Horizon: Forbidden West is the sequel to Horizon: Zero Dawn. I loved Zero Dawn, so how does the sequel stack up?
How to explain the plot of this game without spilling the beans on Zero Dawn? Well, I’ll try, but it will be a bit vague. At the end of Horizon: Zero Dawn, some mystery and problems remained. The bad guys were defeated, but something unknown set them off, and the bad guy was in fact only one of a set.
At the start of Forbidden West, Aloy is looking to restore the designs of her forebear Elizabeth Sobek to ensure the post-apocalyptic world she lives in does not die. She’s becoming desperate as the environmental problems around her are slowly spinning out of control.
It turns out that the answers to her problems lie in the Forbidden West. The central lands of Horizon Zero Dawn are ruled by the Carja, a kingdom previously ruled by the mad Sun-King. The Sun-King raided neighboring tribes for people to sacrifice to the Sun. The Tenakth clans to the west would have none of it, and trounced out the Carja. Since then, they’ve killed all intruders, leading to the lands in the west becoming forbidden.
And now, Aloy must travel there.
This leads to a setup much like the first game. Aloy explores a wild land, with lots of robot dinosaurs. Then, slowly, she unravels the mysteries left in the first game.
More, more, more
The core gameplay of Forbidden West is the same as before. You play Aloy, who goes around hunting robots and bringing down human enemy strongholds. However, like is traditional in sequels, the developers refined and expanded on the original.
Most of the machines from the first game are in this one, and the developers added a host of new ones. There are also a number of subtypes per machine, so you have your basic Clawstrider, but also a Fire Clawstrider, and Acid Clawstrider. This means there is much more to hunt.
Of course, you can’t just hunt machines, you can also ride them. Forbidden West adds more mounts, and a very cool one later in the game, which I won’t spoil. You can ride a lot more, although I still tend to move around on foot and with fast travel.
The game also adds swimming and plenty of underwater areas to explore. The downside of underwater areas is that you can’t use your weapons, meaning you have to evade all machines you encounter.
And, inspired by The Witcher 3 and others, the game adds a mini-game with collectable pieces called Strike. And I hate it. Boring, overly complicated, annoying game. Nothing more to say, I just hate it.
The Finest Weapons and Armor
Zero Dawn had a pretty big set of weapon types, but Forbidden West ups the ante by adding several new types. Not only that, they also add several types of ammo, with purgewater, plasma and adhesive added to the familiar frost, fire, and acid. That in turn leads to a bewildering array of weapons with various ammo types.
On the armor side, the developers did the same. More types of ammo means more types of defense. This again leads to a large variety of armors.
On top of this, both armors and weapons can be upgraded. They have between three and five levels of upgrades, which require specific resources. You can imagine that top-tier weapons require rare machine parts from powerful foes.
All in all, I like that the game adds more need to hunt for parts and a broader array of machines to hunt them from. On the other hand, I’m pretty far along in the game, and I increasingly have no clue what armor or weapons I should be using. There are so many trade-offs to make and I’ll be damned if I start making Excel sheets to play a game. So I wing it, and stick to weapons that seem to work well for me.
You know how you had to continually ditch gear in Zero Dawn because you didn’t have enough space. The developers fixed that. Now, if you pick up too much gear, it gets sent to your stash.
I love this. I’m a hoarder, and I had to spend a lot of time in Zero Dawn managing my inventory. I hate having to leave stuff behind, and in Forbidden West, I don’t have to! The game automatically sends all that crap to my stash.
Of course, the downside is I get so much crap in my inventory. I played Divinity with friends, and I had an inventory twice the size of the others — leading to a lot of scornful remarks. The amount of crap I have in Forbidden West is probably much worse. I think I have over a hundred rocks, and I can carry only ten around, and barely use those as is.
One addition to the game is that you eventually unlock a base of operations. This mostly reminded me of the ship you have in Mass Effect. Only thing is, it doesn’t travel with you. Where Mass Effect throws you back to your ship each time you travel, in Forbidden West I find myself visiting my base now and again for fun, not because I need to.
So, I like the base, and that you have a place to call home, that you can slowly upgrade. However, the game lacks reasons to go there regularly. Not a big problem, but I feel more could have been done there.
What it boils down to is that I love Horizon: Forbidden West. I loved Zero Dawn and I think this game is even better. There are things I don’t like — I don’t want to need an Excel sheet to make sense of mechacis — but overall the game is smoother, and exploration is more fun.
In short, go play this game.