Title: Horizon Forbidden West.
Release date: 2022.
Console (player on): PlayStation 5.
Console (also available on): PlayStation 4.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Mystery.
Developer: Guerilla Games.
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Director(s): Mathijs de Jonge.
Producer(s): Joel Eschler.
Artist(s): Jan-Bart van Beek & Misja Baas.
Writer(s): Ben McCaw.
Composer(s): Joris de Man, Niels van der Leest, Oleksa Lozowchuk & The Flight.
Voice Actor(s): Ashly Burch, John Macmillan, Lesley Ewen, Lance Reddick, John Hopkins, and many more!
My Overall Rating:
Destiny has a way to shatter one’s reality. Ruthless at its core, it establishes a way of life for an individual and forces them to confront it as an existential debate. Where do you go from there? A flight or fight response is set in place and only one’s individual experiences can dictate how one will approach the uphill battle that is in front of them. In Horizon Zero Dawn (2017), the young, brave, and fierce warrior Aloy sets off on a journey through a world brimming with animalistic machines in search of answers, desperately trying to uncover the past that both affects who she is and the origins of the world in which she lives. Enlightened with explanations, she now has to venture further away from her people, deep into the Forbidden West to prevent another extinction event. Developed by Guerilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, this second installment in the series builds on the franchise’s foundation to further expand and explore a post-apocalyptic yet terrifyingly gorgeous world.
What is Horizon Forbidden West (2022) about? Set six months after the events in Horizon Zero Dawn (2017), Aloy desperately seeks a working backup of GAIA to restore balance and prevent the biosphere from its rapid degradation. Without much success, she’s finally contacted by Sylens who tells her about the Forbidden West region and the answers that she can finally get if she dares venture far into the unwelcoming grounds. However, the territory beyond her home is breeding discord and treachery, as she arrives in the midst of a civil war between the ruling Tenakth tribe and rebels led by Regalla. Forced to juggle the sociopolitical battles among humans, the perilous mechanical creatures roaming the world, and her own fragile belief in finding a solution to all the chaos around her, she sets out to find the key to stopping a terrifying calamity and healing the lands of the people from the deadly blight and catastrophic storms that ravage it.
It would be a difficult task to embark on this journey without first getting through Horizon Zero Dawn (2017). The overarching plot is quintessential to the protagonist’s journey and establishes a crystal clear objective desperately sought by Aloy and her friends. Although it is formulaic and broken down into easy-to-follow steps, necessary to ensure a sense of direction, the narrative offers plenty of freedom to allow players to diverge in their main journey and explore a myriad of terrains and people from all kinds of tribes. Mostly through the subplots, the lore is also expanded with the countless sociopolitical powerplays and dramas. The numerous interpersonal, intergenerational, and romantic relationships between the various characters you encounter also allow for some short and sweet conflicts to be resolved through the protagonist who often ends up serving as the counselor and mediator between all parties.
Unfortunately, this is also a double-edged sword that can be perceived as the game’s ultimate pitfall with Aloy darting across the region, from one problem to another, solving them as the ultimate messiah. While players can easily skip through a lot of optional dialogues, they will be tempted to exhaust them all at every given chance. As you progress through the game, these pseudo-optional dialogues, necessary to better connect with the non-playing characters and their plights, will quickly feel like a tool for info dump on players. You will inevitably have to then choose to skip through it all to quickly progress through the core plot that you’ve probably set aside to go gather ingredients, hunt for parts, and upgrade your gear, or patiently work your way through every dialogue and rush through the gameplay instead.
Aloy’s reputation precedes her within this world following her incredible exploits in Horizon Zero Dawn (2017). Her role and persona indubitably resemble that of a messiah as she becomes, right from the get-go, the only person who can put an end to everyone’s suffering if, and only if, the people are ready to put aside their traditional ways, their customs, and their culture. Without an open-minded vision of the world, they’d have trouble accepting the more futuristic and advanced conception of life that Aloy has grasped so far into her journey. It is often this issue of unveiling the truth to the people versus avoiding the destruction of their fundamental beliefs and hopes that puts at stake the survival of these people. However, the toughest battle that she has to face throughout this journey is seeing her optimistic ways clash with the defeatist nature of countless others she meets.
A lesson she learns through this latest adventure in fact resides in sharing the weight of her destiny with others who want to lend a helping hand. Fortunately, she always thrives in the darkness and ends up being the teacher instead of the student. Although it is annoying to continuously hear her speak out loud to tell players what to do next (let us learn for ourselves, will ya?), her character remains strong and brilliantly voiced by Ashly Burch. The performances of Carrie-Anne Moss as the mysterious Tilda and Angela Bassett as the leader Regalla are also memorable and welcome additions to this growing universe. The incredible motion capture technology used to develop the game also adds impressive emotion and realism to these characters, especially throughout cutscenes.
Thankfully, in terms of gameplay, Guerilla Games did a formidable job in building on the already-established mechanics of the first game and fully embracing the next-generation console’s full potential to deliver an easy-to-use and efficient control scheme. Once more, it is irrefutably engaging and original, leaving the combat strategies and planning to the player, deciding whether they want to go wild as they rush into the battlefield head first for close-quarter combat, a ranged assault while using the environment to their advantage, or pick a much more stealth-oriented approach to take down enemies through sneaky attacks and traps laid out at opportunistic locations. A time-slowing mechanism also allows players to quickly analyze situations and explore weak points to determine the best approach to taking down some of the mightiest creatures and enemies they’ll encounter. An original skill tree also offers players an impressive amount of customization as they build their character according to their playstyle and learn new moves and abilities that are greatly beneficial during combat.
As Aloy’s character further cements her place among the iconic and incredible heroes belonging to Playstation repertoire, the Horizon franchise continues to exceed itself and aim for the stars when it comes to graphical accomplishments. From the gorgeously designed mecha-animals roaming the breath-taking ecosystem that Guerilla Games has created to the innovation in the freedom of movement, whether it’s land, sea, or air, this latest installment in the franchise is a spine-tingling visual and animated success. Alongside the epic score infused into the world, there is no denying the formidable and incredibly fun universe they’ve created with this game and there’s no guessing what they’ll achieve next with an inevitable sequel that has yet to be announced.
Horizon Forbidden West (2022) is a visually breathtaking and explosive open-world action-adventure set within an immersive and treacherous ecosystem as you follow Alloy in her quest to save her world from an unknown yet destructive blight.