Alright, I just platinumed Horizon Forbidden West after 68 Hours on my PS5!

Here is my Review; keep in mind that I got a Copy from Sony-PlayStation but I also bought the Game myself physically, all Opinions are my own!

Let’s go!

First of all I did enjoy my time with it very much and I highly recommend to play it!
But Horizon is a Game that can be incredibly infuriating at times too. It improves on every single Aspect that was bad about the first game, but the important word here is „improving“ not „perfecting“.
To every good Addition, Feature and Game-Mechanic there is a little bit of jank to it. While it’s really only alot of small things it ended up beeing impactful enough to lower my Score that I had in my mind after the first few Hours with it.

Also the following might sound like „cherry-picking“ bad stuff and some players may don’t even notice or care about some of the stuff I’m about to mention but it’s definitely something I would love to see be improved in a potential follow-up Game from Guerrilla.
It’s by absolutely no means a bad Game, it is very good in fact.


Combat

Let’s start with the Combat, there are more Weapon Categories than in the first Game, you have the Freedom of Choice. I did ran with the same Weapon Categories through the whole Game until the very end though since I didn’t feel the need to change things up because it just worked out for me.
You get one very powerful Weapon in a Sidequest in the very Beginning that I carried through like 60% of the game because it was so OP. I did experiment with them more in the Endgame though.

Like in the first Game they can have different Status Effects and they also added new Status Effects which adds an additional layer, I quite liked that; especially the Plasma since you can stack up Damage that gets released in one blast.

There is an expansive Skilltree which I still have to completely max out on the special Attacks.
Most of the Skills are very meaningful Upgrades and you definitely feel how Aloy gets stronger throughout the Game. I personally really liked the exploding Sniper Bolt, which absolutely wrecks most Machines.
Melee Combat also got expanded and Aloy has way more moves than in the first Game with Combos that are easy to learn but hard to chain. Overall I would say Horizon FW is a moderately challenging Game, while I beat most difficult Enemies on the first try, I always had to think about how to target a machine and ideally plan ahead. Combat against the Humans feels extremely unbalanced and unfair until you get some upgrades and Combos to deal with them.

You will find yourself getting one/ two-hitted by Enemies often which can be discouraging (laughs in Elden Ring).
It can be incredibly frustrating since you will be repeatedly stun-locked, unable to stand up from the ragdoll and „getting-up“ animation.
(This is by far my biggest gripe with the Game and led me to actually lower my overall score in the end.)


Animations

Generally speaking animations *look* amazing but get in the way of Gameplay. Long swinging animations while ledge climbing, Aloy vaulting over random Objects that you didn’t want to vault over, reloading Animations for the more advanced Weapons take way too long, you can’t animation-cancel an attack (unless you jump(?))…the list goes on.
When the vaulting works though it looks and plays amazing, especially in Combat Situations.
The Game feels incredibly responsive most of the time but some animations just straight up block important Playerinput and you as the Player feel like watching Aloy do her thing while 95% of time you are in full control of her. Just feels off to me personally.


Climbing

While I love that they went with a more Free-flowing Climbing System it’s still very much designed into the world so you will find yourself jumping up cliffs again like in the first game at times which looks incredibly stupid. Especially since the new Climbing system lacks some essential features.

Like just jumping up from a holding point if nothing is above it to get on the ground; you have to rely on Aloy pulling herself up, which can be frustrating. Sometimes she snaps way too good, sometimes not at all. It’s very inconsistent. When it works it works great and looks sick, when it doesn’t I almost Rage-quitted once.

She also has a Glider this time around that you get pretty early (all things considered) in the Game; feels good, sounds good, controls good. I just wish it would have a little bit more range to it.


Exploration and Sidequests

It very much feels organic to explore the World, you get sidetracked and go into Sidequests that are meaningful and super interesting to watch because of the intriguing and almost unsettling good Performance Capture of *ANY* Character. No Matter how small (sometimes literally) a Character is, Performance Capture was used. The Detail on each individual Human is absolutely insane, easily among the best I have seen in Gaming.

One minor gripe I have with exploration are the Metroidvania-like Blockages to access certain areas, because you come across them ALOT and you get the right tools to open all of them pretty Late Game. So you end up hoping to not encounter such areas if you want to clear up those Question-Marks; at one point you just skip the exploration part until you got all the necessary tools to open those Blockages. Overall though I think the amount of things you can explore are adequate for the size of the world and usually its never a simple „go to the point and pick up the thing“ but rather „solve that (climbing) puzzle“, „find that entrance“, „Dive down that Cave“ etc..
All the Collectibles are very varied in how you aquire them.

The Tallnecks are back too but I think there are way fewer (?). However each Tallneck has its own Story and special way to get up to them. It’s more challenging and requires some actual thought. I love how they did them in this Game!

Of course you also gonna ride through the world on a selection of mounts (I really hoped for everything to be rideable). I will say it how it is though: The Controls for the Mounts freaking suck.
They come to a complete stop if you *scratch* a tree, the Acceleration seems to be in stages, and I rather ran than using them. Without spoiling too much but there is a mount in the later game that actually controls very nice, which was very much appreciated from my side. Aloy can also dive in this Game which looks and feels very good, I just wish that you could at least swing your Spear in the Water to defend yourself somewhat; you ultimately feel *extremely* vulnerable underwater with only a dodge. Would have made more sense for collecting fish too instead of literally just putting them into your inventory.^^

One thing I absolutely didn’t like is „soft-locking“ players out of areas that they aren’t supposed to reach in the Open World until a Quest goes there. And I’m not talking about big Endgame Areas, I’m talking about literal small towers in the Open World that you can just come across. I found atleast two cases in which I couldn’t progress further up a climbing spot unless you did the Mission that then magically spawned a Climbing Hook or an additional Ledge. Frustrating and not in the spirit of the Open World Exploration at all. Another minor Gripe I have is Aloy’s Focus Flashlight. It seemingly turns on at random. I would have loved a toggle for that since some areas in the game are extremely dark and her flashlight didn’t turn on, more often than not actually. Even at Night in some Ruins I would have loved to turn it on, instead I needed to rely on the Focus Scan to evaluate the Geometry of the Ruins.


World

Now this is where the Game really shines, the World Guerrilla built is absolutely breathtaking, it’s the most realized Open World I have ever seen in a Videogame yet.
From the smallest Leaf to the biggest Ocean, literally everything looks Top-Notch.
All the tribes feel very unique, each with their own culture, Goals and Religion. One Tribe seems like straight out of James‘ Cameron’s ‚Avatar‘. I was very excited to embark on a literal Journey to learn about the new Tribes.

Aloy also has a bunch of new Outfits to wear in FW, this time around you can also change the color palette and apply various Face-Paints to fit your Style. Unfortunately you still can’t have „visual outfits“ with stats from others which would have been a very welcome addition.

Just going from one Place to another in Horizon FW is the one thing that will keep you engaged and hooked to the TV.
You will especially love it if you actually visited the Westcoast already! It’s so diverse and rich in Detail that it is a bless to explore everything.

They expanded on the existing Lore with the Machines and came up with beautiful new original Designs for them, some quite rooted in reality, some more primal, others otherworldly.
As beautiful as deadly. Each of them has several Variants for the Status Effects and special Variations.


Story

I won’t go too deep into this to prevent Spoilers but basically Aloy wasn’t done fighting in the last Game and had to abandon her friends to find a way to solve the global problem.
Overall the Story plays it very safe; no huge twists with Characters and until the end very predictable. The Presentation of it however is on a very high level and I always was excited to jump into a Story Mission. You do have some decisions along the way but I doubt it’s gonna impact the Story in a major way.

Prepare for ALOT of talking though. I did end up listening to alot of optional Dialog just to observe the Performance Capture. 😀


Graphics and Performance

What can I say, the Screenshots all over the internet speak for itself.
It’s simply mind-boggling how Guerrilla pulled this Open World in such high Fidelity off.

Until my last hour with the game I was constantly blown away on just how good everything looks.
I did – btw – play in Resolution Mode, which is very untypical for me since I prefer 60fps (which it definitely hit in Performance Mode).

Resolution Mode does look considerably better on a big TV though. A little Trick I found is to enable Motion Smoothing on my TV (I know, I know, I normally despise it just like you but believe me it’s crazy). I turned it up to the max and it literally looks like 60fps in Resolution Mode; it’s actually insane; definitely try it out if your TV supports it (and don’t forget to turn it off for the Movies)!

Throughout my entire Playthrough I had no Performance Problems. The only visual mishap I saw was some slight Pop-In here and there as well as time seemingly speeding up uncontrollable (? :D).
Interestingly enough I had alot more Pop-In on my other PlayStation. Overall though nothing too distracting over the course of the entire Playthrough.


The Future and Verdict

The Story kinda sets up a third Entry into the Horizon Universe. I really hope Guerrilla can touch up some of the rough edges of Forbidden West and make an even better Game. There is still so much to explore with the Concept.

The Game keeps on opening up to you and throws Environmental Curveballs all the time.
It steps up the game and raises the bar for Open World Fidelity.
Overall I can definitely recommend Horizon Forbidden West, it’s well worth your Time, it is a true Gem that still needs to polish some Edges here and there but a Must-Play in 2022.

8,7 / 10


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