Video Game Reviews

Horizon: Forbidden West Review – Staying the Path

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Horizon: Forbidden West is an action RPG developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It is a direct sequel to the 2017 game Horizon: Zero Dawn.

If you haven’t played the first game, I suggest you do so before reading this review because it’s an amazing game, but also…

Just a little one

Forbidden West takes place six months after the end of the previous game. It begins with Aloy searching for a way to reverse the degradation of the Earth’s ecosystems in the wake of Gaia’s demise. Her best bet is to find a working copy of Gaia and hope that she is enough to get the subordinate functions of Zero Dawn back to work.

Unfortunately, Aloy has exhausted all of her options within the lands to the east. But, when she receives a message from the infuriatingly pragmatic Sylens, it indicates that a copy of Gaia may yet exist in the Forbidden West. So, Aloy drops everything and sets out on a journey involving rival clans, giant robot dinosaurs, rampant AI’s, and more map icons than you can shake a stick at.

Now, I love Zero Dawn. It’s one of my favorite games. So, I was pretty psyched for Forbidden West. Fortunately — or unfortunately, depending on where you stand — this sequel does not stray too far from the path that Zero Dawn blazed five years ago. 

While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it did keep this sequel from surpassing its predecessor. There were, however, some new mechanics and gameplay elements that shook things up. 

The Better Part of Valor

One of the better additions to Forbidden West was the introduction of Valor Surges. These are abilities that charge as you fight enemies and convey serious benefits to help you through more challenging segments of the game.

They’re also really cinematic

For example, the Valor Surge I used most was Toughened. When activated, Aloy regenerates health every two seconds and takes less damage.  If you upgrade “Toughened” it increases the amount of health regenerated, increases the amount of damage negated, and also adds other types of damage and status effects to the list of things that it protects against. 

What’s great about Valor Surges is that there is at least one for every play style. One makes you practically invisible, one increases your damage with bows (while healing you for a portion of the damage you deal), and one creates an electrical nova, dealing damage to every nearby enemy.

The only real issue I had with the Valor Surges was that the controls to activate them were a little finicky, and about half the time I ended up swinging my spear wildly instead of activating the ability… which sometimes resulted in death.

Traversal Tools

Traversal in Zero Dawn was pretty straightforward. You could run, jump, climb, use ziplines, and override specific machines (mostly Chargers)  to ride around on. Pretty standard, all things considered. 

Forbidden West ups the ante by giving you some new ways to get around, such as:. 

  • The Pullcaster: A mechanized grappling hook that you can use to pull yourself to certain handholds. It can also be used to pull crates and other environmental objects toward you. 
  • The Sheildwing: A mostly-broken hard-light shield that Aloy uses as a makeshift glider. 
  • The Diving Mask: A rebreather, of sorts, that allows Aloy to swim underwater without having to worry about pesky things like oxygen.

What’s nice about these new tools is that they are incorporated into the design of the game’s puzzles, adding some much-needed variety. You can even use the Pullcaster to grapple into or out of fights quickly, and the Shieldwing can be used to literally get the drop on enemies.

Death from above

Along with these new traversal tools are a small assortment of new machines that you can ride. While only one of these machines changes things up in a meaningful way, the fact that you can ride on a robotic velociraptor is still pretty sweet.

A Glut of Content

One of the worst parts of Forbidden West is the sheer amount of crap that this game is filled with. Apparently, Guerrilla Games thought that the hundred junk items in the first game might be too few, so they decided to add about a thousand more.

There is so much junk in this game that it staggers the mind. Every box you open is half-filled with junk, and half-filled with upgrade materials that you will probably never use, but you keep anyway…

They could be useful at some point… probably… maybe…I don’t have a problem, YOU DO!!!

Even the NPC’s hand out junk as quest rewards.

The whole game is just a never-ending tide of garbage items that you get tired of sorting through about two hours into this 80-hour game.

Then there’s the weapons. 

I know that Zero Dawn had its fair share of weapons, but Forbidden West decided that if more is better, then even more must be the best. There are so many different weapon types that it’ll make your head spin. Then, you realize that each weapon type has at least seven different variants, and each shoots different types of ammo. Which means that you’ll have to carry around eight different versions of the same weapon if you want to be able to use all the ammo types.

I will say that some of the new weapons are pretty cool, but at the end of the day I ended up killing 99% of all enemies with the hunter’s bow.

The Power of Friendship

One of the better decisions in this game was to focus more on the secondary characters. 

In Zero Dawn, Aloy tries to keep most of her companions at arm’s length.

Well… she tries to do that in Forbidden West as well, but a little way into the game she comes to the realization that, sometimes, things are easier when you work together. 

So, she sets up a base of operations and tries to get all of “Team Aloy” up to speed on the whole “The world’s ending” situation and have them help in any way they can. This was nice on a character-building level, and on a “not having to travel across the entire map several times just to talk to everyone” level.

Unfortunately, it never felt as cool as I would have liked. It basically boiled down to going back to the base and making sure that you’d gone through every dialog option with every character. 

While these conversations were interesting and helped build attachments with the various people in Aloy’s life, the whole system felt like an underdeveloped version of the Normandy from the Mass Effect series.

And without a Garrus constantly doing calibrations… What’s the point?

If they decide to have something like this in the third game, I hope that it feels more impactful. I’d really like your actions as a player to have more of an effect on the group dynamics or the construction of your base.

Feel the Target

One of the best improvements that this sequel has to offer is tiny in the grand scheme of things, but improves the combat by an entire order of magnitude: The addition of key upgrade resources.

These items are mandatory for upgrading your equipment, and can only be found on specific enemy types.

I know that doesn’t sound that interesting on its face, but hear me out. 

These key upgrade resources add a level of challenge and purpose to each fight. You see, some key items can only be gotten if you break them off of an enemy before you kill it. So, if you screw up and kill the machine before you can remove the part, it’s gone forever.

Other items can only be collected if you manage to kill the machine without breaking the item off, which can be rough if the part you need is also allowing the robot dinosaur to shoot lasers at your face. 

This added layer of complexity, while seemingly small, makes each fight unique, and can completely change your approach to combat… if you need parts for your weapons and armor… which you will.

Over the Horizon

Overall, Horizon: Forbidden West was a pretty great game. The combat is every bit as good as the first game — and better in some respects. The characters are more fleshed out, and the world is even more beautiful than it was before.

While Guerrilla Games played it safe in almost every respect, the game is not diminished in any meaningful way, and Aloy, despite her overly-developed hero complex, is still one of my favorite video game protagonists.

The gripes that I have with this game are small, but multitudinous. They include:

  • Boring bandit camps
  • Too many map icons,
  • Aloy’s inability to stop talking to herself
  • A host of bugs and technical issues

However, none of that could really detract from the enjoyment I received when fighting a giant robot dinosaur with a bow and arrow, and at the end of the day, I think that’s what we’re all looking for from this game…

No? Just me? 

…Anyway, I’m giving Horizon: Forbidden West a robo-tastic 8/10. It wasn’t different enough to set itself apart from the original in any meaningful way, but was still a blast to play, and had some genuinely funny, interesting, and heartfelt moments. 

The only real mistake that was made with this game was releasing it so close to Elden Ring. Seriously, I think Forbidden West would have received a higher score, if I didn’t stop halfway through to play through Elden Ring… twice.

Video Game Reviews

Biomutant: A Deleterious Mutation

Biomutant is an open-world action-RPG developed by Experiment 101 and published by THQ Nordic.

The game takes place long after the end of humanity, and small anthropomorphic mammals have become the dominant species. You play as one such creature who has been tasked with saving, or destroying, the Tree-of-Life. You’ve also been tasked with uniting all the tribes of the world, and taking down your parents’ murderer.

Let’s just say that there is a lot on your “to do list.” 

I remember seeing quite a bit of information about this game a few years ago, and I was pretty excited by what I saw. It was going to have your characters look reflected by their stats. So, high agility would result in a lankier appearance, while high strength would create someone a little beefier. I also remember seeing that kung-fu was somehow involved, as were giant monsters, and giant mechs.

Basically, I was sold from the get go. 

Then time passed and I sort of forgot about Biomutant. I’d see something about it every now and then, but largely, it fell by the wayside.

When it finally dropped on the Playstation Store, I suddenly remembered everything I’d seen and heard about it, and bought it right away.

This was a…

I’m not sure why he’s an opera singer

I’d like to let you know why, so you don’t make the same one.

Sound and Fury

Biomutant’s story is a confusing mess, and is arguably its worst aspect.

The game starts with your character casually using a puddle of hazardous waste to mutate one of their hands. You then go through a tutorial of sorts where you fight an invincible monster in order to learn the basics of combat.

When that’s over, you make your way through a bunker while occasionally fighting the odd bad guy. 

However, once you run into Out-of-Date—a wheelchair-bound old man—you get a lot of information all at once. 

He tells you that you are, apparently, the offspring of some great warrior who once united all the tribes. Unfortunately, all the tribes split up again when she was murdered. 

So now you need to unite the tribes again. 

Also, Out-of-Date planted a Tree-of-Life when he was younger, and now the Tree-of-Life is dying, so the world is dying with it? 


It’s a little unclear how that works, but he does instruct you to kill four giant monsters that are destroying the roots of the Tree-of-Life.

So, you need to unite all the tribes, and save the world… unless you don’t want to do that. Out-of-Date is pretty upfront about the fact that you can choose to destroy the Tree-of-Life and be a bad guy, and that it’s a perfectly legitimate choice to make.

Oh, also, that guy you fought in the tutorial? He was the guy who killed your parents, and he’ll show up occasionally to try and mess you up.

I know that stories in open-world games can be a little dicey sometimes, but this heap of exposition and plot points is extremely jarring. Out-of-Date, in one info dump, gives you all your main quests and then appoints you savior/destroyer because your mom was important. 

The story doesn’t get any more coherent. In fact, it kind of devolves from there. 

A Nettlesome Narrator

One thing I thought I was really going to like about Biomutant was the narrator. The soft spoken british voice was welcome in the opening, and hearing him use words like “Jumbo Puff” and “Brown Bobs” was hilarious. 

However, it soon became pretty apparent that the narrator was not injecting the game with personality. He was, in fact, sucking it out.

Like a cheery British dementor

I think it came down to the fact that with him voicing over every single character, every single character became a soft-spoken british guy. It didn’t matter how crazy the characters looked, or acted, all of them had the same voice to define them.

There was also the matter of him interrupting the flow of events. He was scripted to say things at specific times. When the sun rises, he says some platitute about light being good, which is fine. It’s less fine, however, when you’re in the middle of ransacking an enemy settlement and he says “Ah, light has come to the world” or “feel the sun on your face.”

It was really weird and he needed to cut it out.

Now, I’m not saying that this kind of narration can’t work. I think it worked very well in Maneater. The shark’s actions in that game were given a voice and personality by the very talented Chris Parnell, and it worked perfectly with the documentary feel that the game was going for. 

Unfortunately, when you take away the voice of a cast of characters — who actually have their own personalities– you do them a disservice by washing over everything with that same documentary-ish voiceover. 

Fortunately, the latest patch for Biomutant sort of remedied this by giving you the option to turn off the narrator. I honestly haven’t tried it since then, but it can’t have been anything but an improvement.

Meh To Combat

The combat in Biomutant was abysmal for a number of reasons. 

The first and foremost is the fact that stats didn’t seem to matter… like at all.

The first character I created was a Psy-Freak with an intellect of 50, which seemed high at the time. I chose Psy-Freaks because they start off with an electric bolt attack and I wanted to capitalize on it for the early game. Unfortunately, with an intellect of 50, the bolt did middling damage. 

So, I started over and created a Psy-Freak with an intellect of 100… and the bolt still did middling damage. I was a little disappointed, but I attributed this to the fact that it was still the beginning of the game. I would assuredly get stronger later, right?

Halfway through the game, all of my psy-powers were still doing middling damage and they never seemed to get much stronger no matter how many points I put into intelect. In fact, I did as much damage with my two handed weapon and 20 overall strength as I did with over 200 intellect and a bolt of lightning.

This was the most egregious of all my issues with the combat but there were others… which I shall now list. 

  • No good way to lock onto an enemy
  • All the fights felt the same
  • Enemies would reset if you got more than a few feet from where the fight started
  • There was no urgency to fights (I never felt engaged or challenged)
  • Did I mention that all the fights felt the same?
  • My attacks lacked weight, so I didn’t feel like I was doing any damage. 

There were more issues, but I can heap them under one word. 

The combat was “floaty.”

With combat out of the way we can move on to… 

The Other Terrible Things About This Game

  • The way you upgrade your automaton (a little bug robot that helps you out)  is with weird flashbacks given by a “mirage” that you must “catch.” However, it is neither a mirage nor does it run… so you just talk to a guy and he lets you pick whichever upgrade you want for no particular reason.
  • Most quest objectives are in hazardous areas, and the only way to get through the area is with a specific item, which is usually hidden in another hazardous area… and the only way to get through the area is with another item which is in another restricted area.
  • The NPCs kept giving me shit for wanting to save the world. They kept saying stuff like “Why are you trying to save the world you idiot? Let it burn.” Which is disheartening when you hear it from half the people you run into.
  • My giant mech did far less damage than my character did on foot (Pre upgrades). 
  • The in-game cutscenes were very poorly shot and animated. They literally looked like Playstation 1 cutscenes, but with better graphics.

I’ll stop there because I feel like I’ve badmouthed the game enough for the moment. I’d like to get to the two things I actually like about Biomutant. 

Two Rights Wont Save a Game

The first thing I like about Biomutant is the aesthetic. It’s not perfect, but it is pretty. 

I like the bright colors, I like the somewhat stylized look of everything, and I like the way they meshed post-apocalyptic junk with little fuzzy animals. One of my few joys while playing this game was running around to take a look at everything.

Unfortunately, once you start looking around, you realize that even though there are places to explore, the impetus to get lost and wander is very low. Most places have a few items to grab, and maybe a puzzle to solve, but I never felt the need to explore, which is paramount in an open-world game. 

The other thing I liked was the way you crafted in-game weapons. In fact, this was probably the highlight of the game for me. 

You start off with a base weapon part to which you attach a handle and some random odds and ends that increase things like damage and armor piercing. When you’re done, you simply hit craft and—bam—you come out of the creation menu like…

Again, the system isn’t perfect. You only find so many parts for weapons, and can only put them together in so many ways, so it gets repetitive pretty quickly. However, I can see the potential in this type of crafting system. If Experiment 101 had expanded this aspect, and tightened up the combat, they might have created something worthwhile.

Nonsense Mutation

Overall, Biomutant was not good. It was a hot mess of elements thrown together in the hopes that it would make a decent game. The story lacked direction and weight, so it slid all over the place. The combat was so lackluster that I have a hard time describing why it’s so lackluster. And the overall experience was sub-par to the point that I think my mind is actively purging anything related to Biomutant

Hopefully, my mind leaves enough behind that I know never to play it again.

I’m giving Biomutant a malignant 3/10. I found a couple of things to enjoy in this game, and other people may even find things they love. However, to me, it’s not worth the time or the asking price.

I usually like to end with a little joke that calls back to something about the game, or to an earlier part of the post—like this time I was going to do something with forgetting about the game and “wondering if I should give it another try”—but I’m just going to end by saying this: 

Do yourself a favor and don’t buy Biomutant.