Given how much of an identity crisis exists in gaming today, it’s refreshing to see sequels that are comfortable in their own skin. We’re talking about good old improvements over their predecessors, where mechanics are tweaked and new ones are introduced to keep the setting and concept in mind. No aping similar games or radically changing stuff for the sake of it. Horizon: Forbidden West is such a sequel. It retains what made gamers fall in love with the first game while expanding upon the universe and adding in a ton of new content.
Forbidden West takes place nearly six months after the events of the first game, with Aloy and her crew emerging victorious after fighting Hades, the rogue AI that threatened human existence on Earth. Their celebration is short-lived as humanity is in peril again and Aloy is the only one who can save it. Aloy is definitely more confident in her role as saviour this time around, but in a lot of cut-scenes, she does come across as a little smug and arrogant. And while most of the in-game characters perform their roles as supporting cast well enough, some of them are just plain dumb or annoying. That being said, Forbidden West really leans into its sci-fi setting and goes to places that will definitely resonate with fans of the genre.
Like the first game, Forbidden West thrusts you in a fairly linear tutorial section after which the game’s massive map opens up. You can then choose to make a beeline for your objectives or explore the massive and downright gorgeous world Guerrilla Games has crafted. Besides the main and side quests, the world of Forbidden West is a treat to explore with numerous activities to indulge in. There are treasures guarded behind locked doors, NPCs to rescue from the bad guys/bots, gear to chase, landmarks to uncover and lots more.
Travelling the world is now a more intuitive process since you have a mount unlocked from the get-go. Aloy is also more athletic and can scale mountains and cliffs with ease. There’s new gear in the form of a glider that can help you traverse vast distances so jumping off a cliff no longer results in a gnarly death. Cauldrons – the cybernetic dungeons from the first game – are back and gameplay in these sections leans heavily on exploration and puzzle solving, and is a great change of pace from the constant action in the open world. None of these are compulsory though, but thoroughly exploring the world will always benefit you in some way, be it with XP, better gear or the ability to override and control different machines. And that’s something we really appreciate because unlike open-world games that just throw a ton of busy work your way, Horizon’s side-quests feel well thought out and rewarding.
But the world of Forbidden West is as dangerous as it is stunning and is crawling with new machines. Not only are their designs terrific, but fighting them is also not an easy task and will make you master a lot of the game’s mechanics. Thankfully, Aloy has a bunch of new tricks up her sleeve to take care of potential problems. Melee combat in the first game felt like an afterthought, but in Forbidden West, it’s as solid as most melee-centric action games. Not only does combat feel crisp and satisfying, but you can also unlock a ridiculous amount of active and passive skills to become a master of melee combat. Of course, if close ranged combat is not for you, you can always invest in ranged combat and pick people off with your bow and arrow or take them out quietly by investing in stealth. Or you can mix and match skills to create a hunter proficient in both melee combat and stealth. There are no restrictions here.
We know we always say this when a new first-party game comes out on the PS5, but Forbidden West is definitely one of the best – if not the best – looking games on the platform right now. Everything from the world itself to character and enemy design is meticulously detailed and oozes polish. And we really aren’t exaggerating when we say this, but this game has set the new standard for rendered video game faces.
Horizon: Forbidden West offers both a resolution and a performance mode – and while visuals in the performance mode may not look that sharp since the game is downscaled from a 4K resolution, playing at 60 FPS is just infinitely better than 30 in our opinion. It goes without saying if you liked the first game, you’ll love this game and even if you missed out on its predecessor, watch a YouTube video that catches you up on the events of this game and dive right in. You won’t be sorry.