I pre-ordered Horizon Forbidden West after playing Horizon Zero Dawn and falling in love with it. When I pre-ordered it, I decided to go ahead and let myself get the Collector’s Edition, as it came with a Tremortusk statue and a tiny Aloy. The game did not disapoint when it comes to the soundtrack, either:

I received it in the mail on launch day – and I was thrilled to pick up where the first one left off. If you enjoyed the first one, I would also encourage you to pick up the comics that take place between the two games – Sunhawk and Liberation. These are not so important to the overall story that you won’t be able to follow a long, but there are a few quests that relate back to the events of Sunhawk.

After knowing how much I loved the first one, I was wholly prepared to throw myself into the next adventure. Playing Zero Dawn was an incredible adventure over a beautifully told story. Playing Forbidden West felt like a continuation of that story.

Much like the first time around, I ended up becoming a bit of a completionist.

Horizon Forbidden West completion stats

I didn’t quite 100% the game this time around – as there were a few mechanics I just did not enjoy (the hunting lodges, the gauntlets, and Machine Strike) so I didn’t do them. Games are meant to be enjoyed, not suffered!

Horizon Forbidden West collectables

I did, however, dutifully collect every collectable. That’s just how I roll.

Gameplay

Horizon Forbidden West, much like its predecessor, is an open world game. As before, there are only a few times when you are forced to follow a linear path, and that really only happens during missions. For the rest of the game, you are free to explore, climb, glide, etc all over the place. There is just about nothing that will prevent you from exploring your world, and it is incredible!

Armor

As before, Aloy is once again well-dressed – and this time with way more options! Not only can you choose from several different styles of armor, you can also now dye them. So if you aren’t happy with the color of the armor initially – feel free to collect various plants that grow among the cliffs and head to a dyer so you can collect various plants that can be used for dying.

I never found a comprehensive list for all of the dye options, but I did find that what selections you can choose from does vary between armor sets. Not all of them can be dyed the same way – some can be a little brighter than others. Some can even be pink!

Forbidden West Oseram Artifacer
Forbidden West Carja Shadow Armor

Some of the dyes are locked behind missions, so you’ll find them as you progress the story. What is still unfortunate, is that you may find an armor that you love the look of only to find that the stats are not as great. I often felt forced to change out my armor into designs I really disliked just because it had better options. I prefer that she wear clothes, and not have her midriff exposed, but the best armor is an open midriff, for some reason. I do not understand this – it is ARMOR. She shouldn’t have the weak parts of her anatomy exposed this way!

As with the first came, you can apply customization to the options through the use of weaves – so you can add additional stats or elements to them to change them up a bit, and this time around, you can actually upgrade your armor. Each armor has the default starting stats, but as you collect various items and machine parts, you can use them to upgrade the armor to make it even better. Some items have 4, and even 5 levels of upgrades! While this is a great way to add some customization, I still found it a bit odd that I was needing to hunt down the toughest machines out there to upgrade the armor… that I wanted to use for fighting these machines?

Forbidden West Armor Upggrade

For example, the Oseram Artificer, is a fantastic peice of gear. (Nevermind the midriff being exposed…) but it has five levels you can upgrade to. I didn’t really bother to go past level one. The parts needed to upgrade are a bit difficult to come by, and by the time I got this, I was in the end-game anyway.

Weapons and Combat

The weapons were handled similarly to the armor – in that you have different levels you can upgrade them to. As with the first game, you can set them to your weapons wheel to allow Aloy to switch between them pretty quickly.

In addition to the bow and spear this time, you’re given quite a variety to work with. My personal favorite being the Spike Throwers. Throw it and watch it blow up. I loved this thing!

Also new this time around were Shredder Gauntlets. I found them to be a bit difficult to use – and I rarely was able to correctly capture the disc as it came flying back to you, but it was a pretty neat device if you got it work out for you.

As far as combat – it did get a bit of an upgrade this time around. The same basic principle of a bow and a spear are used throughout, but there are now a lot of melee combinations you can use to power through enemies when you end up in close quarters.

I admit I absolutely hated the melee fighting, as much as I did from the first game. What Forbidden West adds, however, is a series of quests related to fighting in a Melee Pit, which forces you to use the various combinations to proceed. If you do it incorrectly, you may see a simple “Wrong Input” message appearing on the screen… and no real indicator beyond that. After a bit of researching, I was able to find a tip: the last button press of a combo can also act as the first button press in the next one. Unfortunately for me, I never could get these – so I ended up enlisting the help of my boyfriend to complete these because they frustrated me so much.

What is really interesting – is the addition of Valor Surges. These are skills that can enable within your skill tree, and they activated when enough valor points are earned through various combats. Once you have enough, you can enable them. After a short animation, the surge will be active for a few seconds to boost Aloy based on what you selected. The most common ones I used were either Ranged Master or Overshield – I like to hit hard and not take damage!

Mounts

I am so excited to talk about this section – mounts are my absolute favorite part of the game! The first mount you will have is Gavin (a Charger). You’ll actually have him from the very beginning, which comes in handy as there is a lot of ground to cover. You’ll always be able to call your mount to you – provided it has not been destroyed. And unlike the first game, if your mount is damaged, it is not actually permanently damaged. I no longer had to ride around on a one-horned Charger for half the game!

As before, if you need a new mount, or if your mount is destroyed in some way, you’ll need to override a new machine. It’s as easy as sneaking up behind them and using the Override action to take it over and then ride off into the sunset!

SPOILER WARNING REGARDING MOUNTS IN FORBIDDEN WEST

If you opened the spoiler, then what you read in here is on you!

There are three new mounts this time around. You won’t be bringing over your Strider or Broadhead from the first game – instead you’ll have access to some new friends.

The first of your new friends is Piggly-Wiggly: the Bristleback. A bristleback is essentially a warthog and can be either a fire or acid based pig. They make excellent pig sounds, and even better – if you park it while you’re in town, it’ll root around and vomit up balls of shards! You won’t get a ton of shards – 2-5 in a ball – but hey, free shards!

Piggly Wiggly, a Bristleback in Horizon Forbidden West

The next mount you’ll be able to use is the Alan: the Clawstrider. Clawstriders are basically raptors – and they make adorable chirping sounds. They are either acid or fire based, and they aren’t particularly quick as a mount. I was surprised at how slow they moved, but if you need to fight – a clawstrider will tear someone up quickly.

Alan, a clawstrider in Horizon Forbidden West

After that, there is one more mount: Aero. (The Sunwing.) The Sunwing is a big deal.

Aero, a Sunwing in Horizon Forbidden West

With a Sunwing, you can fly. You can not fight from the Sunwing, and it will not damage anyone for you. It can fly and it flies pretty fast. I loved flying around on Aero all day – and I often stopped using fast travel because flying was an incredible addition.

Aero and Aloy in San Fransisco

My only regret is there were no water-based mounts. I really, really, really wanted my own Tideripper.

Story

I really hope that you played through Horizon Zero Dawn before you started this game. Horizon Forbidden West takes place only 6 months after the events of Zero Dawn, and continues the same incredible story.

SPOILER WARNING. SKIP THIS IF YOU WANT TO KEEP IT A SURPRISE!

After the events of Zero Dawn, Aloy is looking for a backup of Gaia so that she can correct the failing biosphere. Without Gaia, all of her subordinate functions continue to spiral out of control – the weather has gone insane and people are dying of starvation as the can’t grow crops.

You’ll start out on a mission with Varl, exploring a Far Zenith facility where she hopes to find a backup of Gaia. If you’ll remember from Zero Dawn – Far Zenith had a different plan to survive the Faro Swarm, and that was to go into space aboard the Odyssey. You’ll recall that this didn’t go well, and ship … blew up.

Aloy finds that the backup isn’t there, and Varl suggests they go look for who else: Sylens. Probably the second most interesting character in the game! Aloy heads back to Merdian to see if she can find him, and finds out that he has actually ‘stolen’ HADES. (Actually, if you watched all the way to the end credits of Zero Dawn, you’ll see that red bolt of lightning that escapes and joins Sylens!)

Sylens tells her to join him the west to learn more, so off we go! As we head out West, you’ll learn about the Tenakth tribes who live there. They are three tribes who have warred for a long time with each other, until their recent chief saw a hologram explaining that the only way to truly win is to fight together, and defeat the machines instead of each other. With this, the chief is attempting to broker a peace with the Carja (and remember, the Carja were awful under the Mad Sun-King. Kidnapping, murdering, sacrificing and all of that). Not all of the Tenakth are on board with this, and as soon as Aloy tries to head west, she ends up in the middle of a fight between these ‘Rebels’ (led by Regalla) and the other Tenakth.

That civil war becomes the backdrop for the west as you keep exploring. Aloy follows Sylens to a facility where she finds the remains of HADES after Sylens has ‘interrogated’ it and destroys it, then goes inside to find a backup of GAIA. While here, some futuristic looking folk with another clone of Elisabet Sobek show up. Aloy tries to fight them, but they have a shield that won’t let her land a single hit. It’s not the last time you’ll see them throughout the game.

Aloy barely manages to esape, and ends up being pulled out of the water by Varl, in a nearby Utaru village. The Utaru are another tribe of people who are very peaceful and also vegetarians – living entirely off the land around their city of Plainsong.

In this village, you’ll meet Zo – a Gravesinger of the Utaru who looks like she has her eyes all over Varl. She is singing to sooth one of their “Land-Gods” (a triceratops?! I had some Jurassic Park moments here…) and Aloy realizes she can help and patches up the machine with some help from her focus. This wins her the trust of Zo, who then helps guide her to a nearby facility that she believes holds MINERVA – another of GAIA’s subordinate functions.

Aloy is able to retrieve MINERVA, and after finding a suitable base to work from, boots up GAIA and rejoins her with MINERVA. With her processing power now improved, GAIA is now able to locate AETHER, DEMETER, and POSEIDON.

GAIA advises Aloy to retrieve them before attempting to capture HEPHAESTUS, as GAIA isn’t currently strong enough to absorb it without being taken over. GAIA also tells Aloy that the extinction signal that triggered all of the events in the first game originated from: The Sirius Star System! You know, where the Odyssey had set out to travel to when we thought it had blown up?

Aloy belives now that these people must be descendants of Far Zenith’s colony ship, which is a pretty logical conclusion at this point. The next few missions involve recovering AETHER, DEMETER, and POSEIDON.

To get AETHER, Aloy must first help Chief Hekarro with his civil war against the rebels in order to gain access to it. Once you do, GAIA then sees a distress signal, and even though knowing it might be a trap, Aloy goes! Aloy and her companions go to investigate, and what should they find, but the second Elisabet clone, Beta.

Beta explains that Far Zenith has already acquired ELEUTHIA, ARTEMIS, and APOLLO, and Beta managed to steal their GAIA backup. She further explains that the Far Zenith colonists are the original colonists that left Earth during the Faro Plague. You heard that – this game has started to fill a pool of water. (Soon they’ll add a shark and grab a jet ski…)

These folks are in fact, the original Far Zeneith crew, who did not blow up. Instead, they have managed to make themselves live for over a thousand years. After the colony they tried to build on Sirius collapsed, they returned to Earth to find GAIA. Since they didn’t know about Aloy, they created their own clone of Sobek with Beta, in order to be able open the DNA coded doors.

After AETHER, Aloy heads off to recover POSEIDON. In the flooded ruins of Las Vegas? Here she also picks up the ability to make a diving mask – which is extremely helpful in doing any underwater exploration, as Aloy can not hold her breath for all that long.

After POSEIDON, she heads off to find Demeter – way out in what used to be California. Here, in the Greenhouse, Aloy meets a new friend, Alva, from the Quen tribe. The Quen have come from across the sea, looking for data that may help them save their homeland.

After recovering DEMETER and heading back to regroup with GAIA, we learn that in order to capture HEPHAESTUS, we’ll need clearance higher than Elisabet Sobek. The only one higher than that would be… good ol’ Ted Faro. You know, the guy who created the swarm that wiped out humantity, and then later also deleted APOLLO – the record of history because he didn’t want anyone to know? Ever wonder what happened to that guy?

You get to go and visit his grave to find out. It is at this time that I learned how clever Ted Faro’s name is. FARO. PHAROH. GET IT?! Because he built himself a tomb. And trapped himself inside with several unfortunate people.

To get the clearance Aloy needs, you’ll have to travel down into the Tomb of Faro, with the Quen’s very odd leader, Ceo. (Try reading that without calling him CEO.) The best part of this was being handed an outfit similar to Elisabet’s and told we had to dress ‘business casual’. (I am not kidding. The shark is now in the pool.)

Down in the bunker, you’ll learn about what became of Ted Faro. And as much as I warned about spoilers before, I honestly feel like I can’t spoil this – and I’m going to leave out what became of Ted Faro.

Once Clearance has been obtained, Aloy has to finish up the plan to catch HEPHAESTUS. As GAIA is in a weakened state, she plans to catch HEPHAESTUS by using a cauldron with two cores – and two clones, while all of her friends set off decoy energy signals to try and fool the Far Zenith folks.

Although they do manage to pin down HEPHAESTUS, they did not succeed in fooling the Far Zenith folk. A tragedy happens, and I don’t even want to go into detail about it. It hit me hard when I didn’t see it coming, and it still makes me tear up to think about it.

One of the Far Zenith folks ends up helping Aloy, and Beta is taken. We later learn that this person, Tilda, who really likes art, also was romantically involved with Elisabet. After finding one of Aloy’s old Focuses, she is inspired to help her.

She explains that this civil war among the Tenakth are a ploy by Sylens so that he can later use them to attack the Far Zenith base like cannon fodder. Tilda suggests they take over this plan but Aloy refuses to allow them to be slaughtered, and instead decides to fight and defeat Regalla so that Sylens will have to work with her instead.

I should take a moment to point out that the Tenakth have seen a few holograms describing the deeds of those who flew on the Wings of the Ten. Essentially, military personnel who flew and fought the machines from planes. They have basically worshipped the deeds of these people, and even as they fight, they strike from above – as though they could fly. This is all incredibly relevant – as Aloy overrides a Sunwing, then flies into battle. As the Tenakth look up at her, you can hear multiple comments about how she flies like the ten. While this chapter of the game starts to feel far-fetched, I have a lot of respect for the Tenakth and the way Aloy brings them to her side.

After defeating their forces, she enters a one-on-one combat with Regalla. I like this part a lot too, as Aloy is respecting the ways of the Tenakth. After defeating her, she has a choice- she can either spare or killher. I choose to spare her, because Regalla is an incredible character. I do not know what changes if you don’t – I imagine it means missing out on an incredible ending for her.

Aft4er defeating Regalla, it is time to bring the fight to the Zeniths. After storming the base, you’ll have one more showdown with Tilda… and this is where the game really just goes for it and jumps the friggen’ shark.

Get ready to meet the angry red squiggly monster and hear the tale of scorned lovers! I’m not even kidding.

After Tilda shows up at the top after you all fight your way up, Aloy and Beta learn that the Far Zenith colony was actually destroyed by…. Nemesis. (Not the one from Resident Evil). An angry, red, squiggly line rogue AI that is angry about its existence. You also learn that Nemesis is who sent the extinction signal to Earth (triggering the first game events) and is now on the way to destroy the planet.

Far Zenith was actually running away from Nemesis, not coming home, and planned to steal GAIA and build a new world somewhere else. Again, not kidding.

Tilda, who is still not over her breakup with Elisabet after a thousand years, decides that Aloy will either come with and is forced to kill Tilda.

Nemesis is not dealt with in this game, leaving it wide open for round three.

I’ll tell you, there are a lot of things this game did right. But the story is not as good as the first chapter.

Review

I still can’t say enough how good of a game Zero Dawn was.

I am actually not sure if I hyped it in my own head so much that it caused Forbidden West to not be able to live up to it.

I’m not saying Forbidden West was bad. In fact, I’m going to give it 7/10 Sunwings.

I’m rating a little lower than Zero Dawn for a few things.

  • The story is not as good, and starts to lean into completely far-out “this is ridiculous” territory.
  • The melee pits are infuriating.
  • THE BUGS. There are items on my map that won’t cross off, despite having completed them. I kept accidently going back to these areas thinking I needed to finish something.

I also had a quest that could not be completed because the events wouldn’t trigger – I had to back up a few saves, and start it over entirely.

There have been some patches that have come out since that have improved it, but they are very irritating to come across.

I actually don’t know if Zero Dawn had as many hiccups, as I played it years after it had been released, but if I had come across them I’d have to lower its rating too.

I do hope there will be a DLC for this game, and some of these will be resolved. If there is, I’ll do another review for that DLC and we’ll see what changes!

Overall, it’s still an excellent game, and I hope someone reading this who is on the fence would give it a shot. 98 hours later… I’m ready for more.

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