Back in 2017, Horizon Zero Dawn blew the minds of PlayStation fans with a rich and thoroughly enjoyable story. Following a brand-new character, Aloy, on her journey to survive in a distant future filled with robotic creatures and tribes of warriors that stand in her way of uncovering the truth behind her existence. After some pandemic-related delays, fans were finally given a sequel in the form of Horizon Forbidden West exclusively on the PlayStation 5.
Taking place six months after the final battle of Zero Dawn, the game picks up with Aloy searching for a backup of the GAIA program to restore the planet’s biosphere. When Aloy uncovers a backup of GAIA that has been tampered with, she is contacted by the mysterious Sylens and told to meet him in the Forbidden West (an overgrown and decaying Western United States) where Aloy hopes to find GAIA. As she is about to begin her long journey into unknown territory, Aloy crosses paths with members of the Tenakth tribe and learns of brewing internal conflict that she has unknowingly walked directly into the start of.
After helping the Tenakth win the first battle of their civil war, Aloy races off to the West and eventually retrieves an incomplete GAIA backup that she must now find all the subordinate functions for.
After retrieving the backup, Aloy is confronted by a group of God-like humans with technological enhancements known as the Zeniths. The Zeniths, to the surprise of Aloy, is a clone of Elisabet Sobeck (the woman who Aloy was cloned from) named Beta. Barely escaping a fight with the Zeniths, Aloy is rescued by her friend Varl and the two can join a subordinate function back to GAIA. This action provides a map of the remaining functions spread throughout the Forbidden West that Aloy and her companions must find before the Zeniths do. What follows is a story of discovery, loss, acceptance, and hope that ramps the story of Aloy forward to places you can’t even imagine. And the ending sets up what promises to be an even more insane third game.
Before we get into the updated features between Zero Dawn and Forbidden West, the insane level of detail and effort that went into these titles by Guerrilla Games is most immediately apparent. The visuals, music, character and environment designs, and the combat are notably some of the best in recent memory for story-driven games like these, taking full advantage of the PS5’s new load times and particle effect rendering. Vanity aside, the functionality is the main difference between the two games, coming down to the combat and the expansion on the story.
While Zero Dawn followed Aloy’s journey from child to brave warrior, Forbidden West shows a more fully formed and confident Aloy who is known around the world for her accomplishments in the first game. I found myself not quite enjoying Aloy’s conversations with a lot of the side characters as they were mostly the same praise and admiration for her actions while Aloy seems almost annoyed by the sentiment.
The main storyline is interesting and does have several powerful moments, I found myself enjoying the side missions that focused on the Tenakth tribe and the numerous other tribes you can encounter while exploring the West.
The combat system was given a significant upgrade this time around. Not only are number of available weapons increased and diversified, but the upgrading system for the weapons and skills has also been given a much wider and more detailed expansion. This allows for way more customization and allowed for players to focus skill points on areas where they excel more or feel more important depending on where they are at in the story.
Along with the combat, the traversal options are improved beginning with the simple addition of a grappling hook tool that greatly helps when climbing the mountainous terrain. The number of mountable machines throughout the massive map allows for different traversal options as well. And we would be remiss to exclude the new ability to override flying machines and fight your enemies from the skies.
Horizon Forbidden West takes the success of its predecessor and shoots for the stars with a cinematic, visually stunning, and genuinely fun game that truly takes advantage of all the PlayStation 5 has to offer. Although the story doesn’t feel as strong as the first installment, the numerous side quests help expand the story and provide a better look into the state of this drastically changed landscape. The upgrading of the combat and traversal systems, which were still very impressive in the first game, made for a much more robust and enjoyable experience for the player this time around. What comes next for Aloy and her friends promises to be something out of this world and we should all be ready for it!
Out Now for PlayStation 5
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Guerrilla Games
The Review Copy Of This Software Was Purchased By The Reviewer
Watch the trailer for the game below