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Horizon Forbidden West Review

Horizon Forbidden West Review

Horizon Forbidden West has hit PC, and after playing it for a good few hours, I've found myself pleased with it, both as a game and as a PC port. I did enjoy Horizon Zero Dawn, but I wasn’t enamoured by it; it was a title with fantastic ideas but the execution wasn’t perfect in my eyes, but Forbidden West managed to improve on almost all fronts.

The biggest improvement for me is the way the game handles all forms of tutorials, or more so, its lack of a dedicated tutorial. It trusts that the player has had experience with the previous game, along with other third-person action games and doesn’t outwardly force the player into a convoluted and detached tutorial section. This also helps the game’s initial pacing, as one of my greatest problems with Zero Dawn was the incredibly slow introduction.

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This early game pacing is another improvement over the first title, not only throwing you into the story of Forbidden West nearly instantaneously but also giving you access to more tools in the earlier parts of the game. I had a full loadout of varied weapons early on, making the combat far more engaging. The machines help with the balance, too, being more unique in their gameplay design. The combat admittedly isn’t perfect, especially on higher difficulties; I began on Very Hard and found enemies were far too spongy and annoying to fight to be engaging, but bringing this down to Hard made things far better.

I wasn’t super fond of the story and while many of the characters are entertaining and the world is interesting. The story is a direct continuation of Horizon Zero Dawn, following Aloy journeying to the West to fulfil her role of finding GAIA while following Sylens to figure out what he’s doing. Along with this, a mysterious plague known as the blight has struck across the country, destroying environments and causing many to fall ill, which can only be saved by the AI GAIA. Despite a solid premise, I can’t help but feel bored most of the time Aloy is talking. She fulfils the role of the typical “Chosen One” in a genuinely boring way, pushing those aside who can’t help her achieve her goal directly, which makes for a lot of bland and predictable encounters with some of the other characters. She does, occasionally, make use of this status in clever and entertaining ways, such as convincing the guards to let her through the gate to the west, but these moments are too few and far between. I found her most endearing in many of the game's side quests. She can be charismatic, and in dealing with many of these smaller-scale conversations, there's often a pleasant back and forth, but this also can cause a massive disconnect between her character at certain parts of the game’s main quest.

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The open world was also somewhat lacklustre, feeling a little too formulaic. Visually, it’s stellar and has a much more defined visual identity, with both the underwater sections and the blight being beautiful to look at, yet the actual exploration loses its charm quickly. Many of the activities littered around don’t make you do anything creative with its gameplay, but they do a great job of pushing certain story beats, such as the early Bristleback quest, and its follow-ups do a great job at developing some of the lesser side quests, but the gameplay in these never amount to much more than you’ll be doing elsewhere. A lot of the other activities, such as the relic sites, provide insight into the lore of the world but are all pretty simple, consisting of exploring a smaller area and looking for passcodes and crates to be able to find unique items.

The combat is a lot of fun and manages to improve on the formula of Zero Dawn through its massive increase in variation. There are 43 different machines in Forbidden West (not including each one's variants), and 22 of these are brand new, such as the Scavenger and Burrower, both of which are encountered early on and are far more fun to fight compared to the early machines of the first game. This carries over to the weapons: while the whole roster from Zero Dawn is here, there are also new weapons and ammo types, such as the Spike Throwers, which themself have a multitude of ammo types that are useful for different types of engagements.

A big step up for Horizon Forbidden West is the new additions for accessibility. While it has a lot of the typical, but still incredibly welcome additions such as colourblind options, and controller settings, even these have more depth. For example, the DualSense controller has sliders to determine the strength and intensity of its adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. Its more impressive changes consist of its difficulty settings, allowing you to alter different facets of the gameplay, such as removing or increasing the visibility of waypoints or altering combat difficulty individually. It has a thalassophobia mode, making the game's underwater sections more playable for those who struggle with thalassophobia by improving underwater visibility and removing any risks of running out of air.

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Horizon Forbidden West improves over Horizon Zero Dawn in every single way and is a must-play for those who loved the first, and I would even recommend it for those who enjoyed the first, if not to a huge degree. The work by Nixxes Software to ensure the port was adequate was also incredibly commendable, going beyond a passable port, and is some of the best work I’ve seen on a AAA game in a while, at least regarding performance and settings.

8.50/10 8½

Horizon Forbidden West (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

Horizon Forbidden West is a fantastic sequel, and despite some issues, is absolutely worth the play.

This game was purchased at retail for the purpose of this review
Jacob Sanderson

Jacob Sanderson

Staff Writer

It's not an obsession if it counts as work...

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