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Some people criticize some of my favorite Open World Games because they “feel empty.” It is a complaint against the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Pokemon Legends: Arcius. I never mind open spaces. I enjoy traveling and exploring a bit.
But if you’re one of those people, Horizon: Forbidden West is the antithesis of the “seems empty” Open World game. This sequel to Guerrilla Games will be out for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 on February 18 (Sony has given me the PS5 code for this review). The PS5 is one of Sony’s biggest exclusives since its launch. And “big” is the operative word here.
In fact, it’s so big, I wasn’t even close enough to beat the game in time for a review ban. Maybe if I had hurried on the story mission, I could have gotten there. But Forbidden West is best for those who want to see all the extra activities.
Everything that touches the light
In that sense, it reminds me of Vichar III. Side quests don’t seem to be “less” than the main story points. The side mission extends to the world and the characters, often introducing you to the main scenario.
They also offer meaty rewards. Yes, Forbidden West has a traditional level up and skill tree point progression system. I like that you often earn points directly for completing a mission or side activity. It’s a pretty tangible reward, and it makes it worthwhile and fun to check out all those landmarks on your map.
Ah yes. Icons on the map. Forbidden West is what I like to call a “map game.” It’s the exact taste of Open World Gaming where you constantly open that map, set a waypoint for nearby activity, and then you start knocking it off like it’s on a to-do list. If you’ve ever played an Ubisoft game, especially the Far Cry series, you know what I’m talking about.
Sometimes, map games seem boring. Looks like you’re getting things done. The content is so dense that you never really get a chance to explore. And while the latter may still be true for Forbidden West, the quality of the main gameplay and the activity of these maps is so much fun that I don’t mind.
Especially when it involves combat. Horizon: Fighting in Forbidden West feels great, especially if you focus on a series of attacks with your bow. Yes, you can choose the sneaker approach, and you usually want to pick a few enemies with traps and stealth attacks. But in general, things turn into brawls, and I enjoy heavy action. I am escaping from the way of charging enemies and aiming my bow at certain parts of the body either to exploit vulnerabilities or to give me some extra crafting material.
You also have some cooldown abilities that you can earn in the skill tree. Assassin’s Creed: In Valhalla, when these attacks dominate combat, they lag far behind here. That’s a good thing. Combat is more about the basics – combos, stealth, targeting – and less about spamming capabilities.
As much as I enjoy fighting, Traversal feels a little tough. I know how much you all love it when we compare games with Breath of the Wild, so here we go! The Breath of the Wild World has popularized the “If You See It, You Can Go There” approach to opening games. Sometimes, Forbidden West will tell you directly with a text box that you will not be able to progress further in the field you are in unless you unlock any abilities later in the game.
It feels bad, especially when you have already taken some time to explore the old ruins, get excited about what might be inside, just to know that you have no choice but to give up and then come back.
The movement of the alloy sometimes seems as restricted as the exploration. You have to do a lot of uncharted-style climbing, and sometimes it’s not clear what you can and can’t do. You can press a button to highlight which edge you are climbing. It helps, but it’s also fantastic. It seems that the game arbitrarily decides on which part of the rock or building you can hang. You will see the hand of a game designer here, to draw paths for you, while I have better and free traversal tools that give me more options.
Alloy tools can also be disliked. At the beginning of the game, you get a kind of claw. You think this will open up a lot of travel possibilities, but you can only use it in certain select places. It is mostly used to knock down walls or to zip itself up to certain (and scattered) hook points. Later, you get a glider (yes, again, like Breath of the Wild), but it’s slower and faster.
Learning about the end of the world
Honestly, those issues present moments of frustration, but I can overcome them quickly. I enjoy the game world – which is colorful, dynamic and detailed. I like her characters, and Alloy is an interesting protagonist (despite her persistence and difficulty accepting help, her character flaws, sometimes seem irrationally extreme).
And if you’re a fan of education, there’s plenty to absorb. Horizon World takes place centuries after the revelation of the Earth, giving the game a perfect blend of its sci-fi and prehistoric sensations. It is fun to learn more about the fall of the old world while looking for ways to save the new world.
Technical issues can sometimes be a hassle, however you would expect some of them with any Open World game. I would say, I find alloy hair more physically distracting than anything. This long strand slips over the slight tilt of his head, often clipping through his armor and arms. I had to stop looking at her hair during that cutie’s closeup – and lose focus on the real story.
During the boss fight I got Alloy trapped in a T-pose. It was a boomerang. It was a dramatic confrontation, and I was doing well, but then it kind of got stuck, and I couldn’t budget for it. All I could do was wait for the boss to kill me so I could try again.
Be to the west
But, again, that’s a small annoyance. Overall, Forbidden West is an impressive, huge game.
Anyone who digs into such dense, map-based open world experiences will enjoy what Guerrilla Games has to offer here. This is something you can spend a lot of time with, first enjoying the story, then going out of your way to see and finish every last piece of content.
Once I see the story to its end, then I can settle on the score. But if you are only looking for a recommendation, consider it given.
Horizon: Forbidden West is out for PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 on February 18. Sony has given us the PS5 code for this review.
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