Aloy is back, stealthily hunting robot dinosaurs and taking names.
Horizon Forbidden West, the sequel to Guerrilla Games’ epic 2017 open-world RPG Horizon Zero Dawn, is ready for release on Feb. 18, and critics’ reviews are in.
Taking place right after the events of Horizon Zero Dawn, the open world role-playing game lets you venture further west in a far-future America, where huge robotic animals roam. The game pushes the narrative of the protagonist, Aloy (voiced by Ashly Burch), beyond that of the first game, which means you’ll need to have a strong knowledge of her story to enjoy the sequel it seems.
Critics praised the stunning graphics for showcasing the might of the PS5, leaned into the size of the map thanks to thoughtful character development and side quests (including the tactical mini-game Strike), and unpacked the possibility of second album syndrome for the game.
Here’s what the critics said about Horizon Forbidden West:
The sequel curse? Thoughts vary.
Simon Cardy, IGN:
A triumphant combination of enthralling combat, top-tier creature and character design, and a captivating open world, Horizon Forbidden West is an absolute blast and fantastic showcase for the power of the PS5. Although the return of a couple of familiar series trappings and a noticeable lack of freeform climbing never threatens to derail the enjoyment, it does leave it falling frustratingly short of something revolutionary. Major evolutionary steps have firmly been placed in the right direction, however, and there’s no doubting the many, many hours of fun to have with Aloy, who stakes her claim further to be one of this generation of gaming’s greatest characters. Guerrilla has outdone itself yet again with Forbidden West, and at this trajectory, neither the horizon nor the sky’s the limit for what could come next.
Jessica Conditt, Engadget:
Forbidden West is a triumph in many ways. Its world feels alive and packed with secrets, and the story advances swiftly as Aloy makes her way to the Pacific coast. Combat is frenzied, with an arsenal of elemental weapons at Aloy’s disposal and multiple ways to attack any situation. The environments range from flooded, neon-lit facilities to expansive deserts and thick jungles, complete with dynamic weather and time progression. The machines are as stunning as they are terrifying. And throughout it all, Aloy’s voice actor, Ashly Burch, tells an emotional, complex story of survival, collaboration and evolution, demonstrating incredible versatility along the way. This is a game worth diving into, no matter how afraid of the water you are.
Alyse Stanley, Washington Post:
Whenever a highly anticipated sequel comes out, there’s the inevitable question of how it stacks up to the original. “Horizon Zero Dawn,” Guerrilla Games’ award-winning, 2017 open-world RPG, set a high bar with its compelling story and gorgeous environments. I can definitively say after rolling credits on “Forbidden West” that it not only meets that bar, it parkours over it and soars off on a robo-bird into the sunset.
Sam Loveridge, Games Radar:
It builds on what was offered by Horizon Zero Dawn – an open world filled with quests to catch your attention, a strong story of post-post-apocalyptic life, robot dinosaurs, and technological mysteries. There was almost a concern that this sequel may feel too familiar, just teleported to a new map, but the opening hours alone were enough to alleviate those fears. Although the same framework is there and the core gameplay mechanics remain untouched, this truly is an evolution, a new beast fitted over the mechanical bones of the Old Ones.
Malindy Hetfeld, Eurogamer:
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: If you’ve enjoyed Horizon: Zero Dawn and are already looking forward to the sequel, there’s likely only a very small chance you won’t enjoy Forbidden West. Guerrilla Games made sure of that by giving you a game that is functionally identical to a lot of Zero Dawn. You will take on herds of machines so you can harvest them for parts. You will shoot animals for their hides. You will climb Tallnecks and rappel down. You will take out countless camps of near-identical human opponents.
Dan Silver, Telegraph:
Fans will lap it up, of course, and rightly so. Horizon Forbidden West offers more – much, much more – of the things they loved about the first game, and does most things better as well as bigger. But while there’s a lot of things to like here, it’s a harder game to love. Like a band who go for extraneous instrumentals and showy solos over memorable choruses, one can’t help but want a tad less filler and a touch more killer.
Leo Faierman, ScreenRant:
Horizon: Forbidden West is studded with plentiful references to the original game, but those who’d prefer to just plunge ahead with the broad strokes of the story, blast aggressive machines to literal pieces, and leave the numerous lore items unread can carry on perfectly well and find plenty to do and see. Still, the game feels custom-built for those who’ve played its previous entry in-depth: those players who will pick through every note and datapoint, closely inspect each tribe member’s garb, and exhaust each dialogue option to flesh out the world in context will find rich rewards.
Nicole Clark, Polygon:
Horizon Forbidden West has delivered on the promise of more on just about every level. It’s a buffet you might graze on forever, filled with quests, characters, encampments, environments, and collectibles — and battles against new deadly machines. The game’s many expanded traversal tools and combat options deeply enrich the time you spend in this gorgeous, nearly photo-real wilderness. But Forbidden West also stumbles over this “more is better” ethos. Both mechanically and narratively, it suffers under the weight of its sequel ambitions, trying too hard to be grand, and sometimes losing sight of its strong world-building and storytelling heart.
Credit: Guerilla Games
The game’s huge but thoughtful.
Will Greenwald, PCMag:
The Forbidden West is absolutely massive, spanning multiple environments and holding hundreds of points of interest. You’ll explore forests, swamps, deserts, and frozen mountain ranges, and visit multiple towns with their own unique layouts and architecture. The game world is riddled with ruins, machine gathering grounds, and enemy camps. Most map locations are fairly basic sites for hunting or resting, but the geography is varied enough for most places you visit to feel at least somewhat distinct.
Keza MacDonald, Guardian:
It’s when I was out in this world, following whatever trails I found, that Horizon made me happiest. I lost hours out there, retrieving random artefacts from old train stations or crashed planes, collecting SO MANY plants and materials to stuff into Aloy’s magic backpack, and scrapping with the intimidating mechanical creatures that stalk the place. Getting into fights with these things is the absolute highlight of the game.
Phil Hornshaw, GameSpot:
Horizon Forbidden West can be daunting in its size and scope. That feeling only grows as you uncover its map, collect gear to fill in its giant arsenal of weapons and armors, or unlock a huge number of special moves, skills, and passive buffs from its expansive, revamped skill tree. But while it casts an imposing shadow, Forbidden West often keeps its focus on characters and their stories, and that approach works to break the enormity into smaller chunks and give your adventure stakes that matter.
Ari Notis, Kotaku:
Make no mistake: Despite its comfortably familiar trappings, Horizon Forbidden West is a tour de force. Its sprawling world feels alive with a tangible vigor many open-world games can only dream of. Not since The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have I played side-quests as invariably engrossing as these. In moments of downtime, Forbidden West features a fully optional tactical mini-game that’s so captivating I almost had to ask for an extension on this review because I kept getting side-tracked (we’ll get to that). In the busier moments, the core offerings—running, jumping, climbing, gawking slack-jawed at giant robot dinosaurs, then shooting those robot dinosaurs with an inventive arsenal of bows and arrows—are a blast from tip to tail.
Dom Peppiatt, VG247:
Open world fatigue is real, of course. A wealth of errands are drab, and the writing outside of the main quest (and main cast) is questionable at best, off-putting at worst. But that’s fine, because you’re only doing some of those missions to get more experience, right? The meat of this game is in working through the story, and wrapping up loose ends that fray off from the main narrative thread in the process. It’s just a shame about the go-here, do-this trudge that forms a large percent of the non-story experience.
And yeah, it’s beautiful.
Nicole Archer, CNET:
Horizon Forbidden West is, without a shadow of a doubt, an incredibly gorgeous game. The West brings with it a number of new environments: the desert of Las Vegas, snow capped mountains, lush Redwood forests and a now strangely tropical San Francisco. Each biome is captivating and wild with settlements, ruins and plenty of opportunities for hunting machines.
Alyse Stanley, Washington Post:
Forbidden West luxuriates in its breathtaking set pieces. Cinematic shots are woven in naturally as you climb mountains or scavenge through relics of the old world. The ruins of real-world cities are some of the most visually stunning game environments in recent memory.
Kimberley Wallace, Game Informer:
The world is the star of the show. Forbidden West is a technical marvel, with breathtaking vistas, vibrant underwater corridors, and lush jungles. Every locale has its own flavor; just wait until you see Las Vegas. Traversal has been greatly improved, with smoother climbing mechanics and a new tool called the Shield Wing, which acts almost like a futuristic umbrella to let you descend from great heights. However, the world’s constant sense of discovery really had me glued to my controller.
Sam White, GQ:
You have to play Horizon: Forbidden West to believe it. A far-future Earth that’s awash with light that refracts and blooms and cascades over forests, deserts, mountains, waterfalls and skyscraping ruins. And the skies. It’s an astonishing thing to just be in, but it’s the faces that really get you.
Credit: Guerilla Games
It’s all about Aloy.
Jake Tucker, NME:
Forbidden West’s biggest strength is Aloy. Aloy is one of the most popular people in known civilisation after saving the entire world during the events of Zero Dawn, a long way from the recluse she was at the start
She’s gregarious, friendly and totally ill-at-ease with the newfound adoration of most of the east. Most of the established characters in the game are furious at Aloy for ducking out of her own celebratory party after this first game, and while most of them want to help her with her newfound task of saving the world again, she steadfast refuses help from anyone, despite the fact she’s clearly haunted by the task, her world and her role as the savior of humanity. Again.
Ash Parrish, The Verge:
I didn’t much care for Aloy, the main character of Horizon Forbidden West. I think she’s the least interesting person in the cast of characters who surround her, and her serious-yet-aloof nature doesn’t really endear her to me. And though the world Horizon presents is intriguing, the story constructed for it falls victim to some late-game twists that defy explanation. And yet, despite being less than enamored with the story and characters, the thing I primarily play video games for, I willingly and enthusiastically spent 64 hours across two weeks hunting, exploring, crafting, and fighting and would happily do so again.
Leah J. Williams, GamesHub:
Where Horizon Zero Dawn often felt tonally rocky and unsure of its own lore, Horizon Forbidden West has a clear confidence in its world. Aloy is a more rounded character in the sequel, having been hardened by battles and the losses she endured. She often questions herself, and how her actions put others in danger, and eventually acknowledges that her victories only come with the help of other people.
Chris Jecks, Twinfinite:
Aloy is as endearing as she was in Zero Dawn, with her inquisitive nature and selfless desire to do good in the world, no matter the danger it may place her in. She is a bastion of light and hope in times of darkness and despair. Her reluctance to just accept a bad situation and her story from a Nora outcast to a legendary warrior leaves an empowering message on the palette. It’s a story of optimism in the face of relentless adversity and how, despite our best intentions, it’s not always possible to keep everyone happy — to always be right in every scenario, regardless of how stellar a track record you have. Ashly Burch delivers another spectacular performance, bringing this endearingly determined heroine to life.
Credit: Guerilla Games
The combat still rules.
Jennifer Locke, Android Central:
The combat is still just as satisfying and familiar as fans remember. Aloy has access to an arsenal of weapons like boltblasters and spike throwers, which are all useful in different scenarios, but her trusty bow is what I always fell back to. Being able to craft elemental ammunition made them incredibly versatile, especially when all Forbidden West machines have weaknesses or strengths to certain elements, like frost or fire.
Nicole Clark, Polygon:
Forbidden West’s struggle to teach the finer points of combat might just be because there are so many ways to fight. Players who aren’t so keen on stealth have more options now — for example, expanded melee combos make the spear much more viable. There are six perk trees, with a wealth of unlockable skills (thankfully, some of Aloy’s best skills from Zero Dawn, like Silent Strike, are defaults in Forbidden West). But it can all feel like a deluge.
Addressing the elephant in the room.
Ari Notis, Kotaku:
Horizon Forbidden West doesn’t entirely wash itself of the sins of its past. In 2017, around the release of Zero Dawn, critic Dia Lacina pointed out how the game mishandled indigenous culture in a barnburner essay for Mic (originally published on Medium)…To be clear, I never heard the words “braves” or “savages,” which suggests Guerrilla is listening and has taken feedback from half a decade ago to heart. That said, unless an explanation totally passed me by, Forbidden West never addresses why many characters wear outfits reminiscent of traditional Native American clothing, a point of contention for some in the wake of Zero Dawn. All that “savior” stuff? Given that Aloy is white, and that so many characters in Horizon—in roles both crucial and secondary—are people of color, yeah, it’s weird!
Horizon Forbidden West is out Feb. 18 on PS4 and PS5.