Monday, September 26, 2022

Horizon Forbidden West is a great sequel and certainly one of the best PlayStation exclusives this year. Compared to the first game, it has been improved on almost every aspect. On the technical side, the beautifully scenic world of Horizon is even more beautiful. As for gameplay: the existing mechanics have been thoroughly reworked and a decent amount of new ones added, including movement tools and a full-fledged underwater component. Quests, both narrative and optional, have become much better and more engaging, and the narrative as a whole has become more cinematic and logical. The game will definitely appeal to fans of the first game as well as fans of open-world games.

5 reasons to buy Horizon Forbidden West:

Incredibly beautiful visual style and great graphics;
interesting main story missions and a number of optional ones;
fascinating combat system;
the implementation of the DualSense gamepad features;
enjoyable soundtrack and good virtual surround sound implementation.

2 reasons not to buy Horizon Forbidden West:

Some of the side activities are too trivial;
minor bugs; noticeable under-loading of objects and textures in the frame (first day patch will probably fix that).

What does the Forbidden West hold?

In Horizon Zero Dawn we have already been introduced to a post-apocalyptic world a millennium after the near extinction of humanity and all life on Earth. The remnants of humanity have been thrown back to their origins. They live in tribal communities, re-learning agriculture, metalworking, simple tools, construction, writing and other civilisational assets. The land is dominated by huge animal-like machines, the origin story of which, like the demise of mankind, is told in the first part of the game. Despite the “happy ending”, the ending of Horizon Zero Dawn clearly made it clear that this is far from the end. We will not go into details, in case those, who haven’t passed the first part of Eloy’s adventures, will read this review. The events of Horizon Forbidden West unfold six months after the Zero Dawn ending.

As it turns out, the threat to all life on the planet has only been partially defeated. The Earth is being devoured by a mysterious spell, enormous storms, climate change and new, even more ferocious machines. In Horizon Forbidden West, Eloi will set out to explore the so-called Forbidden West to unravel the mysteries of the red spell and natural cataclysms in the hope of preventing another global extinction. The Forbidden West is the uncharted lands beyond the Barrier, the western border of the House of the Sun. The Forbidden West is bitterly known for its dangers and few have gone there alive.

During his journey, Eloi will encounter characters and tribes already familiar from the first part of the game, as well as new, previously unknown ones. In Zero Dawn Eloi was relying only on herself, but in the new journey she is assisted both by the already familiar Erend and Varl, and unexpected representatives of the Tenact and Utaru tribes, whom we meet in Forbidden West. The Utaru are a peace-loving tribe, primarily concerned with agriculture. The Tenact, on the other hand, are a warlike and aggressive tribe with a clan system, from which the Karha are defeated. Furthermore, the Tenact have been split and the rebels, led by their leader Regalla, pose a particular threat, not least because they have learned how to “tame” and use machines to their advantage. The mysterious and self-centred Silence has also not disappeared and Eloi’s relationship with him becomes even more strained.

Eloi will encounter more unexpected and mysterious characters along the way, including Tilda, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, seen in one of the game’s latest story trailers. Her role is far from episodic. As in the first part of the game, Eloi’s main goal is trivial – to save the world. But the plot of Horizon Forbidden West regularly delights in very unexpected twists and turns, and in general doesn’t develop as obviously as in Zero Dawn. It’s often really hard to predict what’s going to happen after completing another story mission. And whether you can trust the next important character you meet. In the first part, we learned the lion’s share of the lore from various notes and audio recordings. In Horizon Forbidden West the developers put an emphasis on cinematography, and most of the information we get talking to other characters. The dialogues themselves also look more vivid thanks to the changing camera angles.

The overall development of both the storyline and all the characters is much better and more detailed than in the first part. There are considerably fewer unsubstantiated and illogical twists and turns. The progression of the story and the changes in the characters, including Eloi herself, is interesting throughout the game. The work of the developers on the side quests and activities is also worth noting. The side quests, for the most part, are more deliberate, logical and interesting, and at times have connections to the main storyline. And the characters from these side quests can then be repeatedly met and interact as the game progresses. The rewards for these tasks have also become more weighty: instead of conditional boxes with rare supplies you can get, for example, a completely new kind of weapon in your arsenal. In general all the quests became more complex and often consist of 6-8 stages, although it is worth remembering that Horizon Forbidden West is an open-world game. And although the level of side quests significantly increased, you can’t do without boring ones. But there are not many of them.

Hunter trials, camp clearing, observation points, cauldrons, longshanks and all sorts of “collectibles” remain in place, but gameplay has been redesigned. For example, now each lonoshey needs your own approach, and its capture turns into a kind of quest for 30 minutes. In addition to the familiar in the first part of the game new activities have been added: tabletop mini-game “Clash of the Machines”, combat pits, battles with cars in the arena, car racing, contracts, and exploration of the Precursor Ruins. So it’s possible to “disappear” into the game for many dozens of hours. A small complaint arose in a couple of side activities: they require certain skills or gadgets. For example, one of the underwater side quests caught almost at the beginning of the game, but to perform it without a mask simply can not, and she we will get much later.

What about gameplay, combat system and game world?

Guerrilla Games has managed to make the world of Horizon Zero Dawn very incredibly scenic, vivid, memorable and diverse. In Horizon Forbidden West you can admire the scenery even more. The area where the game’s events take place covers the current states of Utah, Nevada and California. As in the first part, Eloi must visit a lot of different ecosystems, including plains, dense forests, jungles, deserts, snow-covered mountains and the ocean. Along the way, ruins of ancient ancestral structures are encountered. Including cities. For example, in the trailers you could already see the ruined San Francisco, what was left of the famous Golden Gate Bridge and the Transamerica skyscraper. There are more settlements in the game world, and they are implemented in a much more diverse and lively way: a large number of people who interact with each other and “live” their lives. It is still possible to move around the world in your own two cars, as well as in tame cars. Fast travel works in two ways: anywhere – using fast travel kits, between familiar campfires – “for free”.

Exploring it all was made even more interesting by the new gadgets at Eloi’s disposal. This includes a hook-and-grab and a wing shield. The hook-grip allows you to quickly pull yourself up to certain points in the environment, as well as destroying or moving some objects. The wing-shield allows you to smoothly descend from any height to the ground. The Hook Grapple and Shield can be effectively combined during combat. In Horizon Forbidden West, the developers give the player much more freedom of movement through the game world. It’s no longer just possible to climb a wall or a rock with yellow hook point markings. Climbing and parkour have become more intuitive, although restrictions still remain. Rocks that can be climbed are highlighted with the visor.

Another important and very large-scale innovation is the underwater world, which can be fully explored. Some of the underwater locations can only be accessed with the appropriate scuba mask, which we do not get at the beginning of the game. The underwater world is very detailed, with colourful algae and underwater life. Some algae can be used to hide from the machines: underwater Eloi can’t use weapons, so in some cases this is the only way out. The new mechanics don’t end there. But one of the very cool new features I’m not going to tell you about, so as to avoid spoilers and leave it as a surprise for the players.

The gameplay foundation of the game remained the same, but it was pumped up literally on all fronts. There are considerably more vehicles, each with at least two variations. But Eloi has also significantly expanded its arsenal. There are several types of bows, as well as in the first part, but there are more types of arrows. There are discometh, spears, slingshot, nitemeth and so on. To fight effectively, each vehicle must be scanned, identifying weaknesses and what type of projectiles (fire, cold, acid, plasma, electricity, water). You can now use the visor to mark a specific part of the vehicle, allowing you to better navigate in combat. Hitting the vulnerable point of the vehicle with a certain type of shell, you can activate the so-called spontaneous effect, for example, an explosion of a container of flammable substance. Fans of stealthy gameplay will definitely enjoy the large set of traps available in various capacities.

Eloi’s spear is ineffective against vehicles, but is excellent against humans. There are fewer of them in the game, by the way, but they are significantly redesigned, both in terms of dynamics and visually. Human enemies actively use force shields and long-range weapons, which encourages the player to combine different types of attacks. As you level up, a variety of combos become available and the game encourages their use. During their use, and successful attacks in general, the spear accumulates a charge. A charged spear gives the use of a new mechanic called “resonator blast”: after a successful combination Eloi jumps away from the enemy, a circular “target” appears on it, a hit to which from the bow deals huge damage. Horizon Forbidden West’s combat is much more intelligent and dynamic than that of Zero Dawn, and after 50 hours in the game it has not managed to get boring.

The developers from Guerrilla Games made sure that the players with different level of training felt comfortable to play the game. The game has several difficulty levels, and you can also customize certain aspects separately. Eloi’s damage, automatic collection of parts after the destruction of vehicles, and more. On higher difficulty levels, you’ll have to pogrind to pump up to a sufficient level for the story quests. The gameplay interface can be customized to your liking: you can leave everything on screen, or turn on the dynamic mode, in which almost all the elements are removed from the screen. And are invoked by swiping upwards on the touchpad when necessary. Given the beauty of the game, this seems to me to be the best option.

Three things to know about Horizon Forbidden West.

  • Horizon Forbidden West is an excellent sequel to a good game.
  • Significant improvements have been made to both the technical component and the gameplay.
  • The game takes advantage of the DualSense gamepad.
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