Horizon Forbidden West Review: The burden of greatness

The problem with sequels is they have big shoes to fill, as they will always be compared to the original.

Horizon Forbidden West bears such burdens, as it is the sequel to the critically acclaimed 2017 action role-playing Horizon Zero Dawn.

SPECS
PRICE: From S$79.90 (PS4; PS5, version reviewed), available today in Lazada and Shopee
GENRE: Action role-playing game

The game takes place six months after the events of the original. You still play as Aloy, a huntress who is 1,000 years into a fictional future where Earth has been overran by dangerous animalistic machines with humans living by the edge in scattered tribes.

For someone new to the series or who did not really play Horizon Zero Dawn that much (like myself), the opening of Horizon Forbidden West offers a great recap of the events as well as a good tutorial into the game mechanics. I think even veterans of the original would appreciate the recap.

One of the many animalistic machines you will encounter in Horizon Forbidden West. (Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

As you might expect, Aloy’s job is not done after saving eastern United States. The same threat that Aloy managed to quell has somehow made its way to the dystopian post-apocalyptic western United States called Forbidden West.

Playing this game on PlayStation 5 (PS5) is simply jaw-dropping the very moment you enter the game world. This game shows how a modern PS5 game should look like.

The graphics are simply drop-dead gorgeous with photorealistic landscapes, all-round smooth textures and amazing details such as rain drops rebounding off Aloy’s armour. The faces of all the characters are so life-like that you can almost touch them, while the animalistic machines glow with lighting effects that might be the works of J. J. Abrams.

Graphics are gorgeous from the landscapes to the characters themselves. (Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Furthermore, the open world of Horizon Forbidden West lets you explore it at your own pace. And you will stop once a while and marvel at the lush forests, sunken cities and harsh mountains. Not to mention, looking at the night sky dotted with stars is just mesmerising.

FOR
+ Fantastic and gorgeous graphics
+ Superbly crafted open world
+ Plenty of quests to do
+ Stellar voice acting
+ New weapons and skills

AGAINST
– Controls can be confusing
– More of the same

With such a big game world, there is thankfully a wide variety of quests for you to do. Apart from the main story quests, there are side quests ranging from running errands to exploring ruins. Some of these quests involve some parkour and puzzle solving.

There is also a lot of salvaging to do, as you can craft weapons and gears from these salvaged parts. Yes, you have to constantly craft your own arrows on the go. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources in the land that you can readily harvest.

The bow continues to be Aloy’s favoured weapon along with her spear. But there are new weapons and skills to pick up. For example, you can now use a Pullcaster to move things or pull yourself to greater heights. Speaking of heights, you can now glide – like Link in Breath of the Wild – using the Shieldwing.

There is a lot of jumping involved as per the original. (Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

As there are some much actions involved – from jumping to dishing out different weapons – the controls can quite get confusing. If you did not play the game for a day or two, you might need a tutorial to remember what to do.

As such, combat can sometimes be a pain when you fail to execute what you want to do due to mis-pressing of a button or trigger. OK, I admit I am horrible in platform and jumping games. Thus, there are too many times I mistimed a jump and have to start all over again.

The bow continues to be the weapon of choice for Aloy. (Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

The story might be predictable and probably will not blow your mind as much as the graphics. But the voice actors all put in a stellar performance that make the visuals stand out. With an amazing cast such as Ashley Burch, Lance Reddick, Angela Bassett and Carrie-Ann Moss, it is really hard to go wrong on that front though.

Perhaps, the only major criticism of Horizon Forbidden West is its rehash of a similar playbook of its successful original. It is like since nothing is broken, do not change anything.

Perhaps, the amazing graphics might have heightened my expectations, but I thought Horizon Forbidden West could have pushed the boundary further.

VERDICT
Horizon Forbidden West is a worthy sequel that continues the original’s great story-telling and visual feast. However, it might have been better off trying to walk its own ways and tie its own shoelaces. Nonetheless, it is a superb game that any RPG fans will thoroughly enjoy.

RATING
9/10