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'Horizon' sequel should be 'Forbidden' despite beauty, gameplay

A PlayStation 5 console and two controllers.
Posted at 7:22 AM, Apr 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-05 10:33:21-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Promising to follow up where "Horizon Zero Dawn" left off in 2017, the next installment from Guerrilla Games was set to be a next-gen, next-level, even award-winning sequel. That dream was short-lived, especially after developers had to release the first patch for "Horizon Forbidden West" about a week after the game's release.

"Forbidden West" takes players... west, to explore a post-apcolyptic California, Nevada and Utah that is being overrun by a deadly, red-looking plague poisoning both the land and water. That's on top of the random storm activity triggered at the beginning of the game that brings along steller visuals and sound effects. As players get reacquainted with the the playstyle of old with Aloy among familiar companions, the game quickly expands to show off its vast map as Aloy continues to rebuild Dr. Elizabeth Slobek's GAIA, defeat friend-turned-foe Sylens and restore balance to the chaotic world.

As game trailers and first-looks built anticipation for players, they both delivered on the game's graphics, new combat style, challenging monster battles and problem-solving to progress through the main story. Developers also excelled in exploration by adding in underwater elements where players could dive to new depths and reveal lost worlds, including the ruins of Las Vegas. It's this type of underwater secrets and exploration that Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed Origins" tried to accomplish but fell flat with it's repetition. Among other praises was the new combat and weapon systems that created quite the critical thinking strategies to tackle enormous monsters like the new Tremortusks, Slitherfangs and Tiderippers, along with classic beasts like Thunderjaws and Behemoths. For those who needed even a tougher time with battles, selecting "Hard" and "Very hard" difficulties in gameplay proved just that unlike what was seen in Zero Dawn.

Going back to the gorgeous graphics Forbidden West prided itself on, players were immersed in different regions of the west that took them from snow-capped mountains to overgrown swamps to sand dune covered deserts and everything in between the beautiful Redwoods and iconic California beaches. Players could even see more of the game's world by limiting the HUD information that cluttered screens in the last game. Even the mechanics of the bodies of water, waves, blowing dust and rain rolling off characters was mesmerizing in itself. Not to mention the no-to-little loading times that makes the game run smoother, even if you are fast traveling from one side of the map to another.

The story itself is also intriguing but had to weave in sci-fi elements with no real roots and contradictions to the first game that made it hard to connect. It also didn't help that Aloy's character progression stalled as she consistently pushed away outside help and ostracized herself with the fate of humanity weighing down on her. While there were ties to Zero Dawn and the DLC "The Frozen Wilds," the story could have ended there if it would not have been for the "cliffhanger" of Sylens traveling further west.

As with all good things, there are those trouble areas that show even a so-called "polished" game can have flaws. By flaws, that's putting it nicely compared to the rage, backlash and criticism players have for Guerrilla Game's sequel. While much praise does go to the graphics, glitches and bugs plagued this game that either hindered the player's progression or just yeeted them out of the game altogether. One, two and even three cases of floating objects, monsters and NPCs getting stuck in the map is understandable with a project so massive. However, the amount of times Aloy can fall through the map, get destroyed by non-existent monsters and get blocked from story progression is more frustrating than comical.

One instance that not only showcased a massive glitch that still exists as of April 4, 2022, but was so absurd it forced a few players to turn down the difficulty just to progress was Cauldron KAPPA. Cauldrons are like dungeons where players fight their way to the depths to unlock machine overrides that will help them defeat even the deadliest of beasts. After spending nearly an hour to progress on "Very Hard" difficulty, I found myself spawning outside the map right before going up against the cauldron boss, the Tideripper. With no other choice, I finally had to load up a last save file that luckily happened before going into the Cauldron and finish on "Story" difficulty. RIP to my game progression clock.

Despite 8 patches and 3-ish GBs later, the game still needs work for players to fully enjoy all Forbidden West has to offer. With so much potential to be a contender for high praise and recognition come award season, there's less of a chance we could see that with other game gems such as "Elden Ring" and even "LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga."

EJ reviewed on PS5

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EJ Jimenez is the Executive Producer for Good Morning Tucson. She joined KGUN 9 in June 2017 after working in Beaumont, Texas as a News Producer. It was during her college career that she decided to pursue her passion, majoring in Media Production at the University of Houston. Whenever she finds free time, EJ enjoys playing video games, and exploring Tucson. Share your story ideas and important issues with EJ by emailing ej.jimenez@kgun9.com or by connecting on Instagram.