Upon release, we ran this Horizon Forbidden West story. In an effort to show both sides, here is another take on the the Aloy saga.
By Kimari Rennis
I am a woman with simple tastes when it comes to video games. I need a strong female lead and a fresh, jarring narrative to change my life. Horizon Forbidden West, the long-awaited sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn by Guerilla Games, delivers both of my guilty gaming pleasures flawlessly.
The story is a complex one. In a world where our technologically advanced human society gets erased and primitive people rise again, there are bound to be secrets foreign to an Earth reborn. Machines designed by a terraforming system tend to the Earth. People establish tribes and their own cultures while some worship machines and have their own beliefs about how the world works.
Then there are those who seek the truth of the world, its technology, and the humans who lived on Earth one thousand years ago. They avoid the dangers that come from their ancestors’ mistakes and greed. The main character, Aloy, has the means and methods to protect this new Earth. Sylens on the other hand, the slimy, slippery snake in the first game, does so selfishly for the pursuit of knowledge.
But what if there was something far worse than a backstabbing friend in a world full of secrets? The potential answers are explored in this gorgeous open-world action role-playing game. Every angle that you look at the game, land, air, or sea, is jaw-dropping.
Animal-like machines are the defining technology of the Horizon series. From small acquisition machines to massive recon bots armed to their armored teeth, each is unique and a challenge to be conquered on any terrain. In Horizon Forbidden West, they are bigger, meaner, and based on dinosaurs!
Clawstriders are vicious, raptor-like machines that come in several elemental forms and can be ridden to take your destruction-filled revenge on a road trip. Tremortusks are ruthless metal mammoths equipped with machine guns behind the eyes, cannons on the back, and ammo drums on the rear. In this tank-like beast, the assault is never-ending. Sunwings are like pterodactyls with solar panel webbing and plasma-filled crests, making them agile, aerodynamic foes. There are many more new machines to fight, each testing your reaction speed, and the confidence you have to make your arrows fly before it’s too late.
I love to savor open-world games. Every side quest and collectible is treasured and handled delicately by me. Only when I am satisfied with my altruism and gear do I continue the main storyline in Horizon Forbidden West. During the Hades proving lab part of the story, only two hours into the game, I began to have dreams about the plot and gameplay. I refuse to spoil the story, but after my 60th hour of playing, I had a lucid dream where I worked out what the ending of the game would be, and it was scarily accurate. That’s how invested I am with Horizon Forbidden West.
There’s one clear drawback. This is the first Horizon game where I’ve seen bugs. Not game-breaking bugs that make the game unplayable, but just surprisingly glitches and minor inconveniences. I remember on my journey to another quest location, I slipped beneath the map, falling into a never-ending abyss. Another time while exploring an old-world ruin, a crate I needed to reach a higher platform lost all matter and became a box I could phase through. I don’t remember anywhere in the Horizon lore telling me that Aloy could walk through solid objects, but that’s beside the point. Overall, these were all moments that could be fixed with a simple restart.
Yet for me, Horizon Forbidden West is a singular experience, a treat for those who have played the first game, and an eye-opening phenomenon for new players. (You are witness to a summary of what came before as the second edition begins.) While there is no New Game+, the option to play through the game again with all your gear, Horizon has always been a series that you play once and remember for the rest of your life. I cried in Zero Dawn and still cried in Forbidden West because there’s always something new to learn about Aloy’s responsibilities and the pain she goes through.
In the end, there seems to be the promise of yet another surreal game, the end of a trilogy. So while Aloy’s journey and the fight to save humanity doesn’t end yet, I’m up for the game that completes her long but courageous struggle. I can’t help but feel spoiled by the sheer quality of these games. Yes, one day Aloy’s story will come to an end. But in the meantime, I will continue to savor these games and the story they carry.
Kimari Rennis is a senior intern at the New York Videogame Critics Circle, and is a game design student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.