Guerilla Games’ sequel ‘Horizon Forbidden West’ is packed with gripping storylines and gameplay in a stunning world design courtesy the powerful Decima Engine

Guerilla Games’ sequel ‘Horizon Forbidden West’ is packed with gripping storylines and gameplay in a stunning world design

There are few games out there that do the end-of-the-world / post-apocalyptic storylines justice while offering the player a well-rounded experience. In 2017, Horizon Zero Dawn did just that, following a young outcast Aloy who stumbles upon a tiny little Dorito-like wearable called Focus that scans and reveals secrets about the world around her.

Through this, she discovers she is a clone of famous roboticist Elisabet Sobeck who created a terraforming technology to help save the planet after it was ravaged by a plague. Many of the humans of the ‘Horizon’ games lead a prehistoric life and reject technology due to the destruction it had caused to a world now overrun by robots and divided into various clans fighting for resources.

Horizon Forbidden West (2022)

Developer: Guerilla Games

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Prices: ₹3,999 on PlayStation 4 and 5

Aloy’s journey in Horizon Zero Dawn — set in the year 3020 — took her through the eastern United States, meeting various people — some friend, some foe — as she learns of her origins and how the world came to be. From her 19-year-old self in Horizon Zero Dawn, Aloy in Horizon Forbidden West is more steadfast in her beliefs and not as trusting as her previous self. While still a warrior at heart, she becomes more like her genetic original, Sobeck — this is visible in her body language and her interactions with characters through the western United States (the Forbidden West).

A whole new open-world

Aloy — voiced by Mythic Quest’s Ashly Burch — quickly became a favourite of gamers everywhere, leading to some impressive cosplays over the years. Horizon Forbidden West has brought on more notable names such as The Matrix’s Carrie-Ann Moss as an integral character in the story and Black Panther star Angela Bassett as a formidable rebel clan leader. Poldark actor John Hopkins returns as the burly Erend and John Wick actor Lance Reddick also comes back as Sylens, a researcher and the founder of the Eclipse cult that killed Aloy’s guardian Rost in Horizon Zero Dawn. Meanwhile, video games voice-acting veteran Noshir Dalal — known for Death Stranding, Red Dead Redemption, Halo Infinite and Deathloop — portrays the warrior Kotallo.

A screenshot from 2022 video game ‘Horizon Forbidden West’

A screenshot from 2022 video game ‘Horizon Forbidden West’
| Photo Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

The ‘Horizon’ games’ enemies are both of the machine and human variety. While the human enemies have their interesting personality quirks and political alignments, my personal favourites are the robots based on our real-world animals such as Striders (horses), Tallnecks (giraffes) and Snapmaws (crocodiles and alligators). And, lucky us, for Horizon Forbidden West, we get 22 new machines, including the giant cobra-like Slitherfang, the bat-like Dreadwing, and the plesiosaur-style Tideripper. Just like the previous game, you can also learn to override some of these machines and use them as mounts or as allies in your fights.

Introducing a new yet familiar world to gamers in Horizon Forbidden West must have been as much a joy for Guerilla Games as it was for me to discover them. For example, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is engulfed by overgrowth and shrouded in an ominous fog, the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in Nipton, California, has been made into a desert clan settlement, and Las Vegas is drowned in desert sands.

While the allure of the ‘Horizon’s games is its story, the hook is its battle mechanics that will leave you sweating. Horizon Forbidden West includes new fighting features such as Valor Surges, which turn Aloy into a killing machine in the heat of a battle. You can deal more damage but the pace picks up to test your reflexes. Given the battles get increasingly tough, do keep an eye on your medicine pouch and health potions and update your Skill Tree as much as possible to learn more techniques and improve Aloy’s responsiveness.

A screenshot from 2022 video game ‘Horizon Forbidden West’

A screenshot from 2022 video game ‘Horizon Forbidden West’
| Photo Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

While most games’ side quests are probably an afterthought for gamers once they complete the main story, do not sleep on the ones in Horizon Forbidden West while you power through the main story. While breaking up the rhythm of the gameplay, these are integral in upskilling Aloy, exploring the world and building allies who gift you rare weapons that will prove useful against powerful enemies in the main story.

Boost in tech

Horizon Forbidden West marks a new chapter for developer Guerilla Games and its engine Decima. While Horizon Zero Dawn was beautiful, it had some odd body movements and some strange skin finishes for some characters. Its sequel, though, finally has the graphics boost the game deserves; environment textures look more gritty, while textures of machine metals and human skin are more realistic. All of this looks stunning on a 4K UHD television, so I would recommend experiencing this in the way it is intended.

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Be it the Utaru tribe’s mesmeric Chorus in-game hymns, the score, or the immersive sound design, Horizon Forbidden West makes the most of the PS5’s Tempest 3D AudioTech. If you do not have a PS5 but you do have a gaming headset, this is the time to use it and feel like you are surrounded by a cornucopia of environmental chaos like a blizzard or sandstorm, the subtle nuances within a conversation such as sighs or grunts, and the sounds of weapons and machines clanging together in battle.

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Like any open-world game of this scale, at launch, there were few bugs such as characters disappearing into walls or dropping from the sky when you approach a given area. While these did not disrupt the gameplay, they are easily fixable so we will be on the lookout for a Patch update soon.

Horizon Forbidden West has the right balance of cinematics, helpful side quests to break up the intensity and open-world gameplay to keep the marathon gamer alive in players, fixing some of the issues that popped up occasionally in the first game. I am about 57 hours worth of gameplay into Horizon Forbidden West so I would suggest you take your time like I have, as there is a lot to uncover to further enrich the experience. Is there room for a DLC or add-on storylines? We hope so!

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