When reviewing a game, I try really hard to get it done efficiently. Enough time to take it all in, enough time to see the story through, see some side quests and explore the world. Horizon Forbidden West was no different, or my intentions weren’t any different….
Now 14 months later, I’ve finished it. I did my “initial thoughts” and my “further thoughts” and just couldn’t find it in me to see things through.
Horizon Forbidden West has somehow been both a chore and a pleasure.
Just over 40 hours and I’ve finished the main story, and dipped back in to tick a few boxes (Tallnecks baby!).
Horizon Forbidden West
Lets be honest here. 14 months means I hadn’t played the game in quite some time. Looking at my save from last year, I left it at 28 hours played. I’d gotten about 50% into the second act, and I just couldn’t bring myself to slog it out any longer.
Horizon Forbidden West is a big, gorgeous game with detail for days. Playing it on the PS4 wasn’t some hampered-experience, either. It was smooth, stunning and completely playable.
The problem with big, open games, though. Is that they can often feel too big.
The opening area felt adequately huge, and then you mover out of the first act only too see so much more open-up in front of you. Sure, that’s an amazing and exciting prospect, but actually, it was daunting and filled me with dread.
All clouded-out by lack of discovery. Horizon Forbidden West leaves you with a little too much to do. Huge outdoor spaces, massive indoor spaces. You get your money’s worth, for sure.
Movement is key to exploration, and uncovering the world obviously requires you to be mobile.
Horizon Forbidden West gives you all the tools you need, and then some. You can’t complain that you don’t have options. Overriding machines, gliding, sliding down hills. You’re a one-woman exploration machine.
If you’re like me, uncovering map is important, and the Tallnecks return from Horizon Zero Dawn. Like many open-world games with towers (thanks Ubisoft….). I love this stuff, though. So I prioritised getting areas uncovered, and moved the story on as quickly as I could.
Overriding machines is never not fun. Sneaking-up on something an then hacking it to ride it around, is a pleasure, and certainly speeds things up! Of course, there are requirements to be met, you can’t just take what you want from the get go.
Beyond basic map uncovering, Aloy is equipped with the same endurance and upper-body strength as Lara Croft/Nathan Drake. You can scale mountains and cliffs with ease. Climbing to the peak of a mountain as the sunlight hits is never not a welcoming experience!
Campfires exist on the map as fast-travel spots, too. So Horizon Forbidden West is forgiving enough.
Combat has continued to be a real sticking point for me. Between the camera and sluggish movement, I’ve really struggled in large-scale battles. It’s not enjoyable, and actually a lot of the bigger set pieces are just to pad-out time.
Too many weapons, element types and a need to keep switching them-up makes it for an exercise in management and camera wrangling.
Add-in chunky attack animations for melee attacks and you just find me bored to tears and wanting things to be over.
Exploring in Horizon Forbidden West can become taxing where you’re always being hunted by something, and the combat just doesn’t make it a fun experience at all.
It’s been a while since the other parts of my review, but I have to say I’ve had so many conflicting feeling about the story in Horizon Forbidden West.
I’ve enjoyed the over-arching story and key story beats, but elements of it have just baffled me. I don’t think I needed people from space, or clones. It makes sense in the lore of the world, but I’d have been just as happy exploring a new frontier and doing something that felt more meaningful for the duration.
As things worked towards the end, I was more engaged and felt that narratively it made more sense and felt a little more weighty.
By the time I’d finished Horizon Forbidden West I was sad it was over. But that second act really took the wind out of my sails, so getting there was tough.
I hate when a game becomes a slog, but thanks to the core mechanics of the game (not combat!), I managed to find some enjoyment as I gradually got invested in act 3.
It is worth noting, though, that the voice acting and motion capture were largely excellent, and I really liked some of the cast. Hearing the late Lance Reddick was pleasant, too. Massive shout out to Alva, easily the most engaging and interesting character in the game. Wonderful work. She really helped me engage with the narrative.
Horizon Forbidden West is both excellent, and sloppy. I feel like the combat and the pacing of the narrative were really working against my enjoyment moment to moment.
Yet at the same time, even on my old PS4, I was pausing to take screenshots all the time. The sense of wonder, beauty and joy in exploration were fantastic.
Ending on a reasonable note, I feel compelled to see where things go in another entry to the series. I just hope they work on combat for crying out loud.
Based on the lovely end credits and how I felt about it by the end I’d say Horizon Forbidden West is Highly Recommended. Not exceptional, but it’s definitely bordering on the cusp between the two.