Guerrilla Games Delivers Amazing Game That Was Worth The Five Years Wait

Horizon Forbidden West, which was released on the 18th of February, shocks many with how expansive and in-depth the gameplay, lore, and character development is.

Grae Stockhausen, News Section Editor

The red-headed heroine Aloy who saved the future once has come back to do it again. From new machines to in-depth lore, Horizon Forbidden West has covered all the bases. The new game comes back with Aloy at the center of the story, fighting for the same things she had been in the previous game. In the last game, Aloy successfully fought off HADES, a rogue subordinate function from GAIA, who was tasked with destroying the new biosphere that was created by GAIA. GAIA is the very powerful AI that sought to rebuild the world after the Faro Plague was eliminated. The Faro Plague refers to the rogue Chariot war machines that wiped out all life thousands of years before Aloy’s life. After Aloy had fought off HADES, another plague threatened the world, earning the name of the Red Blight by the tribes inhabiting the Forbidden West. Aloy must recover the GAIA kernel from an Old World ruin and find the other nine subordinate functions that will help restore the world with their special performing functions that control something in the new biosphere. An example is DEMETER, who was tasked with restoring Earth’s floral species from preserved genetic stocks. These functions are not real people, they are online programs that are sent out to spires around the map and release their signals to help regrow the biosphere.


The main antagonists are from Far Zenith, an Old World technology company that’s after the same thing as Aloy. To get all of the subordinate functions for GAIA, Aloy must go through many battles with them to acquire all nine functions to get rid of the damage that has been done to the biosphere that they live in. The game starts out with Aloy in an abandoned Old World ruin, which appears to be some sort of Far Zenith lab according to the dialog between Aloy and Varl, her old Nora friend who is helping her find the kernel. Aloy explains that she is looking for a GAIA backup so that she can cure the blight, another version of the corruption shown in the first game which was caused by HADES, who was trying to remake the Faro Plague to take life down again. Unsuccessful in her exploration, she continues to head towards the Forbidden West, the area West of the Carja territory in the first game, which consists of many new ecosystems and machines which will be explained later on, though she is denied access due to the lack of cooperation from the three new tribes introduced, the Utaru, the Tenakth, and the Quen. Once these tribes cooperate and agree to let Aloy in, a side antagonist is revealed, her name being Regalla. Regalla is a former Tenakth Marshal, or leader, and is now the leader of the Rebels in the Forbidden West. After Regalla is met and a small battle is fought, Aloy treks farther into the Forbidden West with her friends to find the GAIA kernel that will save life on Earth.


The Rebels are an offshoot of the Tenakth tribe who refuse to forgive the Carja after the atrocities during the Red Raids. The Red Raids were a series of attacks under the Sun King Jiran. Carja troops invaded territories of tribes and collected many tribespeoples to be used as human sacrifices to stop the Derangement, or the increasing hostility of the machines around them. These Rebels seek to destroy any Carja supporters, including the tribe they used to be part of, the Tenakth. 

The storyline starts out a bit confusing. At the end of the first game, it seemed that the world had been restored and that GAIA and her subfunctions minus HADES could carry out their programmed plans, but at the beginning of Forbidden West, it’s shown that there is a new type of corruption in the world, the Red Blight. The Red Blight are these red vines, almost wire-like tendrils that are spread across the West and are toxic to people, machines, and animals. This contributes to the storyline greatly and is one of the main reasons Aloy ventures out into the Forbidden West, to solve the corruption yet again. Once Aloy gets deeper into the Forbidden West, the quests and overall storyline make much more sense. Some of the quests even bring up lore that contributes to how the world ended in the first place and tells Aloy more about Elisabet Sobeck, who she is a genetic copy of, and Ted Faro, who created the Faro Plague in an attempt to help the Old World population with farming and general life. There are many quests to complete that start new storylines or continue on from old ones. A load of new characters that will play parts in the storyline are spread around the map, and a handful of old characters come back as well. The mix makes it nostalgic while also sprinkling in some new characters to love and bring excitement back to the game.


Characters like Erend, the hot-headed Oseram tribesman and is the captain of Sun-King Avad’s Vanguard, and Varl, the Nora Brave and son of War Chief Sona, have come back to help Aloy, who started as a Nora outcast in the previous game, find her way through the Forbidden West and aid her in many quests. Multiple other characters from Zero Dawn come back as well, such as Talanah, Aloys Hawk, and Sylens, who guided Aloy through her journeys to stop HADES in the previous game. There are loads of new characters as well, some who play larger roles than others, but all are important to the game and story development. Some of the larger characters are Zo, who is from the Utaru tribe and helps Aloy greatly with getting rid of the Red Blight, and Alva, who is part of the Quen tribe and shows Aloy many things that aid her along in quests. 


Aside from the storyline, the gameplay is also extremely fun to play with. A new skill tower has been introduced with the ability to learn combo attacks and special attacks with ranged weapons, like bows and slings. As well as that, with combos comes the ability for enemies to learn your attack pattern and block your melee attacks. A variety of new weapons and outfits have also been added to the game, giving the players more options to protect themselves from the Forbidden West and enemies within it. A total of 74 new weapons were added, with new categories of weapons as well. Each weapon fits into the 10 categories of weapons. There are 16 hunter bows, 13 warrior bows, and 11 sharpshot bows, as there were in the previous game. There are also three variations of Aloys spear, one of which you get if you preorder a special edition of the game. As well as that, there are 11 blastslings, nine tripcasters, and four ropecasters. Three new types of ranged weapons have also been introduced, shredder gauntlets, boltblasters, and spikethrowers. All the new weapons are very powerful, but it is matched nicely with the new damage mechanic. Melee attacks with your spear deal less damage than the first game’s attacks, which also applies to the ranged weapons such as bows, blastslings, and boltblasters. This forces you to battle machines and enemies for longer and uses more resources. These new weapons are all very interesting and depending on what the players fighting style is, they all are beneficial to fighting. If the player decides to go with a more close-range fighting style, they would be better suited with hunter bows, warrior bows, and blastslings. Close-range fighters may also use more melee attacks, benefitting from learning more combos from the skill tower. Players who enjoy long-range combat would benefit from using sharpshot bows, boltblasters, and spikethrowers. Others who may enjoy stealth attacks or trapping can use tripcasters to set up tripwires and traps to shock the machine or use blast traps to give the machine a little blast surprise.


The only thing that could use some improvement is rendering graphics. The game is beautiful, the color palettes and animation is smooth. The only issue is that when you get into a new cutscene or load into a new area, it takes a few moments for the textures to load in. It doesn’t make the game look bad, but it makes it look kind of silly when the characters are talking, but their faces are very geometrical and block-like. Other than that, the textures and graphics are gorgeous. The animations for fighting, running, and climbing make sense and show that Aloy is a real person and making her movements more realistic, rather than making it seem like she can run for hours without getting tired. After Aloy stops running, she’ll stand there and catch her breath until she starts running again. She makes little adjustments in her legs and arms while climbing and will even flip her spear or throw it from hand to hand in between attacks. The attention to detail is what makes the gameplay even better and more realistic, which makes it much more enjoyable to play.


The Forbidden West map is set in the general area of Utah, California, and Nevada. This causes new biomes to appear on the map which Aloy has the ability to explore. There are beaches, swamps, even the Sequoia National Park in California is featured. With these new biomes, come new things to explore with them. Aloy can now dive underwater to explore the bottoms of lakes and oceans. During a quest to find POSEIDON, the subfunction that detoxifies Earth’s water and brings aquatic life back, Aloy crafts a sort of breather machine which allows her to breathe underwater. After acquiring this machine, it will be equipped whenever she goes under the water. Around the map, there will be collectibles, similar to the mechanic of the previous game. In ruins, you can find Relic Ruin Ornaments. Vista Points are set around the map and they allow you to see what has been there in the past with your Focus. You must line the Vista Point hologram up with your surroundings using your Focus. A new collectible is Black Boxes. These ask Aloy to track down and locate yellow flight recorders, often giving a clue to the location of a new one once recovered. Survey Drones can be found in each biome around the map. They can be connected to GAIA’s room and projected onto the half-sphere above her to show that part of the map. Then there are Totems of War, which are actually considered to be spoilers because of their Easter Egg nature in referencing something. They can be found throughout the Forbidden West and can be directly stumbled upon or a clue can be found nearby that leads Aloy to them. 


Aside from collectibles, the biomes can hint at which machines will be where. Water machines, such as the Tideripper, Snapmaw, and Widemaw, can be found by lakes, swamps, or on the beaches. Some can even be found underwater. Machines that have been inspired by animals that are used to cold, such as the Frostclaw, Scorcher, and Fireclaw, can be found in the Northern areas of the map and mountain areas, where it’s very snowy. Desert areas have native machines like the Slitherfnag, Shellsnapper, and Leaplasher. The more tropical areas have machines like the Chamberjaw, Plowhorn, and Slaughterspine. In total, there are 43 machines, with 22 new machines added to the roster to be scanned. All have strengths and weaknesses against each elemental type of ammo, like shock, acid, and freeze ammo. Each machine has a different amount of health in its health bar. Some are considered boss level and will have to be inevitably fought, either through a quest or just by stumbling upon a site of them. Sites of machines can be found once the player scans the Tallneck in the region that is being looked at.


Tallnecks have come back for Forbidden West! The long, giraffe-like machine can be found in 6 areas and is used to unlock the foggy-looking parts of the map. Once the map is unlocked, it will look slightly foggy still, but once you trek into the area, it will be able to be seen clearly. In Horizon Zero Dawn, to unlock a Tallneck, Aloy used to have to fight her way to a spot to jump onto the Tallneck, but now it seems to be more puzzle-based. In order to solve a majority of the Tallnecks, you have to find a way to restore power to it, make it to the top to jump on its head, or you have to climb up it. You still have to fight machines at a few of them, but the other ones are pretty fun to beat as it’s mostly brainwork. 


The overall game is very similar to the first, which is very pleasing to someone who enjoys consistency in sequels. The new characters have their own personality and as always, monologue is very well written between characters and Aloy can sometimes be given the choice whether to speak from her heart, her mind, or speak in a harsher tone. Bringing in new game elements, like weapons and machines is what makes the new game exciting and captivating. The main story takes a long time to complete as well, a total of 25 to 35 hours to finish the main story. If one wants to finish the game with all side quests done, then 40 hours of gameplay should be expected. It takes a long time to explore the map as well, so it could even take up to 100 hours to find everything the game has to offer. The long amount of time it takes for the game to be finished adds to how amazing the game is, so the player doesn’t get bored easily and can explore for hours on end, even if it’s just running around or diving down in the lakes and ponds or climbing mountains. One of the only issues the game poses is that it’s such a high-quality game with high-quality graphics, so you have to load into new areas on occasion, or the textures will take a bit of time for loading. This game is beautiful, from the storyline to the environment. Considering I have already bought it, being a long-time fan of this series, it was certainly worth the money, as well as the wait. I wish that there was more meat to the main story, but the large number of side quests and added interactive activities, such as rebel outposts and relic ruins. The game was a bit expensive, the normal game was $70, but the preordered version was $80 with two extra outfits and weapons, as well as a digital artbook. There were two other collectors editions for large sums of money, which was a bit extreme but I would’ve bought the Regalla Edition, which contained statues and replicas of the Focus in the game, if I was able to. All in all, Horizon Forbidden West is most certainly a captivating game that will make any action fan shiver.