Horizon Forbidden West

I’ve always had issues with the way Game of the Year awards happen in this industry. For example, I have a huge problem with the biggest event in this sphere happening in the first half of December, when the year isn’t over yet. Anything that comes out too close to the end of the year won’t ever see a nomination (poor old Far Cry 3…)

Another thing that happens is that the conversation formally begins toward the end of the year, when the holiday game rush is fresh in everyone’s heads, but the games that launched outside that window have a tendency to get overlooked. To clarify, I’m not saying that no game that launches outside the holiday release window will ever be nominated — I’m pointing out a trend, where the holiday stuff seems to have more weight than anything that came out in, say, February.

In 2022, I’m pretty sure that Elden Ring is going to be heavily featured in the general GOTY conversation, and it’s such a behemoth that it doesn’t really matter that it came out in the beginning of the year — we’ll still be talking about it in December. (But what would have happened if this would have released on, say, December 20 of 2021?)

Just a week before Elden Ring came out, though, Horizon Forbidden West launched. While Forbidden West was pretty much universally acclaimed, the conversation about it came to an end as soon as Elden Ring was available to the masses.

Horizon Forbidden West

That’s kind of tragic for two reasons. First, Forbidden West is fantastic, and it deserves the praise it’s received. (It also has incredible treasure chests.) It’s a little sad that the conversation shifted away from Horizon after just a week.

The second, though, is that Horizon has had some really bad luck. Horizon Zero Dawn, the first game in the series, had the misfortune of launching just days before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If you remember, Breath of the Wild dominated the conversation about open-world games for years. I can’t think of a game since that managed to hog the spotlight the way Breath of the Wild did… until Elden Ring came out. And Forbidden West launched just a week before Elden Ring.

I’m writing this at the end of March. There are nine months left in the year, and a whole lot can happen between now and December. Hell, a lot can happen in a single month, let alone nine. What I observed so far, though, is that the conversation about Horizon Forbidden West ended in February; it’s hard to imagine that people will start talking about it again in December.

Horizon Forbidden West

And maybe that means it just isn’t Game of the Year material — if its importance was so short-lived that the conversation ended after a week, then maybe it’s not deserving of a GOTY nominee. But I don’t know about this.

Personally, I think it deserves a nomination. Forbidden West is one of the best games to come out this year, whether Elden Ring overshadowed it or not (and despite the fact that the devs have been less than gracious about this). I’m already fairly certain that it’s going to be completely overlooked by at least the major GOTY players, but I also hope that I’m wrong about this.

And to very briefly address the elephant in the room, Elden Ring is amazing. I fell in love with it pretty much immediately, and I’m currently 140 hours deep into it. I’m not saying that Elden Ring doesn’t deserve the accolades — in fact, I do hope that its popularity forces development teams to rethink the open-world genre for years to come.

Horizon Forbidden West - Toughened Valor Surge

All I’m trying to say is that I really, really hope the industry will recognize the achievement of Horizon Forbidden West at the end of this year. It’s a great game with a breathtaking world and a well-written narrative. While Elden Ring proved that it’s possible for a video game to surpass Forbidden West in 2022, that doesn’t mean that Forbidden West isn’t still one of the best games to come out this year. I don’t think that’s going to change in the next nine months, but I do think that far too many of us will forget.

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