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Horizon Forbidden West

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Horizon Forbidden West
Developer(s)Guerrilla Games[a]
Publisher(s)Sony Interactive Entertainment
Director(s)Mathijs de Jonge
Producer(s)Joel Eschler
Programmer(s)Michiel van der Leeuw
Artist(s)
  • Jan-Bart van Beek
  • Misja Baas
Writer(s)Ben McCaw
Composer(s)
SeriesHorizon
EngineDecima
Platform(s)
Release
  • PS4, PS5
  • 18 February 2022
  • Windows
  • 21 March 2024
Genre(s)Action role-playing
Mode(s)Single-player

Horizon Forbidden West is a 2022 action role-playing game developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. The sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn (2017), the game is set in a post-apocalyptic version of the Western United States, recovering from the aftermath of an extinction event caused by a rogue robot swarm. The player, assuming control of Aloy, must venture into the Forbidden West to find the source of a mysterious plague that kills all it infects. The player can explore the open world and complete quests using ranged and melee weapons against machine creatures and hostile rebels. Forbidden West introduced new gameplay mechanics to the franchise, such as new traversal tools, underwater exploration, and expanded melee combat.

Guerrilla Games began developing Forbidden West in 2018. The development peaked at over 300 full-time employees and cost around US$212 million, making the game one of the most expensive ever to develop. One of the team's goals was to "recapture the magic" of the original game, and the team made efforts to expand exploration and combat to support various playstyles. Guerilla also invested more resources into creating the game's cinematics and spent more time creating character-driven side quests for the game. Ashly Burch and Lance Reddick returned to provide the voice for Aloy and Sylens, respectively, and they were joined by Angela Bassett and Carrie-Anne Moss. As with Zero Dawn, the game was powered by Guerilla's in-house Decima engine. Announced in June 2020, the game was released for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 on 18 February 2022.

The game received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the visuals, combat, and quest design, and the cast's performance, but criticized its story and Aloy's characterization. Most reviewers agreed that Forbidden West was bigger and more refined than Zero Dawn, though it was more of an evolutionary experience than a revolutionary one. It sold over 8.4 million units by April 2023. It was nominated for several end-of-year accolades, including Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2022. An expansion, Burning Shores, was released for the PlayStation 5 in April 2023. The game and the Burning Shores expansion were collected together, re-released as Horizon Forbidden West Complete Edition for PlayStation 5 in October 2023, and ported to Windows by Nixxes Software in March 2024. A new installment in the Horizon franchise is currently in development.

Gameplay[edit]

In this gameplay screenshot, Aloy is fighting against a flying animalistic machine with a Boltblaster.

Horizon Forbidden West is an action role-playing video game played from a third-person perspective, set in a world populated by dangerous, animalistic machines. The player controls Aloy, a hunter who ventures into an uncharted frontier known as the Forbidden West, a post-apocalyptic version of the Western United States, to investigate a mysterious plague.[1] Aloy's primary weapons of choice are bows and arrows. Other weapons in the game include a blastsling, which allows Aloy to slingshot bombs towards enemies, and a Shredder Gauntlet, which launches serrated discs useful for tearing armor and components. She can also lay down traps and tripwires, and use the ropecaster to tether enemies to the ground, immobilizing them.[2] Certain weapons in the game have different ammo types, allowing the player to inflict elemental damage on enemies. For instance, acid ammo may melt an opponent's armor, while shock ammo can stun enemies. Elemental damage can also be chained. For instance, purgewater arrows may result in a "drenched status" for a machine, making them more vulnerable to shock arrows and stopping them from unleashing elemental attacks of their own. The elemental status of a machine will gradually accumulate, and the machine will be significantly affected or damaged by that elemental status for a brief period of time once a meter is completely filled.[3] The player can use Aloy's Focus, a wearable augmented reality device she collected during the events of the first game that gives her special perceptive abilities, to tag an enemy and scan them to identify their weaknesses.[4] Aloy may also detach parts of the machines through her attacks, crippling a large amount of their health, removing their attack capabilities, and occasionally allowing her to use their own detached weapons against them.[5]

Aloy can also attack with her spear, and can now chain up her attacks with various types of combos.[6] Stealth is also a viable tactic, as Aloy can hide in tall grass, distract unsuspecting enemies, and silently strike enemies without drawing attention.[7] As the player progresses in the game and completes various quests, they earn more experience points (XP).[8] With sufficient XP, Aloy's health will increase, and skill points may be unlocked. Skill points can be spent on one of six skill trees targeting six different playstyles: Warrior (melee combat), Trapper (using traps), Hunter (ranged combat), Survivor (scavenging resources), Infiltrator (stealth), and Machine Master (overriding machines).[9] By playing the game tactically (such as performing headshots against human enemies or tearing components off a machine), the player is granted additional combat points, ultimately enabling them to unleash "Valor Surge", a powerful special attack that inflicts a large amount of damage on enemies.[10]

Exploration[edit]

Like its predecessor, Forbidden West is an open world video game. The game offers two modes of exploration: Guided mode highlights key items and locations of interest, while Explorer mode has a more minimalistic user interface, requiring the player to reach locations with the help of a compass.[11] Fast travel points can be accessed after discovering campfires in the wild,[12] while visiting shelters enables the player to change the time of day.[13] The player will meet different non-playable characters (NPCs) and complete side quests for them.[14] While conversing with other NPCs, the player can sometimes choose from one of three dialogue options, with each representing Aloy's tone and attitude towards a scenario or a character, though they will not affect the game's narrative.[15] The player can identify locations of interest by ascending to the top of a Tallneck (a giraffe-like machine) and overriding it.[16] They can also venture into "cauldrons", which are often a series of platforming challenges culminating in a boss fight.[17] There are a large assortment of side activities the player can complete in Forbidden West, including finding collectibles such as survey drones and ancient black boxes,[18] clearing rebel camps and outposts,[19] completing salvage contracts and timed hunting challenges,[20][21] competing in fight pits against humans or machines,[20] and finding relics through solving environmental puzzles in ancient ruins.[22] At major settlements, the player can also play an in-game board game named "Machine Strike".[23]

Aloy is an agile character, and her Focus allows her to highlight climbable surfaces.[5] As the player progresses, they will unlock the pullcaster, which can pull down obstacles. It also serves as a grappling hook, allowing the player to access difficult-to-reach areas.[24] She will also unlock a diving mask, which enables underwater exploration, and a Shieldwing, which allows her to glide through the air, further aiding transversal.[23] Completing cauldrons in the game allows the player to unlock "machine overrides", enabling them to tame certain machines, use them as mounts to travel great distances, or turn them against other machines in combat.[17] As the player explores the world, they will also collect various resources, such as medicinal berries to restore Aloy's health and other crafting components necessary for expanding Aloy's inventory and upgrading weapons and outfits at workbenches.[25][26] Both weapons and outfits are divided into different levels of rarity, with the rarer weapons providing stronger perks.[27] Ingredients can also be brought to a village chef, who will cook a meal for Aloy to briefly improve her combat efficiency.[12] While Aloy can only carry a limited amount of items in her inventory, extra items collected in the wilds will be directly transferred to a cache found in major outposts or settlements in the game. Accessing the cache allows Aloy to restock necessary items.[5]

Synopsis[edit]

Burch and Reddick portrayed Aloy and Sylens, respectively, reprising the roles from Zero Dawn.

The game continues the story of Aloy (Ashly Burch), a young hunter of the Nora tribe and a clone of the Old World scientist Elisabet Sobeck. In the six months following the defeat of HADES (Anthony Ingruber),[b] Aloy has been searching fruitlessly for a working backup of GAIA (Lesley Ewen) to restore the planet's rapidly degrading biosphere. After she discovers that her former associate Sylens (Lance Reddick) did not destroy but stole HADES, he contacts Aloy and asks her to continue her search in the region known as the Forbidden West.

Aloy and her friend Varl (John Macmillan) cross into the west to find the ruling Tenakth tribe amidst a civil war between Chief Hekarro (Geno Segers) and the rebel leader Regalla (Angela Bassett). Aloy tracks Sylens to a facility where she finds HADES badly damaged and permanently deletes it. She recovers a GAIA backup without its subsystems but is interrupted by a group of futuristic humans. The group, consisting of their leader Gerard Bieri (Dan Donohue), his lieutenant Tilda van der Meer (Carrie-Anne Moss), enforcer Erik Visser (Marc Kudisch), and a clone of Sobeck named Beta (also voiced by Burch), possess advanced technology that renders them invulnerable. They take a second GAIA backup, while Aloy barely escapes, and passes out when Varl manages to find her.

Aloy awakens days later in the village of Plainsong, home to the Utaru tribe. Zo (Erica Luttrell), a member of the Utaru, guides Aloy to a control center, where she rejoins GAIA with her subsystem, MINERVA. GAIA locates the other subsystems AETHER, DEMETER, and POSEIDON, and advises Aloy to retrieve them before attempting to capture the more advanced HEPHAESTUS. GAIA reveals that the extinction signal that triggered HADES and mutated the subsystems originated from the Sirius system; Aloy suspects that the futuristic humans sent it. She later tracks down Beta, who informs Aloy that her group is, in fact, Far Zenith, an organization of billionaire colonists who fled Earth during its global extinction, having managed to extend their natural lifespans. After their colony on Sirius collapsed, the Zeniths returned to Earth to use GAIA through Beta's genetic make-up for their own recolonization. They already acquired subsystems ELEUTHIA, ARTEMIS, and APOLLO, but Beta has stolen their GAIA backup.

Aloy recovers AETHER after helping Hekarro advance in the civil war, retrieves POSEIDON from the ruins of Las Vegas, and recovers DEMETER in San Francisco with the help of Alva (Alison Jaye), a member of the Quen, a seafaring tribe from foreign land. Aloy and her companions then devises a plan to help GAIA trap HEPHAESTUS. Aloy travels with Varl and Beta to an inactive Cauldron to carry out their plan, but they are attacked by the Zeniths. The Far Zeniths kills Varl, recaptures Beta, and steals GAIA, but Tilda double-crosses them and helps Aloy escape. Tilda explains that she was romantically involved with Elisabet Sobeck and regretted leaving her; having been inspired by Aloy, she wishes to stop Far Zenith. She further reveals that Sylens has been supporting the Tenakth rebels to use them against the Zeniths. Aloy refuses to sacrifice the Tenakth and instead defeats Regalla herself after thwarting the latter's final attack on Hekarro. She then convinces Tilda and Sylens to reconvene at her base to formulate a plan.

Aloy and her companions assault Far Zenith's base, while Beta releases HEPHAESTUS into the Zeniths' network, and it builds a near-endless amount of machines that tie down Far Zenith's army of drones. Aloy and her companions defeat the Far Zeniths, but learn that their colony was destroyed by Nemesis, a failed mind uploading experiment they created. With Nemesis preparing to pursue them, the Zeniths fled to Earth, hoping to steal GAIA and colonize a new planet unknown to Nemesis. It sent the extinction signal to Earth to deny them that opportunity and it is en route to destroy the planet. Tilda tries to coerce Aloy into leaving Earth with her, but Aloy refuses and is forced to kill Tilda. Aloy's companions disperse to spread the warning of Nemesis while Aloy and Beta reactivate GAIA.

Burning Shores[edit]

Some time after the defeat of Far Zenith, Sylens warns Aloy that one Zenith member, aerospace magnate Walter Londra (Sam Witwer), remains unaccounted for. The last known sighting of Londra places him at a location to the south called the Burning Shores, the former site of Los Angeles. Upon arriving in the Burning Shores, Aloy meets a soldier of the Quen tribe, Seyka (Kylie Liya Page). Seyka agrees to guide Aloy to Londra's hideout on Starlight Rise (Griffith Observatory) in return for helping her disable a Zenith defense tower. Seyka takes Aloy to her settlement, Fleet's End, explaining that her fleet was separated from the main Quen expedition heading to San Francisco, shipwrecked on the Burning Shores, and has been stranded since. It is revealed that Seyka stole a deceased Diviner's Focus and found a clue that some crew members who had gone missing were located at Starlight Rise. Admiral Gerrit (Mark Noble) allows Aloy and Seyka to pursue this lead since one of the missing crew members is Seyka's sister, Kina (Xanthe Huynh), and the fleet's last remaining navigator.

Working together, Aloy and Seyka destroy the Tower and make their way to Starlight Rise. Upon reaching it, they discover signs that Londra has captured the missing Quen crew and has been forcing them to excavate his old headquarters. They find evidence of him retrieving data on a project called "MSP" and follow his trail north to the wreckage of a Horus war machine resting near the Hollywood Sign. They come across a Quen camp and are dismayed to see that the missing Quen crew has willingly joined Londra, worshipping him as a god who promises them "Ascension". They infiltrate Londra's Ascension Hall and discover that he is using the Horus to build a rocket to take him off the planet. In order to get the lift he needs, Londra salvaged experimental nuclear booster engines from the Starlight Rise, but their use would irradiate the entire Burning Shore and its surrounding lands. After eliminating Londra's henchman Zeth (Dylan Saunders), they learn he has taken a small number of his most loyal Quen, including Kina, to a nearby abandoned amusement park in preparation for their journey.

Aloy and Seyka infiltrate the park and make contact with Londra's personal AI, Nova (Cia Court). Nova explains that Londra intends to use his rocket to take himself, a select few Quen, and a genetic library collected from his Quen followers to found a new colony away from the threat of Nemesis. However, to ensure that his followers will not betray him, Londra reactivated his Mutiny Suppression Protocol research, using it to brainwash Quen into being his loyal followers. Nova then deactivates Londra's security measures in return for Aloy deleting her so she can finally be free from Londra's constant tweaking of her personality matrix. They enter Londra's inner sanctum, where they find him ready to seduce Kina. Seyka then intervenes, forcing Londra to flee back to his bunker underneath the Hollywood Sign. Londra activates the Horus and uses it to attack Aloy and Seyka, who sabotage its cooling system to weaken it and open a breach in its hull. Aloy then infiltrates the Horus and kills Londra.

In the aftermath, Aloy sends all of the data from Londra's Focus to Sylens and helps the Quen in Fleet's End make contact with Alva so they can coordinate the reunification of their fleets. Aloy also has the opportunity to start a romantic relationship with Seyka before temporarily parting ways. Upon returning to her base, Aloy meets with Sylens, who has managed to decrypt some of Londra's data, finding a list of 21st-century companies that were developing experimental weaponry that may be key to defeating Nemesis.

Development[edit]

Guerrilla Games began developing Horizon Forbidden West in 2018, a year after its predecessor, Horizon Zero Dawn, was released.[28] It was published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.[29] According to documents from Sony, the five-year development peaked at over 300 full-time employees and cost around US$212 million, making the game one of the most expensive ever to develop.[30] The studio was split into three subteams: the Core Design team responsible for combat, player system, and user interface; the Quest Design team responsible for the design of the game's main quests, side quests, and tutorials; and the World Design team responsible for creating an immersive game world and populating it with activities.[31]

Gameplay design[edit]

One of the team's biggest goals was to "recapture the magic" of the original game. As with the original game, the team identified three main pillars for development: having strong and memorable characters, exploration emphasizing the majesty of nature and ancient ruins, and "clever" combat which encourages strategic planning.[32] As Aloy journeys into the Forbidden West, the team wanted to ensure that "there is always a mystery for her to unravel, and always more for her to explore."[33] As a result, underwater and aerial exploration were added to the game, though the development of both were noted to be challenging from a technical perspective.[34] Quest designer Samantha Schoonen described underwater exploration as a "natural extension to traverse long-lost unknown places". The team intentionally avoided the oppressive tone typically found in underwater levels in other video games and instead focused on "fast and agile traversal" and stealth gameplay.[35] The gameplay was designed to promote the player's choices. For instance, new tools were introduced to aid transversal and exploration as well as provide multiple ways to solve environmental puzzles; various playstyles were supported, enabling players to choose how they engage with enemies and switch between playstyles at will;[36] and skill trees were also overhauled completely.[10] Cauldrons return from Zero Dawn, though their designs are more varied to upset the player's expectations. Some cauldrons were also tied to larger and more extensive set pieces.[37]

The gameplay team identified Aloy as a "smart, fast, agile, precise, and resourceful" character and had to translate these personal qualities into gameplay mechanics. Melee and ranged combat were more interweaved together, with Valor Surges such as the Resonator Blast allowing players to quickly change from melee to ranged combat.[36] The team introduced more variety to human enemies, such as armored enemies; their artificial intelligence was also designed to be more aggressive.[33] Whereas in Zero Dawn, human and machine enemies were two disparate groups, Forbidden West integrates the two together by having Aloy fight against human enemies commandeering machines.[36] A number of new machines were introduced in Forbidden West, including the Sunwing (inspired by flying reptiles and primitive birds) and the Tremortusk (inspired by mammoths and war elephants). Zero Dawn establishes the machines in the game as caretakers of the world, and the team programmed each machine type to exhibit behaviors that would match their roles in an ecosystem.[38] Additional textures were added to each machine so the player could better identify their weak points visually, and more audio cues were introduced to better signal their actions to the player.[39] Machine hunting is more vital in Forbidden West, as it was made a more integral part of crafting.[40]

The world in Forbidden West is slightly larger than that in Zero Dawn, though the studio focused on increasing the world's density to ensure that it was filled with content.[33] NPCs encountered in side quests may reappear as the player progresses further, and the team rewarded players more handsomely with side quests and tied them to the overarching narrative, so completing them would feel more worthwhile.[4] After evaluating player feedback on Zero Dawn, the team decided to make each settlement more dynamic by introducing a "general sense of them being more lifelike" with improved animations and better NPC AI patterns and schedules.[4] An improved crowd system was introduced, with a more diverse range of audio, so that each area within a settlement would sound different.[40] As Aloy heads west, she encounters members of different tribes. According to the team, the Oseram are "social and historically patriarchal", the Utaru are "agrarian" and more laid-back in nature, while the Tenakth are more militant and combat-focused. The team created various animations and outfits distinct to each tribe, highlighting the differences in their ways of life.[4] This also allowed the player to identify tribe members from afar visually and enabled them to get a bearing of where they are in the world.[41]

Story and characters[edit]

Moss and Bassett are newcomers to the franchise, providing voice work for Far Zenith member Tilda and rebel leader Regalla, respectively.

Aloy returned as the game's protagonist. In Forbidden West, she had to deal with another catastrophic extinction-level event, live up to the legacy of Elizebeth Sobeck, an esteemed scientist whom she was a clone of (as depicted in Zero Dawn),[42] and prove herself again while venturing into the Forbidden West.[43] Writer Benjamin McCaw added that the overwhelming amount of pressure Aloy had to face was a significant part of her character arc in the game.[44] Ashly Burch returned to provide voice and motion capture for Aloy, along with Lance Reddick as Sylens, John Hopkins as Erend, and John Macmillan as Varl. Newcomers include Alison Jaye as Alva, Noshir Dalal as Kotallo, Carrie-Anne Moss as Tilda, and Angela Bassett as Regalla.[45] Guerilla invested more resources into creating the game's cinematics than in Zero Dawn. Advanced motion capture tools allowed the team to record dynamic movement and character expressions more extensively, enabling the team to create character-centric scenes across main quests and side objectives, though travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic forced the team to recruit local talents in Amsterdam to substitute certain cast members.[46]

According to McCaw, Aloy's dynamics with other characters were difficult to write, as her unique upbringing and aspiration to live up to Sobeck's legacy (who saved the world by herself single-handedly) meant that she often pushed away her friends as she felt she had to accomplish the task alone. In the game, Aloy had to integrate into society and learn to accept help, ultimately understanding that instead of saving the world in the abstract, it was the people in the world who are worth saving. The team spent more time developing character-driven side quests in order to deepen Aloy's relationships with them.[42] Aloy's relationship with Beta contrasted with Aloy's own relationship with Sobeck and was described by the team as "the heart and soul of [the game's] story," which was the most difficult part to write.[47] [42] According to the game's writer, Beta served as a dark reflection of Aloy and embodied "all of Aloy's conflicts about wanting to be like Elisabet, wanting to connect to others, but feeling isolated."[42]

Far Zeniths were an important part of the story, and their role was envisioned by the team during the development of Zero Dawn. Having long achieved self preservation, Far Zeniths were egotistical and had little regard for the rest of human life.[48] Tilda, one of the surviving members of the Far Zenith, was created as a "Dutch technologist, authentication expert, and art collector", and the team collaborated with the Rijksmuseum to select 10 art pieces and recreate them inside Tilda's mansion in the game.[49] Ted Faro, the billionaire who doomed the world in Zero Dawn, returned in Forbidden West. According to McCaw, he has become a "human cancer, a massive cancerous growth" due to the unnatural techniques used to extend his lifespan. The team made an intentional decision not to show Faro's face because Forbidden West was not intended to be a horror game, and the team felt that by only showing his silhouette, it left room for players to imagine what he would have looked like, making the encounter more frightening.[50] As with the previous game, Sylens and Aloy shared an "adversarial" relationship, but the two learn to collaborate despite their mutual disdain for each other.[51]

Technology[edit]

Horizon Forbidden West was the first multi-platform game for Guerilla since Shellshock: Nam '67 (2004). The studio focused on pushing the game's visuals for the PlayStation 5 during the first half of the game's development, then pivoted to work on the PlayStation 4 version to ensure there would not be significant parity. The goal for the studio was to ensure that Forbidden West was one of the best-looking PlayStation 4 games while ensuring that the PlayStation 5 version would look even better with easily observable differences. Aerial exploration was nearly scrapped as the team felt that the PlayStation 4 version could not support this feature.[32] The PlayStation 5's increased processing power, custom solid-state drive storage, Tempest Engine, and DualSense controller provide the game with advanced haptic feedback, 3D spatial audio, enhanced lighting, special water rendering, improved visual effects, and reduced loading times.[52][53][54] This version has an optional "performance mode" at 60 frames per second with a lower base resolution[55] and an updated version of the Decima engine supporting high dynamic range.[56]

Release[edit]

Forbidden West was officially announced by Sony in June 2020.[57] While originally set to be released in 2021, the game was delayed as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted production schedules, and the team wanted to avoid overworking employees in order to reach deadlines.[58] Prior to launch, Sony's decision to not offer a free upgrade path for PlayStation 4 owners was heavily scrutinized. While Sony subsequently offered a free upgrade path following player backlash, it was criticized for pricing the PlayStation 5 version higher while players of the cheaper PlayStation 4 version could freely upgrade their copies.[59][60] The full game was released on 11 February 2022.[61] As part of Sony's Play and Plant initiative, Sony will plant one tree in collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation in three distinct forests for every player who receives the "Reached the Daunt" trophy.[62]

A comic book series, set after the events of the first game, was published by Titan Comics on 5 August 2020.[63] Sony partnered with Dark Horse Comics and released a 200-page art book for the game on 18 October 2022.[64] Steamforged Games partnered with Sony again for a board game based on Forbidden West named Seeds of Rebellion and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project in November 2023.[65] A cookery book titled Tastes of the Seven Tribes by Rick Barba and Victoria Rosenthal was released on June 25, 2024.[66][67] To promote the game, Sony released a large assortment of merchandise, including partnering with the LEGO Group for the release of the Horizon Tallneck LEGO set, and collaborating with Nendoroid, Spin Master and Dark Horse Comics to create toys and figures based on Aloy.[68][69][70] A pop-up cafe was set up in Paris to promote the game from 9 to 11 February 2023.[71][72]

In June 2022, Sony released a free update for the game, introducing New Game Plus, a new difficulty level, and the ability to redistribute skill points, among other new additions.[73] At The Game Awards 2022, an expansion titled Burning Shores was announced. It was released only for the PlayStation 5 and was about a third of the size of the original game.[74][75] Unlike The Frozen Wilds, the expansion of Zero Dawn, Burning Shores pushes the narrative forward, as it was set after the events of the main game. It also gives Aloy a potential love interest with Seyka, as the team felt that Aloy pursuing a romantic relationship was a "natural evolution" for the character following her growth in the events of Forbidden West.[76] Seyka was voiced by Kylie Liya Page,[77] while the antagonist, Londra, was voiced by Sam Witwer.[78] The team also added a thalassophobia mode for players who fear large bodies of water and an in-game memorial for Reddick following his passing in March 2023.[79][80] Sony bundled the main game with the Burning Shores expansion and re-released the game for PlayStation 5 on 6 October 2023 as Horizon Forbidden West Complete Edition.[81] Nixxes Software then ported the Complete Edition to Windows on 21 March 2024.[82]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Horizon Forbidden West received generally positive reviews upon release, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[83][85] Critics generally agreed that it was a bigger and more improved experience when compared with its predecessor.[95]

The game's world received praise from critics. Kimberly Wallace from Game Informer enjoyed the visual design of various locales and liked how side quests further provided additional insights into the game's world.[86] She praised the world for evoking a "constant sense of discovery".[87] The underwater location set in Las Vegas was singled out by some reviewers as one of the game's best locations.[86][96] Simon Cardy from IGN praised the settlements for how lively they were and remarked that each tribe and settlement often had their own unique characteristics. He compared the side quests favorably to those of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, as players are often rewarded with both good gear for future use and standalone but satisfying narratives.[89] Phil Hornshaw, writing for GameSpot, wrote that the open-world activities in the game were diverse and well worth the player's time.[92] Some critics were unimpressed by the game's lack of ambition.[92] James Tucker from NME wrote that Forbidden West would have been a fairly middling open-world game if it were not elevated by its narrative.[91] Writing for Vice, Matthew Gault noted that it was not a revolutionary experience but instead a "competent distraction that soothes and smooths the brain by repeating what open world games have been doing for years".[97] Critics had mixed opinions on the game's climbing mechanics, which were found to be inconsistent.[87][89][91] The game's visuals received critical acclaim from critics, with Wallace describing the game as a "technical marvel"[86] and Lavoy describing the visuals as "breathtaking".[88]

Sam Loveridge from GamesRadar remarked that the game's focus on developing its characters is an improvement over its predecessor. He praised the game's diverse cast of characters and wrote that each of them has a distinct personality and backstory. He also liked the improved animations for making characters appear more lifelike and, therefore, helping players connect with them more.[87] While critics praised Aloy as a character and found her struggles to be compelling and relatable,[87][88] Hornshaw felt that she was often brooding and generally not as interesting as the surrounding cast,[92] and Matt Minotti from VentureBeat remarked that Aloy's reluctance to accept help during the game's beginning was "illogically extreme" sometimes.[98] Melindy Hetfield, writing for Eurogamer, described Aloy's character as a disappointment and went on to describe her as "obnoxious" and "unbearable."[7] Some critics also remarked that Aloy often ceaselessly provided hints to players about the solution to environmental puzzles,[91][7] with Hetfield concluding that it robbed players of all agency to explore and chart their own course.[7]

Simon Cardy from IGN praised the use of cinematics instead of audio logs to convey important parts of the story. He remarked that despite an uneven start, Forbidden West was able to pick up its pace and noted that the story was at its best when it was about the cast's personal dramas and the social and political conflicts surrounding the tribes.[89] Several reviewers remarked that newcomers to the franchise may not be fully engaged in the game's narrative due to its constant callbacks to the events depicted in Zero Dawn.[89][99] Dom Peppiatt from VG 247 compared the game's structure to Mass Effect and wrote that "the flirtations with BioWare-style story ideas shows just how much of a future this series has."[93] The game's cast performance and its motion capture technology were also praised by Hornshaw for enhancing the game's storytelling.[92] The story received some criticism from reviewers. Hetfield wrote that the story went "fully off the rails into wild, nonsensical sci-fi" and criticized the ending and its antagonists.[7] Ben Rayner from Digital Spy, likewise, felt Forbidden West's pivot to "hard sci-fi" was a baffling choice that missed the point of the franchise.[94]

The gameplay received generally positive reviews. Wallace described combat as "adrenaline-pumping" and appreciated the sequel's expanded destructibility and more elaborate setpieces. While she liked the quality-of-life improvements Forbidden West introduced, she was unimpressed by the progression system for only offering unexciting upgrades.[86] Bill Lavoy from Shacknews, however, called gameplay the game's greatest strength, praising its new gameplay additions and the diverse skill tree options.[88] Loveridge wrote that taking down large machines was always challenging but rewarding, and she liked the more varied design of its side activities, including Tallnecks and Cauldrons.[87] Cardy praised the enemy variety and noted that challenging combat prompted players to make full use of Aloy's arsenal and skills.[89] Critics generally liked how the game gave players more options in combat and exploration when compared with Zero Dawn,[89][90][86] though some remarked that the new additions could be overwhelming and that the game struggled to introduce these mechanics to players.[87][100][7]

The expansion Burning Shores also received generally positive reviews from critics.[101] Jay Peters from The Verge wrote that he preferred the expansion over the main game as it was a more focused and condensed experience, and he liked the game's relatively more grounded story.[102] Cardy praised the new weapons and Valor Surges introduced in Burning Shores and liked the expansion's level design. While he felt that the villain of the expansion did not get enough screentime, he felt that Burning Shores's focus on character development was an "essential chapter of Aloy's story".[103] GameSpot's Steve Watts further added that the final battle of Burning Shores demonstrated "incredible scale and scope", overshadowing the one from the main game.[104] Seyka was praised by Marcus Stewart from Game Informer. Describing her as one of the "primary highlights of Burning Shores", Stewart remarked that she was more charismatic than Aloy, though he felt that their relationship in the game was a bit rushed.[105] Seyka and Aloy may share an optional kiss at the end of the game, depending on the player's decision. This scene resulted in the game being review bombed on Metacritic. Metacritic subsequently responded that they were aware of "abusive" reviews being posted online and revealed that they would be imposing stricter moderation in the future.[106]

Sales[edit]

In the United Kingdom, Horizon Forbidden West was the best-selling game during the week of release and became the second biggest launch for a PlayStation 5 game at the time, behind only Spider-Man: Miles Morales.[107] By the end of 2022, the game had sold over 530,000 units in the UK.[108] It went on to become the fourth best-selling physical video game in the UK.[109] In the US, it was the second-best-selling video game in February 2022, only behind Elden Ring.[110] It went on to become the ninth-best-selling game of 2022 in the US.[111]

In Japan, the PlayStation 4 version was the third best-selling retail game during its first week of release, with over 48,000 physical units being sold. The PlayStation 5 version sold about 43,000 physical units throughout the same week, making it the fourth best-selling retail game of the week in the country.[112] By 26 March 2023, the game had sold over 155,000 units in Japan.[113] In Germany, the game sold over 200,000 units during its launch month.[114]

In May 2023, Sony announced that the game had sold over 8.4 million units by 16 April 2023.[115] Following the game's launch on Windows, it became the publisher's sixth biggest launch on Steam,[116] though it was unable to surpass the concurrent player peak of Zero Dawn.[117]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Result Ref.
2022 Golden Joystick Awards Ultimate Game of the Year Nominated [118]
Best Storytelling Won
Best Visual Design Nominated
PlayStation Game of the Year Nominated
The Game Awards 2022 Game of the Year Nominated [119]
Best Game Direction Nominated
Best Narrative Nominated
Best Art Direction Nominated
Best Audio Design Nominated
Best Performance (Ashly Burch) Nominated
Best Action/Adventure Game Nominated
2023 New York Game Awards Statue of Liberty Award for Best World Nominated [120]
Tin Pan Alley Award for Best Music in a Game Nominated
Great White Way Award for Best Acting in a Game (Ashly Burch) Nominated
26th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Game of the Year Nominated [121]
Adventure Game of the Year Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Animation Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Character (Aloy) Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition Nominated
Outstanding Technical Achievement Nominated
50th Annie Awards Best Character Animation – Video Game Nominated [122]
[123]
23rd Game Developers Choice Awards Game of the Year Honorable Mention [124]
[125]
Best Audio Nominated
Innovation Award Honorable Mention
Best Narrative Honorable Mention
Best Technology Nominated
Best Visual Art Nominated
British Academy Games Awards Animation Nominated [126]
[127]
Audio Achievement Nominated
Game Design Nominated
Performer in a Supporting Role (Alison Jaye as Alva) Nominated
Technical Achievement Won
Ivor Novello Awards Best Original Video Game Score Nominated [128]

Sequel[edit]

In April 2023, developer Guerrilla Games confirmed plans about "expanding the world of Horizon with Aloy's next adventure", hinting that a possible direct sequel to Forbidden West is likely to be in development.[129]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ported to Windows by Nixxes Software
  2. ^ As depicted in Horizon Zero Dawn

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