Spoiler warning for all of Horizon Forbidden West story and gameplay.
I will typically only write a ‘post-review’ when my main review either runs the risk of being too long or my deadline only allows for a first impressions rather than a detailed recounting of my experience as a whole. Whilst I was tremendously excited for Horizon Forbidden West all the way from its announcement to release, events in and out of the game most of the way through conspired against me (namely Elden Ring), preventing my ability to complete the game in release month. My objective in this post-review is to take a look back at my thoughts towards the game and compare my views from when I reviewed it to now, as I have just finished the story and uncovered all of the map.
The greatest factor for my long break was the most potent open-world fatigue I have ever had. The map continues unfolding, growing larger and more overwhelmingly packed with things to see, NPC’s to talk to and machines to fight, all the way up until the very last story mission.
There is a very specific and integral component which I loved in Horizon Zero Dawn but I now despise in Forbidden West: Aloy. She has gone through some drastic character changes since the conclusion of Zero Dawn, transitioning from extremely likeable to a protagonist I resent playing as. She acts and speaks as if discovering she is the key to humanity’s future survival has given her a bewildering God complex, openly cynical of other people’s abilities to do anything without her and actively avoiding contact with her friends and allies who can only help her and lift some of the responsibility from her shoulders. She has become, in brief, a self-important brat.
The first three quarters of the story are exceptional, with plenty of twists and misdirection to make players feel truly lost in this gigantic world, unable to plan far ahead. I loved this for a time, as it meant new adversaries could arrive and be dealt with in inventive ways the plot conjures to keep you on your toes and enraptured when new toys were handed to you. This good will and enjoyment completely falls to pieces in the game’s final quarter. Most sub-plots are rapidly and unsatisfactorily resolved, with players given little to no opportunity to appreciate that a resolution to a goal we have been working towards has suddenly been handed to us, and we are now expected to immediately move on to new challenges which have been given nowhere near enough time to truly feel like a threat or obstacle.
The final story mission, as well as the sequel hooks, are by a dramatic margin the weakest part of the entire experience. I won’t go into explicit detail of this despite the spoiler warning at the top of this review, but it felt like it would be more at home in a Scooby-Doo plot, with the penultimate twist being the equivalent of the villain being a real ‘ghost’, only for it to turn out that it’s actually just a narcissistic asshole in a red mask.
Fanbase favourite Sylens was also tragically dealt a bad hand in the last stretch of Forbidden West, having been infuriatingly absent from the bulk of the plot, he is suddenly brought back into the forefront to have his plans ruined and ideas undermined by Aloy. Despite appearing to be set up for a clever villain role in the end of Zero Dawn, unfortunately he will be going into the third Horizon game as another insipid groupie of Aloy. Boy, I can’t wait for her to act condescendingly towards him like she does all the other little hens which run about her feet looking for praise or delicious grain..
The story, particularly the final scenes, carry the frustrating air about them that Guerrilla Games believe they’d come up with an incredibly clever ending that nobody would expect. They’re right in one sense, as until I finished it I held them in a much higher regard, believing they wouldn’t throw their franchise under a robot dinosaur shaped bus and coldly kill my investment and interest in their franchise.
Fortunately, if you disregard the story and focus entirely on the gorgeous world and formidable returning and new enemy machine designs, you can be forgiven for thinking this is still an incredible triumph in game design. My main issue with the experience which I raised in my review in February was that climbing had been made extremely aggravating during development of the sequel, but I found out after my review was posted that you can return to how all climbing handholds glow yellow like they did in Zero Dawn in the options menu. Since enabling this I have had no trouble whatsoever.
I must give a special mention to an ability you gain not long into the game which allows you to ride a flaming robot Velociraptor into battle. I haven’t attacked a single enemy camp without one since!
My final score was 9 in February, and while plenty of mechanics which I liked have been introduced since writing the review, the disappointing ending and additional time with Aloy have soured my overall impression of the game. With that being the case, I can still recommend Horizon Forbidden West if you are looking for a fun and pretty game for your PS5, but with the amended score to