Many might wonder why the subtitle for my Horizon Forbidden West review says current gem but we have to remember, PS5 is out for a year and 4 months now and making PS4 a last gen console. Title aside, the latest entry for Horizon takes place 6 months after the original game. Which means for new comers, there’s a lot of catching up to do if they want to fully understand the story. This will be prominent in dialogues with old friends and context on what is happening to the world. But story aside, the game still offers a lot for new comers. From gorgeous graphics, the innovative combat, down to the most minute of side quests Horizon Forbidden West is a true sight to behold. And a key takeaway to remind you is that this was played on a PS4 with a 5 years old TV and the graphics still looks as good as it can get.
The story is set in the post-apocalyptic world in the California Region. Aloy continuous her journey to save the world from certain extinction. As she travels throughout the land in search for both the way to prevent the apocalypse, as well as her place in the world. Joined by her allies in her quest, she faces new threats, new machines, a new mysterious faction that’s seemingly set on a path that could prove cataclysmic on her part, and even herself as she struggles what she truly is. But the main story isn’t just the one that has this flair. Every side quest isn’t just a “fetch-me-that” or “do this”, there is a reason for doing that and even a way to better flesh out the world around you. This is either from the story of the quest giver, down to the way you shape the future of a settlement. That is how Guerilla approached this story telling with a very compelling and expansive world.
Horizon Forbidden West retains the same mechanic from the previous game on which it stands out. A combat that gives you incentives on a smart approach on combating the machines around you rather than just mindlessly wailing at an enemy. This also extends to your human foes that seemingly understands your attack pattern and learn from it on the fly. Aloy’s focus also plays a more pivotal role on each encounter. Previously, I remember just scanning the enemies for their name, then that is it. Now, I oftentimes remember relying on how to break each part of an enemy using my focus. That is how integral the Focus is now on your journey. And this time around it doesn’t just apply during a boss or mini boss fight. But the regular goons themselves have this kind of combat aptitude. Thus, making you not just improvise but also strategize on each encounter.
Speaking of mindlessly wailing at an enemy, spear now plays a more pivotal role on your arsenal rather than just an after thought on it. With a new combo and abilities to complement it, a Melee build is now more feasible than ever. One of the highlight weapons that makes it way to the trailers and gameplay videos is the spear thrower. And it functions as it is and admittedly not as good as the one on the launch videos leading to the release but it is a welcome addition to your arsenal. But admittedly, cheesing and ease of fighting enemies is still viable allowing the option for a wide array of players to enjoy its combat. Whether you’re a hardcore player that takes on enemies head on, or picking them up piece by piece from the comfort of your hiding place you’d find Horizon Forbidden West a great combat opportunity. Added to this is the array of skills that boosts Aloy’s combat capabilities and the much teased Valor surge that gives a satisfying animation on activation.
Along with the cadre of the new weapons, the game also brings a new merchants type and training and combat zone. This means that aside from the previous merchants, there is a melee pit that lets you practice the new spear combos and resonant blast that is added to your move set. Another key feature is the proving grounds added that is added to the arena. So what makes it different from Hunting grounds? You have to hunt the specified machines in a certain way. You can’t simply cheese it like the Thunderjaw on Horizon Zero Dawn. This also gives you an added tutorial for other mechanics such as the environmental traps that also litters the world of Horizon Forbidden West.
Making its debut in the game is the Strike minigame. This minigame is introduced early on in the game and is the game’s version of checkers to put it simply. But really it’s much more complicated than checkers and has a few set rules that is more better experienced than explained here. In any case, for trophy hunters out there it’s worth giving this minigame a shot.
Along with new machines, new weapon, and game mechanics. Traversing and quality of life has greater breadth in this game. One example is the stash on inventory. Allowing you to gather more materials to be stored and retrieve with ease. With an infinite space for materials, the only concern would be going back to refill your inventory which isn’t that hard to do since every major settlement has it. And they share the inventory on all of them. Inventory management isn’t just the new addition to the game. Teased on the trailer is the shield glider akin to Link’s glider that lets you, in the words of Buzz Lightyear “Fall in style”. And fall in style I did. With this, yeeting yourself from great height is oh so so good. Rappel down a Tallneck? Hell no! Gliding and taking the view from that height is so much fun.
Focus has also played a huge part on the traversing mechanics as it highlights every climbable location on the world. Oh why is that? The game limits the white paint/yellow paint marker seen on not just the previous title, but also other games as well. Like Uncharted Series and God of War. That is right they done a way with not relying on that common trope. It isn’t to say it is completely removed but it is limited thus giving it a more fresh look on the world and not just rely on that overused trope. Last note to be taken is the slide and dodge roll mechanics. It was emphasized that sliding has been given a huge boost and can be chained together with the dodge roll for greater invulnerability time. Admittedly. I never knew Horizon Zero Dawn has slide mechanics thus, hearing that makes me regret that I just cheese the whole encounter. By that I mean I let machines fight each other.
As my intro states, the game is played on a 5 year old TV and PS4. Yet it is still as good as it can get. Admittedly, one could find the game more appealing graphics wise with the right display. The game still boasts a beautifully designed models from Aloy, to her friends, even to the machines she fought. Though with older generation, you can notice some drop on game textures but this is if you will be focusing on those said details. One example would be on the kitchen, onions appear to just be shapes. That being said, I can understand the cost cutting since with the shortage of PS5 and the economic constrain of many of us. Guerilla Games still managed to have a PS4 version that is still playable.
I remember the controversy on some trailers leading to the release of the game regarding Aloy’s redesign. It was controversial to put it mildly but for some reason, Guerilla didn’t push through with the redesign. Perhaps they cave in to the pressure? But nonetheless Aloy still has the same model as the previous title. If I may add, she feels more alive here due to the fact that she’ll turn red when exhausted. I noticed this whenever I’m running from a hot environment and she is more red and her freckles are more pronounced when doing so.
Now, with all of these high praises. And rightfully so. Is it a perfect game? Not really. Admittedly the criticism I can give is mainly due to the fact that this was played on a last gen console. But one glaring thing I see is the conflict with Regalla and the Tenakth is a modified plot from Horizon Zero Dawn they just tweaked it somewhat to make it distinctly different. But it is still there. If not for the twist along the way. I would mistake this for a bit of reskin of Horizon Zero Dawn. This aside, the world and story telling of the game is something to behold. Taking the Tremortusk head on is one of the highlights I truly loved. Side note, it took at least 300 normal arrows to give a considerable dent on its HP and several resets.
OveralI, I cannot further recommend the game to everyone. From graphics, to gameplay. Even the story and world building text is top notch. The grind isn’t a chore to do so. And in particular, equipment doesn’t just fall to the trope of the rarer it is, the more damage it could do. For one, as I trek trough the world of Horizon Forbidden West, I often still use my starting weapons to fight more advanced machines. Admittedly, this is due to my lack of exploration and the drive to look for better weapons. But hey, they still get the job done.