Hello All! Back with another review and this time it is for the PlayStation game Horizon Forbidden West. Horizon Forbidden West is developed by Guerilla Games and is a sequel to the acclaimed Horizon Zero Dawn which was released in 2017. Horizon Forbidden West was released on February 18th for both the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation 5, and I played the game on PlayStation 5 so my review will be based on that version. It is a sequel to the amazing 2017 game and this one stands tall with HZD, and also with open-world games of all time. Many games come out one after another and sometimes games may overshadow one another, but personally, that is the games industry and you have to choose what games to play. No gamer can play every game that releases, it’s impossible.
Normally, I would go and tell you about the story in my review of a game without spoiling much, but in this review, I am going to be more vague as the story is quite interesting and should not be spoiled at all. First and foremost, in order to understand and really get into this game’s plot, playing the first game is basically essential to really understand all of the different aspects occurring in the story here. The DLC in the Frozen Wilds definitely helps build the story as well, but it is much less necessary than the main game. I don’t really know if this game would give you much out of the story if you don’t understand the characters and plot from the first game, based on how connected you get after a little while.
Basically, you are playing as Aloy to help save the world in many different ways. There are many different themes and ideals that surround the game’s story and most of them are easily found. Some of these ideals and themes include; lawlessness vs order, trust, breaking traditions vs keeping them, overcoming massive hurdles, teamwork, hiding in shadows, depression, happiness, and so much more. There are many things I am going to say about Horizon Forbidden West, but the story is one of my personal favorites. It is something that might seem kind of short if you just go from Point A to Point B, but most of the time, people don’t do that in open-world experiences. I might not be saying much about the story but spoiling the story within this game is, in my opinion, criminal as it should be experienced by each player.
In many games, there are often side quests to complete that offer rewards, experience, or other things. I have found that many games include side quests that don’t enhance the story very much and are more “fetch” quests. In this game; however, that is nowhere near the case. This game has many, many side quests and most of them enhance some aspect of the story whether it be the characters you interact and build friendships with, increasing your understanding of what makes the world so massively complex, or the ideals and beliefs of the people scattered throughout the Forbidden West. When you talk about what makes a game great, side quests don’t typically stand out in people’s minds. With Horizon Zero Dawn in 2017 and again with Horizon Forbidden West in 2022, that is most certainly not the case as there are very solid story moments that offer something new with a different perspective.
So, besides the main quest and side missions in the game, are there other things to do? Absolutely! Many games have collectibles and Horizon FW is loaded with them. Some of these include things like Metal Flowers which unlock new paths previously inaccessible areas, different relics which have special significance to certain collectors, drones that have data in certain areas, and more. Okay, what about minigames? Again, Horizon Forbidden West has quite a few of them. In different areas around the map, there are race tracks where you mount a Charger and race to become the best. I did 2 races that I found in the wild but I know there are more than that out there, and they presented a challenge to obtain first place. Besides races, there is a board game called Machine Strike that has you playing something like chess where you move machines and try to get 7 points before the opponent. Both of these give you tasks that are different than what you are normally doing in Horizon, which is good and adds variety. You can also find Cauldrons in this game which give you the ability to override machines. You can hack Tallnecks which reveal the map to you. There are other things to take part in, but I won’t spoil them as they are connected to the story…
So for the other stuff that you are doing in the game besides story, minigames, collectibles, and side missions, you basically are taking down machines and helping the world get through the problems that the machines create. There are many new types of machines that are in this game that were not in the original and I seriously like that as they give more variety and make you think more on your feet. Some of the new ones that I like are the Clamberjaw monkeys, the Clawstridder raptors, and the Tremortusk elephants. Besides new machines, there are new ammo types that can be created that are beneficial to have on your weapon wheel. You have 6 slots for weapons to play around with and finding that balance will be a little tricky.
Mechanically, the game is an action-adventure open-world game, but there are RPG elements such as having massive skill trees that you unlock with skill points obtained. These skill trees have different things like special weapon skills, valor surges, and make your character grow. There are also workbenches to upgrade outfits that help with resistances, upgrade weapons that become more powerful, upgrade pouches that hold more items, and many other things to do that help you grow Aloy into more powerful than she already was. One of the things I like about Horizon is that there isn’t just one way of playing the game. One scenario might require the use of more stealth while the next one might want you to go in guns blazing and you need to think about each move you make throughout your adventure carefully at every step.
In terms of music, audio, and voice acting in the game, it is stunning at every moment. The voice acting in the game between not just the main characters, but all of the NPCs you meet and help are all strong and showcase each character brilliantly. The music is stunning at every moment and sometimes I would just stand still listening to the music in the game because of how great it is. Each area of the forbidden west also has a slightly different sound to it which is very nice. Each machine has a different sound effect when you are fighting them, even though they may sound similar, they are a little different in each case which is nice. All of the music and sounds in the game are insanely stunning. Below is a side quest example that stands out to me even after finishing the game, but there are so many of them that are fantastic and move you.
Besides music and sound, what about the visuals and art style in the game? Again, I am blown away with what Guerrilla has done with the hardware just like with Horizon Zero Dawn on the PS4, I love the art style and visuals in the game Horizon Forbidden West on PS5. There are two modes in the game on the PS5 version, not 100% sure about the PS4. There are standard performance or quality that either increases or decreases frame rate or resolution depending on your choice. I played Horizon Zero Dawn on PS4 and that game didn’t have the best frame rate but I had no problems with it. I played this game about 50% in each mode on PS5. I honestly think that the increased frames make it a little trickier since you have to react quicker. I liked the higher frames, but I was mostly okay with the lower frame rate because of how beautiful the game is. Everything about the art and visuals screams insane quality and detail and love that the developers put into the experience. The game is stunning in every aspect and I think it might be the best looking game currently on PS5, besides maybe Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
Character development is something I really like seeing when it comes to games. I do not like it when characters in games are the exact same from the start of a game all the way until the end of the game. All of the characters you meet in the game, show so much emotion and growth it really is crazy. Not just your friends that help you in the game, but also all of the NPC characters you meet. So many different things happen in the game and the way in which Guerilla is inclusive of lots of different people is so heartwarming. In the game, you meet characters of many different ethnicities who appear to all be represented fairly, they have loads of LGBTQ+ characters in the game which promotes inclusiveness in gaming, many different backgrounds in terms of wealth, and so much more diversity. Each of the “bigger” NPC characters has something unique about them. Honestly seeing so much variety in characters is great as you aren’t just staring at the same character reproduced multiple times which gets boring.
Any major downsides in the game? Well, in fact, yes there are. In my opinion, no matter how good a game is, I never consider a game 100% perfect because honestly, that means nothing can be improved in updates, patches, or future titles. One of my problems is a simple one. I had about 4 crashes in the game that made it go from in-game to the PS5 home screen. Another one that is also simple is I had major graphical bugs happen in-game that blocked any progress. I was hunting Stalker machines for a request at one point and when I was near a grassy patch, I picked up a weapon, and random trees and branches were created around me encircling me and not allowing me to leave, making me need to reload in the game. I was also able to replicate this same bug four times and it made me mad since I couldn’t progress if I did that. All four crashes were examples of a technical issue that happened before the 1.06 patch. After this patch, I had 1 crash but no major issues besides that. Open world games, and bigger budget games all have bugs, and I expect that in this day and age, even though I rather not have to.
The other big problem I have with the game is a little bit more of Sony/Guerilla either tricking the consumers or somewhat misleading the player based on the showcase they did. One of the big promotional times they did a lot of content for pre-game launch was the 14 minute gameplay showcase they did with a giant Tremortusk scene when Erend was captured on the beach and you have rescue him. Yeah, that’s nowhere in the game! It is not found in the game, whether it be the main story section or a side mission involving him. It’s just NOT there. Was this cut content, or was this never meant to be part of the game and it was just to showcase the title? Either way, I wasn’t very happy with that as I was kind of looking forward to that cutscene and mission. I will say this though in their defense, without spoiling the storyline in any way shape, or form, the studio is 100% teasing either DLC or a third game later down the line, and I don’t mean the VR title for PSVR 2. Maybe this is part of the DLC plans later.
Okay so overall, what do I think about this game? Well, in all honesty, it’s probably going to be one of my favorite games of the PS5 generation and is up there with favorites of all time. Inclusiveness, art style, visuals, voice acting, music, audio design, gameplay, and the world itself are all fantastic. The story has so many twists and turns and made me super emotional to the point of crying, both near the middle of the story, and at the end of the game with the credits scene. When a game hits you in the emotional feels, it’s better than if it has no emotional impact on you. Imagine if Fire Emblem, Xenoblade, The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, God of War, or any other game franchise that people cry about in the stories, they didn’t make you cry; I pose the question, are they still just as good? Even with the issues I had in the game, I personally think it stands out as one of the greats in the PS5 generation, and it is only year 2 right now. Play the first one, and if you like it, you will like this one. If you don’t, you probably should pass on this. With 90 hours clocked in and the Platinum obtained, did you expect me to say something else?