Have you ever looked forward to something so much that when it finally shows up, you’re sort of scared to begin? Because what if it doesn’t live up to the hype you’ve created in your head? What’s if it’s bad? What if it’s – horror of horrors – not bad but not quite as good as you were hoping for?
What I’m saying is the entire time Horizon Forbidden West was starting up I was clutching my controller with existential panic. Five years of waiting, and it was finally here, and what if I didn’t like it?
Thankfully, I love this game, potentially more than I love Zero Dawn. I honestly can’t remember the last time something I was looking forward to so hard lived up to my expectations. Quick and dirty spoiler free review: 9/10, if you like vast open worlds, offbeat science fiction stories, and shooting at robots with bows and arrows this is the game for you.
Let’s throw up the Spoiler Chocobo and get into it.
Last time, in the post-apocalyptic American West, we joined Aloy, Nora outcast who initially only wanted to win a physical challenge for teenagers to prove to the entire tribe that she didn’t need them and would presumably spend the rest of her life with her middle fingers standing at attention, only for said physical challenge to get absolutely wrecked by some cultists trying to destroy the world using a half-crazed AI, leading Aloy to discover that a thousand years previous the world was completely destroyed by an out-of-control flock of biomass eating robots which were then shut down and then the world was completely rebuilt literally from the ground up by another AI GAIA, and also Aloy is actually a clone of the woman who created GAIA. And somehow, the story told in Forbidden West makes this science fiction soap opera clusterfuck look like a tight twenty-minute sitcom plot.
And I am here for it.
I mean, what the fuck else were they going to do with the story? Pull back? She saved the world in the first game but this time it’s a relationship sim leading up to some big party at the Sun Palace? Even if the game had been only the Regalla subplot it would have been missing something, and that something would be Raging Insanity.
So imagine my delight when we meet the Far Zeniths crew, rolling deep into the Faro Proving Ground in their shiny mech suits that repel all danger and give them levitation super powers and oh, yeah, they have another Elisabet clone, and I’m staring at these half-dickhead/half-machine types and I’m like, yeah, these bastards are immortal and they’re the original Far Zeniths. I honestly can’t believe it took Beta telling Aloy for her to figure it out. I guess she didn’t grow up with the tropes I did but come on.
And then imagine my further delight when the end of this game not only sets up the third game, but somehow ups the bugfuck ante with nemesis, the deranged, frothing copy of all of the Zeniths minds melted together and now want nothing more than to kill all the Zeniths and burn down anything remotely related to them, aka Earth and everyone on it.
I was honestly shocked when Sylens made like he was going to blast off into space for a few seconds. The man loves shit-stirring, and there’s an entire insane AI sprinting across space directly towards them with a big spoon in each hand.
10/10 It’s going to be great.
I honestly can’t believe he was so willing to leave The Embrace because he definitely seemed like the sort who wouldn’t be able to let his beliefs go. I was extremely happy he did – right up until I was extremely unhappy about it. Honestly, his death was probably the only thing about the story I didn’t like. It felt rushed, and cheap, and I hate it when characters die in cut scenes and I can’t do a damn thing about it.
I loved her from the minute she was all ‘The time for asking permission is over.’ I’m 1000% convinced that if the machines hadn’t broken through the Utaru’s wall at that exact moment and the Chorus had sent them away with a firm ‘no’ she would have been planning to scale the mountain to get inside. After Varl’s death I unfortunately called that she’d be pregnant because of fucking course. Ugh, she even said she was ‘with child.’ Just once I want once of these scenes to have the woman say something like, ‘before he got fucked up he got me knocked up.’
Fascinating to watch Aloy have to learn about nature vs nurture in real time. I was similarly frustrated with Beta in the beginning, but I was also incredibly frustrated at Aloy. This woman makes it her mission to wander around the wilds and adopt every single person who comes to her with so much as a splinter, and now she can’t even find enough patience to deal with someone who spent her entire life in a single room in a space ship with no one to talk to or even to hold her? Do you know how bad it is for babies to not be held? Have you not seen Homelander on The Boys? Jesus Christ, Aloy, she was raised by virtual robots, cut her some fucking slack. All of the frustration was worth it for the ’That’s between me and my sister’ pay-off toward the end, and I am looking forward to more of her in the next game.
Alva is now also Aloy’s and Beta’s sister and I won’t hear word one about it. Jesus fucking Christ this woman is one of the most adorable people on the planet and I was thrilled that she didn’t go back across the ocean and I hope her crush comes to her so they never have to leave and get to have access to all the Old World Knowledge they want.
This bitch isn’t dead, right? The quest goal said ‘Kill Erik’ but it only said ‘Stop Tilda’ or some shit, and we only saw her hand and not her full dead body and anyone steeped in The Tropes knows what that means. I did love her characterization because, honestly, how many of these real world oligarch types have the same sort of rationalization that they’re the good one only getting dragged along by the bad ones to keep the peace? And then she tries to shove Aloy onto a space ship because she still misses her long-dead girlfriend. Tilda, I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Diana: write a sad poem about it in your diary and let them go.
Absolutely no notes, king. Please continue to be everything that you are and more. Intelligent, versatile, ruthless, ready to launch into space because it would ‘fucking rule’ (his exact words, I’m sure of it). I hope despite all he’s done he gets absorbed into the Gang in the next game a la Deckard Shaw in the Fast and Furious series.
He’s almost an ‘enemies to lovers’ speed run. He comes off as such a dick at first, yet another NPC who thinks Aloy is some rubbernecker sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong and just wants her to leave. I loved the slow reveal that his attitude has nothing to do with Aloy and everything to do with the trauma of getting his arm sheared off and the Tenakth’s less-than-inclusive attitudes about it. Not only are some of them being complete dicks about it and insisting he’s now worth less without an arm, this is the society he was raised in so he’s having a hard time not believing it. It takes Aloy and the gang, with the help of a sweet mech arm, for him to learn that the real left arm are the friends you make along the way. Also, he could just take a page from Fashav’s book and every time someone gives him shit mush their face in the dirt. It worked for Fashav for five-odd years.
This is getting long, and there’s a bunch of other stuff I want to talk about, including Erend, the open world, the armor, and photo mode, so let’s break here and meet back on Friday.