Guerilla Games are no stranger to the limelight. They have been building games of exceptional quality for years and are, without doubt, a team of extraordinary talent. After the massive blockbuster success that was Horizon: Zero Dawn, the stage has been set for what we all expect to be a game of unparalleled quality… rather hefty expectations to satisfy!
Horizon: Forbidden West is the successor to Horizon: Zero Dawn and the first title from Guerilla to release on the PlayStation 5. After stopping Hades from destroying the Planet, Aloy finds that Gaia, the terraforming machine responsible for keeping the planet habitable, is no longer able to sustain life in its fragmented state and must seek out the means to rebuild her before the planet becomes uninhabitable.
The story, which starts out rather straightforward, quickly spirals into a complex and thrilling sci-fi experience that by far exceeds its predecessor. The looming apocalypse, of sorts, instils a strong sense of urgency in everything you do. You become so invested in the end goal that you feel the pressure Aloy is under. Such immense effort was put into giving the player a true sense of what was at stake and how easily it can all be lost.
You will gain a huge appreciation for the insane amount of dialogue and cutscenes that have been added to all areas of the game. You can get lost in deep conversations with NPCs trying to dig deeper into backstories and digging up more information about the old world. You just can’t get enough information on the events that transpired in the lead up to the construction of the Horus Titan War Machines, which gave rise to the conception of Zero Dawn.
The pacing of the game has been carefully planned to give you just enough to make you want to race ahead and get things done so you can dig up a little more information. You will begin to treasure every audio log and diary you find pertaining to the old world. Don’t let the primitive tribal style fool you, this game is science fiction gold!
The combat and general gameplay remain mostly unchanged from the previous game. You have a spear, bow & arrow and a range of other ranged weapons for taking down machines and other enemies in the game. A few exciting additions come in the form of a glider and a snorkel-like device that allows you to swim underwater, allowing you to experience some more complex platforming puzzles than before.
One thing that has been improved immensely are the visuals. This game looks sensational from every possible angle. No effort has been spared in trying to build a world that is an artistic masterpiece. The environment is packed with detail. Dense foliage and natural environment features are woven into a realistic tapestry. It doesn’t matter what area of the game you focus on, it is like a needle in a haystack trying to find any visual flaws.
What is truly impressive is how you can quickly travel across the map on a mount and see next to no hiccups in the loading of the environment or any machines/animals that inhabit the area. It is hard to believe that a game can look this good yet be so flawless. What sort of sacrifice to the old gods needed to be made to allow for such unbridled quality.
Skin is the only flawed area and it’s a good thing. The obsession with modern beauty standards doesn’t exist in the new world. You can see blemishes on peoples skin and even see pores on peoples faces. Imperfect hairlines and other things that are considered flaws today give a true sense of realism to the characters. Conversations with NPCs actually make you feel like you are talking to real people sometimes.
You can often argue that the higher detail models are used for cut scenes and the game reverts to lower-res models in-game. This difference is not nearly as noticeable as it was in games last gen. Not only are characters detailed, but there are dynamic details that apply depending on where you are. Look closely at Aloys face when you are running in the hot sun and you will see she is sweating profusely. Her hair looks incredible but you can only imagine it makes cooling down very challenging.
Between the story and some side quests, you could easily put 50 hours into this game before you start to run low on substantial tasks to keep you occupied. The critical part here is substantial. Even the side quests, which are plentiful, have stories of their own that are often more than just an “I lost X, help me find it”. Every now and then you will come across a side quest of RPG quality that will end up taking quite some time to work through.
There are plenty of trivial side quests but there are just as many that keep you engaged and hungry for more. Side quests may not be at the top of your agenda when the end of the world is at your back door but you won’t be finding you hang up your bow after finishing the main story. Horizon: Forbidden West offers a lot of activities to keep you entertained.
Horizon: Zero Dawn was a left-field move for Guerilla and Forbidden West has clearly demonstrated that it was more than just a lucky shot. Horizon: Forbidden west is one of those games that even the most stubborn nitpickers would have a hard time finding problems with. Every aspect of the game has been crafted with so much care and excellence that outside of Sci-Fi in general not being your bag, you are sure to enjoy every moment of this heroic adventure.