Horizon Forbidden West

Let me state this upfront: I have not actually played Horizon Forbidden West. I did, however, watch the State of Play gameplay livestream on May 27, which showed off about 14 minutes of gameplay.

Let me also state upfront that I did play Horizon Zero Dawn. I enjoyed it quite a bit at first, but I eventually got burned out on the side content and couldn’t bring myself to finish the main campaign — and I attempted to do so on two separate occasions.

I must also state that I didn’t find Aloy to be a particularly interesting character, and I didn’t find her story — the portion I had witnessed, anyway — to be particularly interesting either. I also found the character models in general disturbing to look at, all puffy cheeks and stilted movements.

With all that said, I did enjoy some of what we saw at State of Play concerning the next entry in what’s now the Horizon series. My biggest takeaway was Aloy’s unmistakably more mature voice. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I am all for it; homegirl has seen and done some shit since the last time we saw her. It’s nice to see such an obvious, yet also elusive, detail nailed right off the bat. Unfortunately, she still has those puffy chipmunk cheeks — but that, much like snow levels or biomes in videos games, is my cross to bear, not yours.

Horizon Forbidden West

Speaking of which, there is snow in this game. There also appears to be, as I gathered from the bizarre five-hour countdown to the actual gameplay footage, copious amounts of deserts. I have recently determined that I dislike desert biomes in games almost as much as snowy biomes, so needless to say, I have some issues. But that is neither here nor there.

There’s a scene early in the video in which Aloy dispatches some soldiers early in the video, and can’t help but think that the stealth and combat both seem more violent this time around. Perhaps this is an inevitable result of living in a post-The Last of Us 2 world, especially when we’re talking about a new entry in a Sony first-party franchise.

But I’ve since gone back and re-watched some of the takedowns from the first game, and it turns out I had just forgotten how ruthless Aloy could be — she didn’t take any prisoners back then, and she’s certainly not growing any softer.

But the meat and potatoes of the video was the one-part-scripted-chase/two-parts-hands-on-battle with a massive elephant robot.

Horizon Forbidden West

This was a reminder of how futile my attempts were in the first game to hit those highlighted weak points on the enemies, and how often I got my butt handed to me. If I ever do get around to playing Forbidden West, I expect to get trounced yet again.

And I think that brings me to my biggest takeaway/revelation: For me and my tastes, Horizon feels like something I would prefer to experience secondhand — watching a skilled player go through it rather than playing it for myself.

This sort of puzzle-style traversal — finding the next ledge and arrow-ziplining and dashing and what have you — feels very scripted in a way that I personally don’t find all that compelling. It’s in the vein of Uncharted’s theme-park-ride formula, where you’re in danger, but only if you don’t complete the next very-specific button prompt in the allotted timeframe. This is by no way a bad design choice; it’s just one that I personally don’t care for anymore.

Horizon Forbidden West

So what are we left with after the State of Play footage comes to a close?

Well, Forbidden West is certainly more Horizon — there are a few tweaks or additions here and there, but this is the case with most franchise sequels. Like so many open-world games these days, this seems to be more gaming comfort food. If you enjoyed Zero Dawn, you will no doubt feel similarly about Forbidden West.

And if you feel this way, I am a bit envious of you. I’m a jaded old gamer who can take it or leave it. Maybe I’ll grab Horizon Forbidden West if I just need something to play or find it on sale down the road, or maybe I won’t. I’m not sold yet, but we have a long way yet until its release date, which hasn’t even been formally announced yet.

So who knows? Maybe with some more info I might be swayed that the West is, after all, as Forbidden as my initial impressions made it out to be.

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