actor (Tiny Tina is everything I aspire to be), but her voice Aloy just sounds… weird and that weirdness has only increased in Forbidden West. He has almost the same quality as Bella Swan in Dusk; something is wrong with the girl, but you don’t know what.

While we see some familiar faces in terms of mechanical monsters, we see some new ones, but they all tend to blend together for the most part… except one. After about 0 hours, all the bad robots with the blue lights tend to feel pretty similar in how you fight them (unless they’re the flying kind, but still): scan them with your concentration, find the weak points and boom baby, let the arrows fly. But there are the Leaplashers. I HATE these things with a passion. They are kangaroo types that jump and whip your wires and they are literally the worst. I will gladly fight 5 Slitherfangs to avoid a Leaplasher.

Forbidden Horizon West straddles the fence in terms of game changes and additions. It doesn’t look all that different, but new gameplay mechanics are welcome, especially this glider. There are plenty of weapons and outfits to equip and plenty of ways to level up. The skill trees are huge and at first glance the leveling system looks intimidating but is much easier than it looks. The game itself doesn’t seem that hard and I set mine to normal. Instead of focusing on a challenge, Forbidden Horizon West almost seems to put their eggs in the exploration basket, allowing the player to move forward at will, exploring ruins, cauldrons, and focus points. The story is by no means bad and I love seeing the return of some of our favorite characters. If you liked the first game, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the sequel.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to shoot arrows at robots and brush my beard.

Horizon Forbidden West (PS5) Rating: 9/10

Forbidden Horizon West is a delightful sequel to zero dawn with vastly improved graphics and new additions to gameplay mechanics. Although the gameplay can get a little repetitive and the story doesn’t hit as hard as the first game, it’s an enjoyable adventure through a wasteland full of machinery.