Game Review | Horizon Forbidden West – a truly next-generation experience
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Everyone plays games for different reasons. Some play games as an outlet for their competitiveness; some gravitate towards it as a means of relaxation and an escape from the humdrum of daily life, and others, like myself, play games to feel emotions we otherwise wouldn’t. If I play a game and walk away from the session with an emotion different from the one I sat down with, be it fear, happiness, sadness or even excitement, then I consider it time well spent. And if you’re looking for a game that will make you feel stuff down into your very core, Horizon Forbidden West is where it’s at.
Without going into any spoilers: Horizon Forbidden West is a story-rich action role-playing game and the direct sequel and continuation to Horizon Until Dawn, with players once more stepping into the shoes of Aloy. During the first title, we watched Aloy grow from being an outcast, and cast out of her Nora tribe, to being the one who saved the world. No exaggeration. The game was an emotional roller coaster filled with far more character development than players were used to seeing within games. Horizon Forbidden West is no different. This time around, the game takes place in the aftermath of its predecessor and deals with the often unspoken burden saving the world places on you and the toll it takes.
Horizon Forbidden West reviewed on PlayStation 5 by Simon Cardy.
I play many games and most as they come out. While there has been no shortage of mechanically impressive and visually stunning titles, especially over the last year, Horizon Forbidden West takes it to a new level. If you’ve been on the internet since the game launched, I’m guessing you’ve already seen enough screenshots to know precisely what I’m talking about, but honestly, screenshots just don’t do this game justice.
There is a natural rhythm and flow to Horizon Forbidden West that still images don’t capture. It’s in the way Aloys hair moves, the way the wind interacts with the foliage around you and the way you can see even the slightest emotional ticks on characters’ faces that make this a genuinely next-generation experience. In a game where the entire story is about finding humanity in a world mostly void of it, the characters in Horizon Forbidden West are some of the most human around. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was playing a game with a heartbeat and where the characters were truly alive. Watching their faces as they talk to each other is one of the most impressive feats in games available today, this helps the story feel impactful and helps the game resonate with the player.
One of the core parts of the Horizon games, especially Horizon Forbidden West, is combat. Outside of story-building and conversations, most of your time as Aloy will be spent either exploring or fighting. Thankfully, it’s in combat that the game truly comes alive and shows what it’s capable of. The sheer difference between the terrifying beauty of the hulking robotic beasts and Aloy, a tiny mortal human, makes every fight feel epic Because of the inherent power unbalance, each fight will require learning attack patterns, finding weak spots, managing various status effects and exploiting weaknesses. Another interesting aspect taken straight from the first game is the ability to override the robots and have them fight alongside you. While turning the robots to your side isn’t indefinite, it doesn’t have to be. The fleeting moments where you get to stand by and watch two monstrously gorgeous robots engaged in a fight of epic proportions is one of the most visually impressive parts of the game.
Don’t get me wrong; Horizon Forbidden West is not perfect. I’ve experienced my fair share of dialogues that seemed to go on just a touch too long, traversed areas where it felt like the game hated me, and even one amusing bug where Aloy glitched out and was flying around my screen in one of her actions posses. However, not once through all the hours spent in the game did one of these issues overshadow anything else. Yes, they’re there, but so few and far between by the time you find the next bug, the previous one will have been long forgotten.
There is one unfortunate thing about the Horizon games though, and that’s timing. When the first title came out, I didn’t know a single person who had tried it and didn’t fall madly in love. But then The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out, and the hype surrounding Horizon died only to be rediscovered many months later. With the launch of Horizon Forbidden West, I fear it’s happening again. While Horizon Forbidden West is undoubtedly beautiful and maybe even the first real “next-generation” experience I’ve had on my PS5, I can’t help but feel disappointed when I see a lot of the hype and excitement surrounding the game disappear and move onto Elden Ring instead.
Horizon Forbidden West is a sequel that deserves to exist. Instead of just piggybacking on the game before, Horizon Forbidden West elevated it and proved there was more to Aloy’s story and that it needed to be told. In a world coming loose at the edges, the incredible human story of connecting with those around us is needed now more than ever. The main story of Horizon Forbidden West should take you roughly 30 hours to complete but depending on playstyle, you can easily spend upwards of 80 hours in the game.