Aloy goes west

There is nothing quite like the first big games of a new year. 2022 has started off with a bang in almost every fashion. Some of the biggest titles of the year are dropping in the first quarter and right out of the gate we are getting the follow-up to one of the most revered titles in Sony’s first party stable. Horizon Forbidden West is Sony’s first big game of the year and one of the most anticipated titles by far. The first game was a brand new IP that is easily one of the best from the publisher. The sequel continues the intriguing story of Aloy while adding plenty of new features, upgraded visuals, and plenty of improvements over the original. It also comes with a few bumps along the way, but nothing that holds it back from being an incredible experience continuing the trend of quality games from Sony first-party studios.

The original Horizon game was packed with an interesting sci-fi story. For those that have not caught up, I recommend giving it a whirl before jumping into the sequel. Forbidden West wastes no time getting up to speed on the big twist at the end of the first game. So if you never finished Aloy’s freshman journey, it is best to brush up before diving in. This time Aloy is once again on a mission to save the world. Lots of characters return and a host of new ones crop up along her journey to the West. This time around the game makes a larger effort to flesh out these characters. Cutscenes can run long and the dialogue trees are intense. There is a ton of spoken dialogue in this game.

MSRP: $69.99
Platforms: PlayStation
Price I’d Pay: $69.99

It is equally if not more impressive than the first game. The improvement in facial animation is seen throughout. There are several new characters that I really enjoyed and the stories and locations are incredible. The world of Forbidden West is not only beautiful, but extremely interesting. The side missions are aplenty. So many things to see and do in this game. The core campaign can be run in about 15-20 hours, but the side stuff could take twice as long.

Speaking of missions, a lot of the familiar return with a host of new side quests. There are now race-type missions that I am not a fan of. Not sure why open world games continue to add these, but I am glad they are optional. Same with the side mini-games. I know a lot of people get into these things, but none of them here really resonate with me. I did love the collectible missions where pieces of the old world would lead to interesting discoveries. That is the best part of straying off the beaten path, there is so much to discover, unlock, and characters to uncover that it feels like a truly lived-in world.

Exploring the world of Forbidden West is such a joy. The map consists of multiple biomes including a snowy peak, a barren desert, lush jungles, and even underwater sections. This map feels even more vibrant than the previous game with plenty of diversity to explore. What sticks out though is when the game references landmark cities. Think of it as the Death Stranding effect where I am traveling hundreds of miles in minutes. It is not a big deal, but does defeat some of the immersion. Aloy will also gain new tools along the way that open up more exploration adding a touch of Zelda to the mix. None of them are super interesting, but they get the job done.

The combat is reminiscent of the previous game where weak spots and traps are required for normal difficulties and above. There is still something so satisfying about slowing down time and precisely aiming at a singular spot on a machine and launching an arrow and watching it explode. The upgrade tree is massive and opens up new ways to enjoy the game and tailor to my play style. It is almost too much as each tree spans nearly 30 branches and a host of new mechanics. It is a lot, but then again that is the theme with this game it seems. More of everything which is both good and bad.

Let’s start with the loot and crafting items. I am picking up dozens of things every step. The world is littered with icons to pick up. Loot is also colored by rarity, but by the end of the game I was skipping most boxes as my stash was so full of materials and garbage that none of it felt necessary. The game just throws too much at the player so if you are like me and want to stop and loot every item, break that habit upfront or this game will drive you to tedium.

The story can be hammered through in around 15-20 hours, but the side stuff is plentiful. I went back after rolling the credits and there is just a ton to do. The side quests range from super interesting to downright tedious. A lot of the collectibles are tests of patience. Lots of puzzle solving and platforming for nothing more than a trinket with little value. There is a lot to love in the character side quests though, but this game feels from an era where games packed so much to do and only 50% of it is interesting. Thankfully this is all optional and the core story missions are excellent.

One thing that stood out during my play was the amount of issues I ran into. Buildings and areas not loading, issues with minor loads, and weird issues in cut scenes where characters just disappeared or the dialogue was off with the lip sync. The day one patch we got just before review fixed a ton of these issues though so make sure to download that before diving in.

Speaking of visuals, I love this era. Forbidden West offers up two graphics modes. One at 4K with 30fps and the other at performance featuring 1080p at 60fps. Yes the 4K sheen is very nice, but once I turned on 60fps the trade off was worth it for me. This game just feels so good at 60fps. On my OLED the drop in resolution was not as noticeable so I was OK with the trade off. The 30fps runs fine with very few issues, but for performance I definitely preferred the performance mode.

Sony continues to be the bar for accessibility options. Forbidden West contains a ton of options for players to make the core experience more approachable. Things like auto-run and auto-heal are excellent. The difficulty options range from a cakewalk to super challenging. I adore when games let me tweak every aspect such as auto aim and subtitle options and Forbidden West might be the most complete set of options I have ever seen. I could even tweak the damage I take and deliver with sliders, very cool.

Horizon Forbidden West is an excellent sequel that attempts to pad out too much in its content, but the core story still remains remarkable. I love Aloy and this story continues to be one of the more interesting out there. Sony continues to deliver excellent first-party content and while the glitches did turn me off at first, the patch seems to have addressed most of the issues. There is a ton to love here and I really loved coming back to this world. This is a must own for PlayStation owners.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Main quest is amazing
  • Visuals and environments are stunning
  • Tons of accessibility options
  • Fantastic soundtrack and voice work
  • Side quests are tedious
  • Some minor glitches after patch
Written by
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.