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Horizon Forbidden West – The Game Review

Horizon Forbidden West - The Game Review

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Horizon Forbidden West – The Game Review: Boring Conveyor or Great Sequel?

Horizon Forbidden West – the continuation of the sensational hit Sony about the archer Aloy, fighting with machines in the post-apocalypse. In 2017, the first part was a real discovery, collecting many awards and accolades from both critics and gamers. The sequel promised to be at least as good.

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

What is the Horizon series about?

In 2050, one of the largest robot manufacturing companies, Faro Automated Systems, is releasing a new line of combat vehicles. They possessed advanced artificial intelligence, were able to reproduce themselves, and use environmental resources as fuel.

Due to an error in the code, the robots became uncontrollable, starting the destruction of all life on the planet. The war with the machines was lost, but the best scientists of the Earth decided to create another AI – Gaia, who would be able to turn off militant robots years later, use cloning technology to restore humanity, and transfer all the accumulated knowledge to them.

Hundreds of years have passed since the war. For unknown reasons, Gaia was unable to train the clones, so people live in a tribal system, cities are abandoned, and any technology is perceived as a gift from the gods. Faro’s deadly robots have been disabled, but new hostile animal-like machines have appeared.

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"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

Young hunter Aloy accidentally finds herself at the center of a secret conflict. Throughout the first part, she unravels the events of the past and learns the truth about the structure of the modern world. The main villain of Horizon Zero Dawn was the Hades program, which strangely separated from Gaia and decided to reset all life by launching old combat robots.

The second part begins six months after the victory over Hades. Aloy continues to search for a way to restore normal life to the planet and reconfigure the aggressive machines. To do this, you need to find a copy of Gaia and collect all the functional programs.

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Quests and open world

Since Horizon: Forbidden West is not just an action, but also an RPG, Aloy will have to complete many quests. The passage of the central plot without taking into account additional tasks will take about 40 hours.

In comparison with the first part, optional stories have been seriously reworked. Now, these are multi-stage quests, which will have to be completed in several stages. You still need to defeat machines or capture outposts, but it has become much more interesting to participate in what is happening. At the same time, the map is not full of exclamation marks. Each side task includes several missions at once, and even the banalest quest can lead to an exciting adventure for many hours.

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

For example, Aloy might accidentally hear about an unknown hunter who has been seen nearby. Finding her, the heroine will find an old friend – a character from the first part. But if only one mission was dedicated to this in Horizon Zero Dawn, now you can help find your lover, fight the boss, search for traces in the desert and, finally, storm the prison.

Through side quests, players will get to know different tribes more closely and be imbued with their cultures, beliefs, and rituals. The writers don’t skimp on details – sometimes conversations with NPCs can last up to ten minutes.

The main plot deserves praise. The main intrigue of the first part about the reasons for the extinction of people was guessed in the middle of the game and did not cause special emotions. Now the story is full of unexpected twists and turns. In the sequel, the stakes have increased significantly, and the lore has been expanded and complicated. Even if you ignore additional tasks and activities, you will still enjoy the plot, visit all the biomes and meet interesting characters.

In addition, Aloy will have her own base where she can communicate with allies and discuss the latest events. Over time, the number of friends will increase, although you should not wait for the development of the Mass Effect level – you will not be able to drive out the objectionable. Although such a move went the atmosphere in favor. Like Aloy, the player is no longer cut off from an alien world but lives in it forming a personal opinion on local problems and orders.

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

The open world has become much larger. Movement on a horse from one edge to another will take up to half an hour of real-time. Despite the seamlessness, three biomes clearly stand out – the usual forest and plain, desert and jungle. Each of them is inhabited by different animals, tribes, and machines.

Compared to the first part, the sequel added not only the size of the map but also the details. Once in the city, you will be surprised by the liveliness of local NPCs who are constantly talking, discussing news, or playing Skirmish – the local equivalent of Gwent. A full-fledged sandbox is still far away, but progress is obvious. The closest analog of this approach is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – all movements are scripted, but the necessary atmosphere is maintained.

If with the tasks the developers decided not to chase the quantity, then in the open world they turned to their fullest. Icons, markers, and symbols can make your head spin. Climbing on a long neck (analogous to towers) will open up the main bases, fires for fast movement, and vehicle habitats, however, many activities will remain question marks.

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

If you want to explore absolutely all points of interest, get ready to spend at least 100 hours on the game.

Apparently, the developers were very afraid that the open world would seem lifeless to the players, so they filled every centimeter of it. No one will force you to grind, and the main story can be completed without bothering equipment levels. However, each Forerunner location or ruin is an interesting location with puzzles and a good reward, so it’s worth visiting them.

The “boilers” – machine factories, where you can learn how to hack and subdue them, also remained in place. Unfortunately, this has not been without controversial innovations. In the first part, it was enough to visit all the boilers to be able to hack all types of machines. In the sequel, in order to be able to program especially cool instances, you will have to additionally find a few details. Only after that you can use the fabricator and complete the hack. The mechanics of subjugating machines is one of the main features of the game. Why spoil it with an extra routine is a question.

The main and subplots of Horizon Forbidden West are a clear win and a huge step forward. In comparison with the first part, the open world has not changed significantly but has become more lively and detailed. An incredible amount of content can captivate for tens of hours, but without it, you will get a lot of emotions

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

The combat system, equipment, and pumping

The combat hasn’t changed significantly. For close combat, Aloy uses a spear, for long-range – a whole arsenal. At the same time, combos were added – a combination of weak and strong attacks. The girl does not know how to block, so you have to dodge very quickly, constantly breaking the distance.

In addition, the spear has learned to accumulate a charge. By unleashing it on an enemy and shooting at a specific location, you will activate a new ability – “Resonator Blast”. So players are motivated to actively combine shooting and spear, which makes the battles more diverse.

However, close combat is practically useless against machines. Aloy still has the visor, which allows you to highlight the weak points of robots. And this means that you will hunt almost the same as in Horizon Zero Dawn.

Vehicles can be destroyed by hitting weak spots or simply by shooting the hull with suitable projectiles. Without a visor, vulnerabilities cannot be determined, and an ordinary battle can be seriously delayed. The precision shooting of details is what you will be doing most often. To simplify, there is a concentration mode when time slows down and the screen approaches the target. This is especially helpful if you’re not good at shooting with a gamepad.

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

In addition to three types of bows – for close, medium, and long distances, there is a sling, a thread thrower for stretch marks, a rope launcher for immobilization, an explosive shot for firing bursts, a glove-disco thrower, and a stud shooter – an exploding spear. Separately, you can use a variety of traps and smoke bombs.

There are several types of ammunition to choose from – fire, reinforced, acid, freezing, plasma, and other more specific ones. At the same time, each weapon has its own shells – it will not be possible to choose arbitrarily, and Aloy can carry only six different weapons at a time.

All equipment can be purchased from vendors, so experiment to see what works for you.

As in any RPG, the equipment has a rarity and leveling. You can navigate by colors – gray, green, blue, and purple. The same goes for armor. The level of pumping depends on the value of the item, for example, purple ones improve up to five times. The developers stated that they wanted to increase the attachment to specific equipment through regular upgrades, but it did not work out. A fully upgraded Green Onion hits significantly less than a Purple Onion.

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

Leveling Aloy herself also deserves attention. There are six branches of development in total: warrior, hunter, archer, healer, scout, and machine master. Despite the variety, most abilities are passive. There are few active skills – three for the main types of weapons. This makes the leveling similar to the last God of War when the number of combo attacks was offset by their regular need for specific situations.

Skills require weapon stamina, which builds up over time. There is another indicator – courage. It can be earned by any active action. Courage abilities are temporary buffs that seriously buff Aloy and give her benefits, such as a shield.

In most cases, active skills and courage are just a nice bonus, not much affecting the fight. Even without pumping, you will be able to successfully deal with enemies – hitting the weak points of cars with suitable arrows or dodging blows in time. By the end of the game, you will have almost completely unlocked all skill branches, but you will not feel any major changes in the gameplay.

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

Craft and inventory

As you travel, you’ll collect tons of Forerunner parts, herbs, and items. As in Horizon Zero Dawn, Aloy makes arrows on her own right during the battle, and traps and potions will have to be created on a workbench.

Crafting weapons and armor will not work. The maximum is to insert spirals or fabrics into them – small buffs that increase elemental damage, defense, and resistance.

The inventory is limited, but it can be expanded with pouches. To do this, you will have to hunt small animals. If it is not difficult to shoot a wild boar or a hare, then finding a crab shell or perch skin is a real test. This is another controversial decision that will have to be put up with. When you start hunting, you run the risk of getting stuck in a grind, since not every suitable animal provides the right ingredient.

In addition, there is a vault – a bottomless chest, where everything that does not fit in Aloy’s pockets is automatically sent.

Herbs can be used in healing or cooking. Every big city has a chef who will gladly make food for Aloy. So you can get serious buffs that last for a while.

Finds in the ruins are only suitable for sale. For a broken electronic watch, you can get a lot of fragments (money).

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

Graphics, Music, and DualSense Features

Without a doubt, Horizon Forbidden West is an incredibly beautiful game. The PS5 version impresses with the quality of animations, and light, and draws the distance. Due to 30 frames per second in graphics mode, it can be uncomfortable to play, but you get used to it with time. There is also a performance mode – in it the picture is almost the same, but everything happens more smoothly. Obviously, the PS4 version is technically simpler, but even so, you’ll be captivated by the dense jungles, underwater landscapes, and majestic mountains.

The soundtrack is also very high quality. At especially important moments, you will hear songs that add the necessary level of pathos to the atmosphere. When traveling, the heroine is always accompanied by a light melody that changes depending on the biome and tribes.

Separately, I would like to talk about the use of DualSense capabilities. “Horizon Forbidden West” is perhaps the first game that uses most of the gamepad chips. Far from the level of ASTRO╩╝s Playroom, but the feeling is still very cool. The pull of a bowstring, the footsteps of cars, or just Aloy running across rough terrain will be transmitted by vibration to your hands. It always feels different, depending on the frequency of pressing and the situation, adding to the very presence effect that was talked about at the PS5 presentations.

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

Problems and bugs

Unfortunately, such a big game is not without bugs. Sometimes the screen just goes blank for a few seconds, as if loading textures. Periodically, objects appeared two steps out of thin air, or half of the faces turned black. This did not particularly affect the impressions, and the gameplay did not spoil.

However, there were also unpleasant problems – among the additional tasks there was one that could not be completed – nothing happens at the right time. The game, of course, will still be ruled by patches, so technical problems may not affect you.

The main problem of the project was a strange, breaking pace grind. You run the risk of spending many hours chasing perch or car tail fragments, which are found in only two places on the map. I am glad that this is not necessary for passing, but it spoils the overall impression.

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

What is Horizon Forbidden West like?

Despite a large number of original ideas, Horizon manages to be similar to all known action/RPGs at once. Connoisseurs of the new Assassin’s Creed will definitely feel at home when they see the map and the number of points of interest. Fans of The Witcher will enjoy multi-stage quests, albeit without forks. Fans of God of War will see the parallels in leveling. Such comparisons are understandable – it is difficult to come up with something fundamentally new in the genre.

I am glad that Guerrilla Games is progressing and the formula tested in Horizon Zero Dawn has been honed almost to perfection in the sequel.

If you dig a little deeper, you can see clear parallels with The Matrix, Oblivion, and, obviously, Jurassic Park. It is very rare to find such a cultural basis in the game now.

"Horizon Forbidden West"
Horizon Forbidden West

Should I buy Horizon Forbidden West at full price?

Being a completely new IP, Horizon Zero Dawn was able to offer not only a fresh look at the post-apocalypse but also interesting lore that I wanted to explore. Players appreciated the first part, and sales exceeded all expectations.

In numerous interviews, the developers promised to expand everything that was in the first part. It is safe to say that this is exactly what happened. With a minimum of significant innovations, the game has many improvements that make the narrative more coherent and the gameplay enjoyable.

The PlayStation Store for Horizon Forbidden West is asking for an impressive 5,499 rubles. However, this is one of the few games worth buying at launch. Even if there are some bugs and grind, you will get great pleasure from the process, and you may want to go through the game completely, revealing all the secrets and mysteries.

Verdict

A great project, focused on the plot and atmosphere, will give you a lot of positive emotions. Cool graphics, magical music, and active use of the gamepad capabilities make Horizon Forbidden West a great gift for all lovers of high-quality single-player games.

The combat system has been upgraded with combo attacks, special moves, and courage buffs. At the same time, the main thing has not changed – if you liked shooting in the first part, you will like it now.

Unfortunately, some of the disadvantages of Horizon Zero Dawn remained. An annoying hunting system for upgrading inventory and an unreasonable grind for car hacking can spoil the impression. Luckily, these are all optional activities that you can skip.

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