The first half of this rambling review.
I’m not going to lie, for a good chunk of this game I strayed. I’ve been shipping Aloy and Erend for five years now, and then Kotallo shows up all ‘That was an unkind comparison,’ and ‘My back is still strong,’ and I started having dangerous thoughts.
By the end of the game though, I was firmly back on team Aloy x Erend, thanks in no small part to the fact that I’m, like, 78% certain the game itself is also on team Aloy x Erend.
There’s still no romance options in this game, which is how it should be. Aloy is once again racing against time to put together an entire bag of Reese’s Pieces to figure out how to save the world, and then has to go about enacting that plan to save said world. She does not have time for this romance shit. The scene in the beginning in Meridian where Avad is still trying to get in her pants is deliciously awkward because, yeah, he’s a king and she understands that pissing him off is maybe not a good idea, but on the other hand she super doesn’t have the time for this shit and even if she did I think Aloy would have gotten on that space ship to wherever the fuck with Sylens before even considering getting coffee with Avad.
So, no romance options and I’ll actually be pretty shocked if they add romance options into the third game (then again I also thought Varl would never leave the Embrace so it’s not like I have an inside line to the writer’s room or anything). The Horizon series isn’t really the ‘romance option’ type and to have it in the third game would feel like a weird sort of afterthought. If the next game is the final game in the series – and there are apparently reports that Guerilla has always seen these games as a trilogy – what I wouldn’t be surprised by is if they add some sort of budding romance into the plot.
And they’re going to do it with Erend. Here’s why:
- By the end of the game, Erend is literally Aloy’s oldest friend.
- If they do go with a romance subplot in the third game it would feel pretty cheap to introduce someone new at the last second.
- While pretty much everyone she met in Zero Dawn aggressively (and metaphorically!) tried to stick their tongue down her throat within seconds of saying ‘hello,’ I think she reacts the most positively to Erend, even indicating in dialogue that when the current End of the World scenario is over she’d love to come find him and have a drink.
- Toward the end of Forbidden West they finally have that drink! She insists on it, even waiting for him to get the ale, and then they get to have a nice moment that could be read as friends pausing before a big battle or a first date. Most notably, this sort of one on one conversation doesn’t happen with any of the other gang members.
- In the end scene, this happens:
Picture of Erend and Aloy with their arms around each other.
This woman is so fully terrible at making physical contact with people I tried to take screenshots of when Zo embraced her after the Gemini mission because I didn’t think I’d see Aloy hugging anyone ever again. And yet here she is, celebrating with her friends. Erend casually puts an arm around her and instead of freaking out, she puts her arm around him. Even if they don’t go the romance route, now that Varl is dead it is clear that Erend is the person she trusts the most.
Oh my God. If they kill Erend in the third game I riot.
Okay, thus ends the Tumblr, AO3 section of today’s ramble. Let’s move on to…
The Open World
Leading up to this game’s release, I was way more excited/nervous for the open world than I was for the story line. The story of Zero Dawn got me into the games, for sure, but the world was why I replayed it half a dozen times. And Forbidden West completely lived up to my hopes.
I don’t even know how to write this part because it’s going to be nothing but high-pitched, gushing praise. The world is huge and the biomes are impressive. I fucking love me some deserts, and what does this game give me? A shit load of deserts. Different kinds, too! You come off the mountains west of Plainsong and you get that high desert Nevada feel with the grit and the scrubby bushes, and then you get south of Scalding Spear and there’s motherfucking salt flats and THEN you go even further south and you find dunes! Actual sand dunes! All the while vultures are scrawing and taking off in your face and horned lizards are scuttling around and Aloy is sweating like a motherfucker. It’s great!
There is also so much more to find in the world than there was in Zero Dawn. For all it’s size I couldn’t shake the feeling that world always felt a little empty. Beautiful forests and jungles and ruins but when you went in them nothing to find. Forbidden West puts treasures for you to find everywhere. Even when it’s just a small cache with a couple of shards in it that jackpot feeling of finding something is still there.
And can we talk about the absolute disrespect this game has for it’s own map? The black borders mean nothing, especially the ones in the middle of the map at the beginning. After I discovered that there were entire areas with machines outside the borders of the map I stopped paying attention the black stuff and just kept going until the ‘FUCKING STOP’ message came up. It is ridiculously fun to pave your own way.
I think my own complaint about it all is that San Francisco feels a little underbaked compared to the rest, but otherwise this is definitely a world I’m going to enjoy coming back to on and off until the next game drops.
I made an entire blanket based off Aloy’s armor in the last game of course I’m going to mention it. These are some quality outfits and I love pretty much all of them. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not actually very good at video games, and I was a little upset to find out that armor could be obtained from doing the machine fights at the Grove, something I had initially planned on ignoring forever. So I dropped the difficulty down to story and brute-forced my way through everything until I had enough to afford them. The Carja Stalker Elite is perfect for when I’m futzing around the snowing mountains because you know my girl needs some long sleeves.
Yeah, I generally don’t pay attention to stats for these kinds of things. Aloy wears the Carja Stalker Elite and the Oseram Striker in the cold, the Utaru Thresher in the grasslands, and the Oseram Artificer in the desert. I didn’t start paying attention to the protections and perks of the outfits until my husband started playing a month later.
As with the last game, I generally don’t like the look of the headpieces, except the Utaru Thresher where I would actually go to the mild trouble of going into the Settings menu to turn on headpieces because I love it so much.
The dye sets are a fun addition and let me enjoy the absurdity of dressing Aloy in an eye-searing pink and then pretend she’s still stealthy as fuck in the middle of the jungle. Also love the face paints because I’m a completionist for outfits only and Aloy is going to look the part, God damn it.
Related: how the fuck does everyone know Aloy is a Nora? Even the Lowland Tenakth, who have to be a thousand miles away at this point? Is it the hair braids? It has to be the hair braids, because I’ll walk into a cut scene wearing Carja clothes and face paint and someone will still be all, ‘Well, if isn’t the NORA HUNTRESS…’ Like…how? How did you know?
Also, one more person calls Aloy a savage I’m going to tear my fucking hair out.
Death Stranding, which was made in the same engine as the Horizon games, included the same photo mode from Zero Dawn and gave us a quality of life improvement by including dozens of not only poses but facial animations for both Sam AND the baby.
I was crossing my fingers Guerilla took that and ran with it and they did. It is SO FUCKING WEIRD seeing Aloy grin, though.
Anyway, the Photo Mode is, as always, on point and here’s just a smattering of the hundreds of pictures I’ve already taken.
Where’s New Game Plus, Guerilla? WHERE IS IT. GIVE IT TO ME, NOW.