Horizon Forbidden West is Aloy's epic poem | Review

Who I am
Pau Monfort
Author and references

After eighty hours of hunting and raids in the Forbidden West of Horizon Forbidden West, I'm therefore ready to let my pen slip into the maze of one of the most awaited exclusives from Sony PlayStation. Almost five long years separate the first chapter, Horizon Zero Dawn, from the awaited sequel by Guerrilla Games and there are many enthusiasts who still remember him with great affection today. Why is the IP Horizon nestled between nostalgia and love in so many people's memories? Does it deserve all this support?

Apparently the exclusive Sony showed up with an open world within everyone's reach, which it was dripping with epicity and curiosity to be a genuine window into a possible future of humanity. What the development team wanted was to peel away the lies and insecurities of our world, fictionalizing them in contexts distant from ours, but basically a few steps from the everyday life we ​​breathe.

The ineluctable technological horizon that awaits us is increasingly oppressive, for better or for worse. Evolution is inevitable and with it the discoveries that can change the face of the world. The art of Horizon is knowing how to talk to players, using the dystopia as hyperbole, tell him that no matter the steps forward and how much we could improve the quality of our lives, the desires remain the same. What crumbles empires, razes continents and tears the earth remains man's ambition and thirst for knowledge. It's up to us to decide whether to use our innate passions for a good purpose, or to sacrifice ethics for selfishness. In addition to the moral, however, reverse engineering is the ludic-technical aspect that holds the place on the throne: the real and tangible strength of the Horizon saga.


Ecleto Mucciacciuoli has a collaborative relationship with Sony PlayStation Spagna regarding the production of social content on the TikTok platform. Despite this, however, we have chosen to entrust the coverage of the game to our editor, assuming all the responsibilities of the case. Our colleague is a highly trained and professional person who has already amply demonstrated his objectivity, as well as his knowledge of the Horizon series. Optimal qualities to cover the aforementioned title. We are convinced that this lengthy analysis that he wrote will also confirm the reasons behind our decision for you.

The reason for this initial parenthesis is dictated by our desire to grow this section with the maximum possible transparency and authority, both towards the readers and every member of the editorial staff. We will continue to work so that our readers are always faced with content of the highest quality and as objective as possible. Having said all this, we wish you a good reading.

Andrew Riviera – Managing Editor GameDivision (Tom’s Hardware)

The machines assembled and forged in the forges of Guerrilla Games are among the most fascinating and terribly brilliant creations never appeared in the gaming industry. Inspired by the behavior of animals – existing or instinctive – they graze undisturbed on the Earth, imposing a certain fear with their features. How are they there? Well, I certainly won't take away the pleasure of dusting off the first chapter. The story, even in the sequel that I am going to analyze, has the now icon PlayStation as its protagonist, Aloy: the daredevil red-haired savage.

A complicated past, a childhood ripped away and a burden he barely manages to share are his crosses, yet his spirit of noble intentions has captured us all a little. Where will the outcast turned heroine go this time? I remind you that the release of Horizon Forbidden West is set for February 18, 2022 on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

When you think it's impossible, look further

When it seems impossible to win, look beyond Impossible. A word that Aloy has heard often, but that he has learned to seize only the opportunities. A limit that has become an opportunity for our darling, who has always taken on undertakings that go far beyond strength and will. Nonetheless in Horizon Forbidden West the call of something seemingly unstoppable and harmful to humanity has imposed yet another ordeal to face. However, before telling you what the narrative incipit of the title is, I would like to tell you that there will be no spoilers of any kind and I will try at most to shed light on the dynamics - and the immobile engine - that have allowed the Guerrilla Games chessboard to take shape. We are catapulted into Aloy's shoes after the terrible final surrender that marked the end of the first chapter. Her homeland now hails her as a champion, statues are built in his honor and he has acquired a kind of mystical and divine aura.

People look at her with admiration and hope, projecting the need for a better destiny onto her. It is clear to everyone that it is she who is the reincarnation of fate and humanity's desire for survival. Aloy, however, is strongly uncomfortable in these circumstances, not that she has an ego to reduce, on the contrary, but she feels it as yet another affliction, in addition to the already burdensome truths that others could not bear. In her heart she knows that the truth would set fear among the people and he has to grit his teeth to do what needs to be done. It might sound corny, but many of the events revolve around the rushing torrent of information that Aloy has a hard time sharing.

His mind tries to stem the problem and offers help to all who need it, and yet goodwill fails to appease his restlessness. For the first time Aloy is bowed by her afflictions, reeling with the burden she is about to carry so far from her homeland. However, it is not a question of pride, but of apprehension. Aloy wants to care for and preserve her life, but never share the burdens. She therefore often finds herself on tiptoe to carry out actions that derail from the main path, but karma - fortunately - never forgets our crimson champion.

Horizon Forbidden West: Aloy's Burden

Why did I have to lift the veil over Aloy's psyche? Because, for the first time, the outcast we all remember will have to come to terms with feelings, and agree to team up several times. Her closest friends, such as Varl and Erend, will always be at the forefront of her most difficult missions and will do anything to understand the torturous trials that await them. A real team shields the heroine, allowing her to fight against an elusive enemy, which they can barely decipher. Net of findings capable of shaking anyone's peaceful existence, many join the cause, as something on the horizon tries to break the peace and devour nature. The land beyond the borders of Meridiana appears as a watershed. That semblance of peace and civilization has been replaced by the pride of warring indigenous tribes.

Precisely through the stories and rumors of the few who have experienced the Forbidden West on their skin, we understand that the situation is getting out of hand. Different clans vie for some of the most famous areas in the old world, entrenched in territories that are anything but easy to cross. However, this division is not only territorial. Culturally, each tribe has a closed identity anchored to its own traditions. No one comes to terms with the ideals of others, while the earth weeps for blood. Peace, however, is eagerly sought by almost everyone, but there are also those who understand only strength as the only virtue. This is where the controversial figure of Regalla: Leader of a large group of warmongering rebels. What's wrong? In the end it is yet another story of different cultures fighting for ideological supremacy.

Too bad Regalla has, as only Aloy could, the ability to ride cars. Thus, our heroine, she not only finds herself drawn into a stormy page of history, but she must contend with enemies capable of some of her extraordinary abilities. I found the management of the social and cultural context of the Forbidden West to be of considerable caliber. Each tribe differs not only in tattoos and uniforms, but precisely in how they choose to live and welcome others. There are some locked up in impenetrable granite strongholds, unaware of the problems of the outside world, others who have justice managed by inhumane practices, but also those who find comfort in the maternal embrace of nature, without daring beyond their own borders. The mentality of realities is mostly closed, but they have a very distinct conception of the sacred and the profane.

Terraform the region of blood and divisions

They don't want to question what they can interpret about our world, but they recognize the value and temperament of those they meet, even if they are different. What drives Aloy to make her way in this rugged region? After the events of the first chapter, a disease is clinging to nature: the so-called Red Plague. The strange evil presented to us has made the fields uncultivable and the air toxic, tearing the Earth apart with storms and out-of-control atmospheric phenomena. People are starving and exhausted from war, especially in the Forbidden West. The machines appear visibly more restless, while the weather bends the most daring forms of life. It is urgent to regulate and direct the hand of mother nature, placating these catastrophes.

Aloy's mission is therefore an odyssey aimed at rebuilding the globe from its foundations, starting a delicate terraforming process. Plagues can be harnessed and tamed, but an artificial intelligence is needed that is up to this task: one that can become an arbiter and an active spectator of nature. The incipit is therefore not very complex, but it allows us to browse the various lands of the tribes to understand and draw on their culture, as we try to get the parameters of the globe back to normal.

The story also hides a highly critical and modern message. Although the inhabitants are comparable to the men of a few thousand years ago, we are made to understand that human mentality has remained unchanged and doomed to an eternal self-destructive cycle. It's sobering to see that, while Aloy expresses concern in the face of cataclysms, humans seem blind to their priorities.

Greed, power and ideology seem to have invaded the minds of the tribes, much more than the Red Plague itself. Populations therefore are anyway the fictionalized portrait of our division todayas well as metaphorically a critique of our inability to cope with a problem rotting right under our noses. Aloy's frustration is palpable and sidereal, jaw-dropping. The narration thus appears cloaked in a thick cloud of pessimism, perfect - in its negativity - in the tell the fragility of our nature and the inability - sadly handed down - to collaborate.

The pleasure of derailing from the main course in Horizon Forbidden West

Thus clarifying these points which masterfully illustrate the context in which the narrative chessboard moves, we can now discuss the course of events. Apart from some slight forcing, the premises of the story are magnetic and stimulating. They gladly push the player to explore and snoop in every corner of the Forbidden West. There is great attention to not leaving anything to chance, even if the real strength lies in the narrative frame. The only secondary missions are mostly grafts to entice us to delve into secret and hidden aspects.

To compose the complete mosaic of events, however, it is also necessary to carefully collect a series of secondary missions vital for general knowledge. This choice has its ups and downs. On the one hand it offers flashes of genius, stimulating even the laziest players, on the other hand it is excessively hasty in the description of some fundamental steps.

The screenplay is undoubtedly inspired, but suffers the backlash of a fluctuating and not very incisive trend, especially when it has to untie complicated plot knots. The final part needed to be told better, as well as the latest characters introduced, who definitely deserved more space. Overall, however, there is no shortage of peaks of interest, therefore an effort is noted, at least in improving one of the weaknesses exposed in the first chapter. We are now at the most substantial dish of the review: the game map.

Horizon Forbidden West is undoubtedly an open world that gives the player a lot of room for maneuver. It's easy to get lost in the wilds of the Forbidden West, as is to stay mesmerized by the breathtaking views that pierce the sky. The feeling you get in witnessing the first timid rays of dawn in the desert landscapes or running in the woods among the dance of the fireflies is really pleasant. Atmosphere is one of the factors that contributes to making an open world alive and vibrant, so it is appropriate to celebrate it when it manages to harmonize nature. The light, as I said, he is the undisturbed protagonist of the wild lands, but the diversity of the climate is the strong point.

A microclimate like a glass bell

I think it is irrelevant to discuss the graphics sector proposed by the development team, because there is no need to decant it further. The aesthetic quality of the game is beyond question, as it reflects the already high standards of beauty imposed by the sector. I have reason to believe that it is therefore superfluous to further emphasize this aspect, but it is still advisable to think about how the graphic design examined matches the artistic choices that we wanted to put in the spotlight. Does the renewed graphic sector manage to make the world described feel alive and pulsating? The map, which I remember to be divided by natural obstacles, boasts of a unique microclimate for each area, which in turn is home to a local tribe. The vast Forbidden West offers us sandy lands, rampant forests, muddy marshes, bare rocks and snowstorms. However, climatic alternation only serves to offer variety, but not depth. What makes these lands special is the crystallized climate in each of them, home to well-characterized fauna and flora. It is easy to come across a well-variegated vegetation, a stage where dozens of different species perform with spontaneous and natural behavior.

From the scorpion hiding in the sand, to the foxes crouching among the blades of grass, passing through the schools of brightly colored fish, we must applaud the meticulousness with which the fauna has been differentiated. Moreover, each of the animals is useful for various materials, which can be used both in the creation of local specialties and to improve the capacity of one's inventory. The attention to the aesthetic detail of the proposed panoramas, manages to make breathe deeply the brutal and indomitable spirit of nature, especially in hunting sessions.

In fact, hunting is one of the focal points to better approach the gameplay of Horizon: Forbidden West, which I assure you is not very simple. In the main camps of the regions you will always find a cook, as well as the usual merchants from whom you can refresh yourself. Each of them will allow you to buy weapons and exclusive local products, all preparatory to better managing the vicissitudes that await you shortly thereafter. The cook will provide you with recipes for a series of dishes useful for improving some statistics, as well as significantly increasing your life in the next fight. Each outpost offers a fair number of recreational activities, which differ in mini-games and small - but significant - quests. It remains pleasant to walk among the people to listen to local talk or hilarious chatter, above all because the place is perceived as a real focal point of life and one can come across curtains capable of snatching more than one smile.

The artistry and care with which the various regions have been refined can also be seen in the approach we should consider to fully explore them. It's not just a question of studying the most effective methods to take down the most dangerous machines that swarm in that area, but also of knowing how to make the most of your arsenal. As I'll explain more in a moment, the elemental damage of weapons, as well as the efficiency of certain armor, are to be considered in each new region. The ability to adapt to the habitat in which we find ourselves is a necessity rather than advice, and I must say I found it challenging as a process. For example, I have chosen to mostly use traps in wooded areas, because they have adequate grips and with a presence of enemies weak to this strategy. In caves, on the other hand, a stealth approach is preferable, also because there is a prolific presence of fungi capable of releasing spores, which can make us invisible for a few seconds.

In short, exploiting what the environment and its natural peculiarities offer remains the trump card for better managing the more complex missions. In addition to hunting and the varied ecosystem that makes up the Horizon Forbidden West map, it is also good to emphasize the ingenuity demonstrated in the environmental puzzles.

Forbidden scriptures handed down by ancestors…in different formats?

The Forbidden West still wears the legacy of the ancestors who trampled that soil, in fact there are several ruins and structures invaded by moss. In that panorama, where the pungent color of rust marries with the imperishable vigor of nature, we find dormant some old world architectures that we could explore. Of course, time has certainly damaged the aesthetics of these places, but there is no shortage of artefacts and fragments of life from that period. I have given important specific weight to the environmental puzzles in the work because they are both challenging enough but, above all, each manages to re-evaluate a design element learned up to that moment. You discover the different use of objects that they thought had a single purpose and you can efficiently diversify the area where the turn puzzle takes place.

The combination of unpredictability and surprises in the use of mechanics that we thought we had already stripped properly, makes the learning process enjoyable to the end. For all 80 - about - hours I spent in Horizon Forbidden West, I had to readjust and learn new details.

Horizon Forbidden West: swing between rust and hotel ruins

It may seem trivial to you, but just think of one of the most common mistakes in open worlds that aim for longevity: stale learning after a certain point. This dilemma was instead expertly stemmed by the development team, thanks to the help of a clever and well orchestrated level design, capable of exploiting each of the basic accessories supplied. The grappling hook is the most flexible tool in the gameplay, because it is gripped in different situations. Basically it is a convenient support to facilitate climbing and to hang from otherwise unreachable ledges, but it may open passages in the rock and tow moving points. In practice, set in some walls we could see metal sheets to which to hook the grappling hook and thus unhinge them.

On certain occasions, objects can be towed or lowered to cross unreachable points or to activate unusual mechanisms. Anything that has an unusual blue color – and which is highlighted by the focus – can be grabbed with the metal claw. Also to be appreciated intense underwater exploration sessions, also possible from a gadget that will allow us to go beyond the normal seabed, daring beyond the sea currents. What I expected to be a simple shelling between bubbles and seaweed turned out to be something more. Whether they are natural or artificial lights, the backdrops are another example of the exuberant art direction promoted by Guerilla Games. However, what pierces the screen more than the whirlwind of colors that the water radiates is the elegant union between the immersed structures of the old world and the nature above them. You will feel some thrill too, I'm sure.

Honorable mention also for the glide in Horizon: Forbidden West, which makes venturing onto a precarious altar much more fluid and pleasant, and then hovering without worries. An essential graft to ensure gameplay verticality and grant even more freedom. Movements are also facilitated by some elements that are easy to introduce. Fast travel is usable right away, purchasing any number of kits from makeshift merchants. Stocking up on this consumable will give you the ability to move far and wide without paying too much attention to distances, a wise choice to introduce it immediately, given the vastness of the territory.

The highlight, however, remains the possibility of riding different machines, which we could tame thanks to our main weapon. All enemies are tameable, although not all rideable. Running around on some mighty creature is extremely fun, but not always effective. While it seems simple to get lost in vast landscapes on the back of some metallic companion, this will not always do enough damage to ensure us an advantageous position during clashes. Obviously, this facet of gameplay can also be upgraded in the skill tree, so the charge power of the mounts can be improved to then be integrated with the right vigor in the clashes.

Flying on wings of metal above the fog

Gores and stomps, they in no way replace the spear and bow of our Aloy, who will always have to be ready to destroy the enemy's vulnerable pieces. So what about the organization of the open world? Did we say that the tools are preparatory to a sought-after playful depth and that one glides from one city to another with pleasure, but does one get bored? The most outstanding quality of Horizon Forbidden West is the staging of the Forbidden West. Are present a diverse number of side activities and dozens of points of interest preparatory to make your stay more pleasant. Their distribution is well calibrated with respect to the explorable surface and manages to keep the curiosity bar high, without forcing or redundant content.

We are in the presence of one of the best structured open worlds of recent years. The repetitive actions are reduced to the bone and there are no dozens of cloned secondary tasks, useful just to extend the longevity of the title by a few hours. The playful experience is balanced to avoid imbalances and vacuous actions required . Guerrilla Games has shown that it respects the user's time, while still guaranteeing a lively and surprising world, in which it is pleasant to get lost for a few more hours. I am always pleased to underline the quality of an open world that decides to enhance and diversify, rather than lengthen and water down. The musicfinally crown what is poetic erected on the art direction front, emphasizing exploration and enveloping the player during the most arduous encounters: always spot on.

The beating heart of Horizon Forbidden West, as it was for the first chapter, remains its action RPG matrix. Aloy whirls with her usual ease between the roaring machines that appear in his path, but now boasts of confidence and awareness. His renewed resolve also manifests itself in the skills he is able to display in battle. Spear melee remains an effective approach, especially now that enemies boast much thicker armor than their predecessors.

In the tree of skills and upgrades, however, we could decide what to focus on, too based on our fighting style. While there are bonuses that should be had regardless of your style, such as increased critical damage or amplified stealth moves, there is a choice to suit all tastes. Each subset of bonuses and skills also boasts a special power that can be unleashed by Aloy to obtain additional advantages: the so-called valiant charge. For example, by activating it you can improve the damage and performance of your arrows, so as to optimize each shot.

You can opt for a strenuous one use of explosive and electrical devices, enhancing the traps and optimizing their preparation time, or it is possible to turn to physical combat to alternate efficiently lance and bow: a hybrid approach is definitely recommended. However, I admit that I have succumbed to the charm of arrows, not only because I find ranged combat to be the most exhilarating, but also because of the flexibility it offers. I'll explain. The machines in this game are more aggressive than we remember and their roaring overwhelming power, which they demonstrate with disarming simplicity, can corner us in just a few strokes.

Elemental fury, harnessed in a bow

Any of them can create problems at any time and it doesn't matter what equipment we proudly display. Long gone are the days when the Thundereater was the beast at the top of the food chain and towered over everything else, whether made of flesh or metal. If in the first chapter the elemental attacks and the malus they inflicted on the creatures were useful, but could be outclassed by other more performing war strategies, here I felt the need. Acid, Frost, Fire, and Electricity are the best to rely on, as they manage to sore, pin or wear down even the hardest enemies to knock down. The rest of the work is in the hands of the bow and your shrewdness in breaking as many weak points as possible in the least amount of time.

A well-deserved applause also goes to the role that the DualSense plays in the archery experience, managing very well to convey the feeling of the tension of the weapon. The environment itself offers, also in this chapter, considerable tactical advantages. You'll be able to lower bridges, trigger active traps, roll boulders and fall scaffolding to maim or completely take down packs of enemies. The tool that best lends itself to such dynamic gameplay is a bow with both arrows capable of dealing elemental and normal damage, so as to exploit the current situation in the best possible way. The stealth approach remains one of the brand's strengths, as it will get you out of many unpleasant situations unscathed, even before they can become irreversible.

In fact, it should be emphasized that the artificial intelligence of the machines has been modernized and refined, making the feared monsters of Horizon Forbidden West tireless war machines, capable of adapting moves and fighting styles based on the terrain and our actions. The level of challenge in their presence remains challenging, even if you are well prepared. If you enjoyed the fighting style of the first chapter and are looking for a more intense challenge, then you will find dozens of new creatures waiting to meet you. Their dangerousness is dictated by the crasis between the animal from which they take inspiration and the lethal moves compartment assigned to it in the planning stage. The development team has shaped beings unpredictable and with high physical strength, much more threatening and brutal overall, but also more inspired by their natural counterpart.

Where progress has been made in the already famous reverse engineering of machines and their behavior, there is no exciting news for human AI. Horizon Forbidden West oozes with next-gen art direction and level design, but is mired in some of the sad legacy of the older generation. First of all the formulation of intelligence in human enemies.

The legacy of the old gen

Sadly they definitely fall short of their mechanical counterpart and end up being the more rusty of the two. Nothing alarming is clear, it has simply been years that unfortunately in the field of open worlds there are barely timid steps forward on this front, so it will not have an excessively negative weight in this review. However, it is worth stopping and reflecting: when will we see a human AI worthy of the name? We trust that this generation can break the limits that have now become artistically suffocating, for now we border on sufficiency, in general. The technical rendering of Horizon Forbidden West is strangely fluctuating. There are peaks of excellent quality in terms of programming and optimization, but also unpleasant glitches.

In 80 hours of play I haven't found any bugs or errors that could undermine the experience, but there are style lapses that I expect can be resolved on day one. None of these in any way tainted the gameplay or showed up frequently, but I expect some artful tweaks for such an exquisite piece of work. Finally, I would like to applaud the animations, but not only those in combat which proved to be daughters of the boldness of the first chapter, also those of stealth executions. I counted at least 10 different throwing styles while cloaked, each able to take advantage of props or weapons in different equipment. These choices have decidedly made the parsimony needed to remain in the shadows more satisfying.

I also got to try Horizon Forbidden West on PlayStation 4, so as to evaluate possible qualitative changes. The opera also performs well on the old Sony platform and it maintains all the charm that I have depicted in detail in the previous paragraphs but, obviously, without too much pomp. Fortunately, the technical flaws that had made me turn up my nose the most were filed in the pre day one patch and I didn't notice any other noteworthy errors during the session hours. Don't be afraid to enjoy it on old gen as well.

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