RPG Review: Horizon Forbidden West

So in a surprising turn of events, I decided to play an American RPG but only because it came free bundled with my PS5. 😂

As usual Kanade’s commentary and review will be in blue.

So to get it out the way, I never play American games at all. I only play Japanese games – but Kanade is very familiar with this kind of gameplay. Of course many things overlap with JRPGs so it wasn’t totally new, but a lot of annoyances I had with the battle system are apparently common place for these kinds of games.


Someone needs to give poor Aloy some sunblock and rosacea cream ASAP

The biggest pitfall for me was the targeting system. Normally in most of my JRPGs, when you target an enemy, you target the enemy. In this game, you don’t target an enemy – you target a spot near or on the enemy and hope the enemy doesn’t move when you shoot your arrows. So basically it’s very similar to an FPS style  game – the kind of game I utterly hate. I was never good at Duck Hunt back in my days so to this day I don’t like games where you have to physically aim at an object. Needless to say the Horizon REALLY wanted you to use bows and arrows way more than just whacking things with your stick. This was made obvious by the fact that you had 1 spear but you had a huge arsenal of bows and various arrows. Even on story mode I struggled when the game basically forced you into bow/arrow mode and if Kanade wasn’t around to do this shit for me, I probably would have quit at the start.

A lot of open world RPGs often lead players towards playing as a stealth archer (“archer” can also be a sniper in modern settings with guns) because it’s the type of gameplay that the setting “naturally” advantages the most. It’s usually pretty easy to approach enemies on your own terms, from way outside their detection radius, and with all the time in the world necessary to line up shots to weakpoints in ways that stack up all kinds of damage buffs. This time, Horizon understands this so it makes stealth archer the default gameplay type and melee being more of the fail state for when the enemy is engaged and you haven’t been able to withdraw. This was most obvious with how it would often take quite a while to wear down random field enemies with melee attacks, compared to how bosses and minibosses would go down to just a couple well-placed arrows. So while the game does offer a bunch of build options through the skill trees (and we were able to unlock two full skill trees by the end of the game despite skipping most of the sidequests and all of the other optional activities like the arena battles, tallnecks, ruins, dungeons, etc.), let’s face it most of those are just way worse than blasting something at long range with a ton of stacked up buffs.

Varl…. (´;ω;`)

So other than the annoying as hell bow/arrow forced battle system, I didn’t have issues with anything else in the game. The graphics were really good and probably better than every JRPG I’ve ever played in my life. However despite the graphics being good, unfortunately I was not a fan of the character design. I guess you could say I prefer more fantasy look to my characters, so seeing people who look like the same people I see in my subway to work commute was not exactly my idea of fantasy. 😂

Photo mode was da bomb

One thing this game had that I also really liked was the amazing photo mode. It had a precision mode which allowed you to move the camera slowly, adjust poses, facial expressions, time of day, depth of field and even add filters and logos. Of course the unfortunate pitfall of this mode was if you took a screenshot in town it did not allow you to rotate the camera. I really wanted to take pics in every town so I could put the town name on it like the one above but it was really hard getting a good angle when I couldn’t move my camera as freely as I could in a random field. Still, I wish more games had such an in depth photo mode like this with the only other one being this detailed is probably FFXIV.

My understanding is that the Horizon games have the most sophisticated photo mode out there. And it’s also one of those things that I feel like games only include when you’ve got those giant AAA budgets behind them. Out of all the recent games that we’ve played, the only other one with a photo mode was FFVIIR, which not coincidentally was the only other AAA game. Suffice to say, this is also why I would joke “imagine what it would be like if a AA game that you really liked like Scarlet Nexus had these kind of resources behind it” while we were playing this.

Snow Surfin’

While at first it was really jarring for me to get into the game because I never actually played Horizon Zero Dawn, all the main cast eventually grew on me. They killed one of them, which made me really sad though because I really liked him. I’m not sure if his death was even a necessary plot point to be honest. They could have just injured him badly instead of outright killing him. 😦  Speaking of dead people, I do wonder how they plan to replace Sylens’ voice actor since the man passed away in real life and clearly they have a 3rd game in the making.

Kind of related to this was that this was one of the few RPGs we’ve played for these reviews (other than ::checks notes:: just FFVIIR and Tales of Arise) which actually had decent sidequests. There are some bear ass quests, Ubisoft tower quests, and so on but the “real” sidequests are you know, actual quests with like character interactions and a little story and oftentimes some twists along the way and not just “go back through the level you just did again, and kill the same enemies you just killed again, and here is your reward of some completely useless item.”

Me and da bird

While this is an open world game and actually has things to explore (unlike Star Ocean 6) I found myself frequently frustrated at some of the exploration mechanics. For example to uncover the map you had to either physically walk to it or jump on these annoying tall giraffes which you could only reach by climbing up some tower that they would walk nearby and jumping on them at the right moment. I get it, but also it was kind of annoying and after doing it once for the quest I never did it again. It’s one of those things that if I cared to do side quests, I would just do with my flying mount that unfortunately I got at the very end of the game where it barely mattered. I also found riding mounts in this game very awkward but I am generally not great at steering things, which is why I had Ignis drive my car the whole time in FF15. 🤣🤣

Of course, for me this isn’t a big deal because I take Western RPGs and AAA games as a given. I’m used to navigating open world settings or understanding the typical UI setups, so none of this was overwhelming to me. I would laugh because of how much hand-holding (in the tutorial way I mean, not the R18 way) the game would have. the on-screen quest log would say “go to the campfire south of town”, there would be an on-screen quest marker towards the campfire, waypoints that you can follow to get to the campfire, and then to top it off every 10 seconds Aloy would say to herself “I should head towards the campfire to the south”.

I do actually think that you kinda need to turn a lot of the accessibility UI functions on though because we’re at the point where the need for visual verisimilitude starts to get in the way of being able to identify what’s a “real” object” and what’s just there to make the environment look real, like “is this the kind of tree that you can harvest, or is it just there to make the forest that we’re crawling through look more realistic?” Same with climbable surfaces, same with interactable objects like workbenches, and so on. Otherwise you’re stuck pulsing the scanner every five seconds, which seems way worse to me than just showing us this stuff at all times.

See you in 5 years I guess

And so of course my final beef is, the game isn’t over. It’s like they basically are releasing the game in segments like they did with Trails in the Sky. I was fortunate enough to play both Sky games back to back, but here the game kinda just ends…expecting you to wait 5 years (while apparently like 50 babies were born on the production staff 🤣) for the next one. Will I be playing the next one ?  I’m not sure. I really only played this because it came with my PS5 and because I really don’t like the battle system I’m not sure I want to do more than just watch someone’s cutscenes on Youtube to be honest.

I forgot about this until we completed the game, but I then realized that this game had the exact same kind of “incomplete first game” setup too! It starts off with Aloy being like “okay I stopped the threat when I beat the first game…but now we’re running out of time to stop the next threat!” And the lo and behold, this game ends the exact same way!


One note I wanted to make about the cut scenes is while I normally play with Japanese voices, because I had the English version of the game my only options were English Spanish or Portuguese. In order to get Japanese voices in Horizon you had to have the Japanese version of the game. That said, I loved the sarcastic English voice for Aloy and honestly after hearing the Japanese voice for her on Youtube, I’m glad I ended up playing with English voices this time around. I think the uguu waifu voice would work well for Beta probably but Aloy’s sarcastic English voice really fit her perfectly.

As a bit of a joke, we had tried to enable the Japanese voices, but it seems like the game only games you the applicable voices for your region (which meant we also couldn’t pick voices like German, Russian, Arabic, etc. along with Japanese). But nothing of value was lost, because we googled up some clips of what we did and loooooooooooooool they made Aloy a waifu and it sounded SO BAD. Everyone else is normal, but she completely botches the role because she doesn’t get annoyed or angry enough at all the kudaran that everyone subjects her to. In comparison, I did a similar joke with Witcher 3 and it was more or less the same in both languages, but ohhhhhhhhhhhh boy that waifu Aloy.

Goodbye and thanks for all the photos

Do I recommend this game? Only if you’ve played the first game or have an actual interest in the Horizon series. If you are used to targeting 1 whole enemy like in JRPGs then this will be an unpleasant surprise.  If you want more cutesy or fantasy style graphics, you’re gonna see most NPCs look like Uncle Bob instead. So because it came with my PS5 I gave it a run, but I think in the end, it’s just not really my type of game and I probably won’t be playing these types of games in the future. As for game quality though, despite being not my cup of tea, I think it was very well made and if my nitpicks don’t bother you, then it may be worth a look.

Meanwhile, if you like Amerishit like I do this is pretty much your typical AAA open world game. Collect a zillion things, check off stuff from your quest log, headshot enemies from out of range, craft some endgame gear, all that jazz.