There’s a moment in the gameplay debut for Horizon Forbidden West where Aloy reloads her futuristic spear with a battery canister, the camera zipping inward to focus on her swift hand movements as she pulls the object from her person before ramming it into her weapon, displaying a sense of violent purpose that gives the entire act an unprecedented weight. As the camera pulls away once again, our heroine unleashes a devastating attack by plunging her spear into the ground. It’s absolutely badass, and imbues the sequel with a personality I felt its predecessor lacked, making Aloy feel like a girl on a mission who also isn’t afraid to have fun when finding herself in the heat of battle. I hope she stops talking to herself all the time, though.
Guerilla Games’ big reveal was filled with moments like this, showcasing how Forbidden West is building upon its predecessor with a number of worthwhile improvements and ambitious new ideas that help make it far more than your standard open-world adventure. The move I mentioned earlier is the obvious highlight, although melee combat in its entirety appears to have been reworked so it’s far more involved. Aloy marches towards her foes with a purpose, while enemies are also considerably more capable with a mixture of their own attacks, dodges, and counters. You’ll need to think on your feet, being careful that a single deadly combo doesn’t send you flying.
It seems that up close and personal confrontations can no longer be cheesed by spamming your heavy attacks to chip away at armour and health bars. Now you’ll need to be a little more considerate, approaching each encounter with deliberacy and a keen awareness of what Aloy is capable of. I much prefer this, lending close quarters combat an element of strategy that matches the satisfaction of its ranged counterpart. Aloy actually unsheathes her spear now too, instead of it materialising out of nowhere the second you push the attack button. Like I said, little improvements are what seem to be helping Forbidden West come to life.
Movement is similarly enhanced, with Aloy no longer jumping up cliffs like a humanized version of horsing it up a hill in Skyrim. With a press of a button, she can highlight all of the traversable areas in her vicinity. This can be used if you’re simply curious and want to explore, or need to desperately escape a robotic raptor who has you in its clutches. The demo is heavily scripted, so don’t expect to recreate things with an equal level of grace, but the unpredictability of exploration should make the game much more rewarding to play.
We only caught a glimpse of the underwater side of things, which itself is now occupied with all manner of secrets and creatures, and we’re hoping you’ll even be able to ride or do battle with a shark. It’s all silly and overindulgent, but Horizon Zero Dawn did a commendable job of making the presence of robot dinosaurs and post-apocalyptic tribes feel believable, even if some of the writing still felt underwhelming in places.
I’m hoping the sequel does the same, drawing us into its world with a simple yet effective fantasy story full of eccentric combat and worldbuilding to match. Guerilla Games should take the premise and run with it, since there’s no harm in going a little wild.
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