The DeanBeat: Why flying and swimming bring the world of Horizon: Forbidden West to life

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I loved the story, open world and battles of Horizon: Zero Dawn, the big PlayStation 4 hit from Sony’s Guerrilla Games. I was not at all surprised that the title starring the female character Aloy has sold over 20 million copies since its debut in 2017.

I’m also not surprised that the sequel Horizon: Forbidden West is an excellent game. I continued playing on the PlayStation 5 and after tens of hours of playing I was done with the story. And I was shocked to find that I only completed about 30% of the content in the game after the credits rolled. I probably put in a good 50 hours (my timer wasn’t accurate at 167 hours). I should have remembered that when I completed the first game I only had 32% of the content.

I enjoyed battling the crazy and terrifying Machines of the post-post-apocalyptic world and uncovering the secrets of the complicated story. It was so hard fighting those machines with an undersized Aloy in the beginning of the game. But I also enjoyed leveling and eventually domesticating those beasts and riding them around or flying through the endless skies.

As you see people saying on social media, Horizon: Forbidden West is one of the most beautiful games you’ll ever play, with the graphics capacity of the PS5 bringing out fantastic scenery and fast-paced action combat at the same time.

I felt like some of the boss fights were really tough. If you haven’t gone up much yet, it’s suicide to go after some of the big machines. But over time, if you do enough missions and side missions, you will become stronger and you can assign points to different characteristics and become more powerful or more agile. It was very difficult to fight bosses like Regalla if you didn’t master different types of combat including running away.

I went with bosses to shoot through various types of arrows, set traps, and engage in melee combat when I could. Some of those boss fights seemed to last forever, like the boss fights I encountered in Halo: Infinite. It felt so good to get through it when you were done. Even some side quests were very difficult. And that was very satisfying.

By the end of the game, I had 17 main missions, eight side questions, and two errands. I had sent 262 machines (one at a time, with some giant boss beasts) and 106 people. It was exhausting and rewarding.

What will you like?

The story remains one of the best sci-fi post-apocalyptic stories I’ve seen that can hold its own in such a long game. You don’t feel like you’re just playing a card game, as the story takes you to the past and future as you try to unravel a mystery and, against all odds, save the entire world.

I loved exploring the depths of the world through new mechanics, such as flying. After battling Regalla’s henchman early in the game, you’ll get a shield that you can use as a glider. With the glider you can jump from mountain tops or high buildings and float gently to the ground.

You can also access some flying machines late in the game and call them at any time. By this time in the game you will have unlocked a lot of Fast Travel links and so that will help you move a lot. But flying is sometimes the best way to enter the fray. I unlocked the Sunwing machine mount after upgrading so I could ignore the machine by ambushing them from behind.

If you’re hoping to climb to the top of a Tallneck, a giant mechanical beast that can map out an entire area for you, it’s often easier to fall atop the Tallneck by jumping off a flying mountain. I’ve also used the flying mountain a lot to fight some of the biggest beasts in the game. On the ground those beasts cornered me and tore me apart. But once I got the flying mountain, I could summon it, escape, ambush a beast from above, and then call the mountain back whenever I could. Aloy became so much more dangerous when she was able to attack from above.

Swimming was also a pleasure. At some point in the story, you’ll gain access to a swim mask and its oxygen source. As a result, you can dive into the depths for a long time and you can explore an entire underwater city and fight with Machines underwater or hide from them.

Only by flying and swimming did I realize that the world of the first game was so much more limited than that of the sequel. Just by unlocking these abilities, you will realize that the world is truly three-dimensional and that you have so much more to explore in the world of Horizon: Forbidden West. Compared to the new game, the old world of Horizon’s first game seems so flat.

What you don’t like?

A Tremortusk in Horizon: Forbidden West.A Tremortusk in Horizon: Forbidden West.

I don’t have much to say in this regard. I feel like Aloy is very light on emotion this time around. She hardly ever seems vulnerable, and she has little sympathy for Beta, a DNA-based version of herself, who gets discouraged so easily. Aloy eventually gets by with the hugs and the human-level communication. I can understand that the developers saw her as a strong warrior who had no patience for weakness. She doesn’t like attention or pomp, and she hates anything that slows her down.

But the narrators risked turning her into a robot when she was confronted with so much misery in the world around her. I did appreciate when the story took some different twists that revealed more shades of Aloy’s character and her vulnerabilities. But I don’t think the character design is flawed.

I had a few rare crashes while playing but it was so easy to reboot and get back to where I was that this was no problem. I only found one side quest that I couldn’t finish. I made it through every part of the Shadow of the West side quest until I reached the final boss and his pesky machine. It took me a while to get competitive in that fight, but then the game kicked me out of the room where the boss fight took place. The door was red instead of blue, and there was no way I could get back into the room. I went back several times and it never reset.


It's a lot of fun to fight those monster machines.It’s a lot of fun to fight those monster machines.

As the story took its various twists and turns and headed toward the end, I entered the final campaign cold. I hadn’t leveled up some of the all-important weapon types and thought I could get through it. But it turned out that some of the new enemies I encountered were only vulnerable to a certain type of weapon that I didn’t have.

I made it all the way to the final boss fight of the game, but couldn’t win it with the weapons I had with me. So I restarted a previously saved game and bought the gear I needed and leveled up. Then I went back to the whole endgame, and it went much smoother. The last fight was still tough, but I beat it on my third try.

I’ve seen a lot of people say they skipped Horizon: Forbidden West to play other games like Gran Turismo 7 and Elden Ring. I am now in the middle of Elden Ring and I feel like I have my training wheels on. But I wouldn’t skip Horizon: Forbidden West, because I think it’s going to be one of the best games of 2021.

Mike Minotti reviewed the game for us. But for my own review I give the game a 5 out of 5.

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