If everything goes according to plan, Horizon Forbidden West will be gracing our PlayStations sometime later this year. Four years ago, Guerrilla Games released Horizon Zero Dawn, a game that has only gotten better with age thanks to an incredibly polished PC port. Though HZD remains one of the best open-world games of all time, it’s fair to say there’s always room for improvement. There are lessons to be learned from the games that have come out after HZD, and a few of Horizon’s weaker systems could use a tune-up in the sequel. Here are all the problems in Horizon Zero Dawn that Horizon Forbidden West needs to fix.
Inventory management is a big problem for a lot of open-world games. While HZD’s inventory isn’t as bad as The Witcher 3’s, it could still use some streamlining. The problems are especially apparent while vendoring. As you look through your scrapped items, it can be difficult to figure out which ones are needed for crafting and which ones should be sold. There are a number of ways to auto-sort your inventory, but none of them will filter all your junk together. The best way to sell your junk is to organize by rarity and scroll through the top row of every rarity category checking off all the items that say their purpose is “selling for metal shards.” Horizon Forbidden West needs a “sort by purpose” function or, even better, a sell all junk button.
There’s also an inventory pain point when it comes to tracking the parts you need. Between storage upgrades and specific merchants, it can be hard to keep track of all the specific machine and animal parts required for your next piece of kit. Even when you know what part you want, there’s still no good way to quickly figure out how to get it. Let’s say you’re missing a Luminous Braiding in order to buy a new weapon, you’ll have to go check the drop menu on every page for every machine to figure out where to get one. Horizon Forbidden West needs to adopt Monster Hunter World’s system for tracking specific machine parts that gives you a notification when you acquire the part you’re looking for. Even better, there should be a way to automatically add marks on your map for the specific machines that drop certain items.
On my second playthrough of HZD, I made a conscious effort to kill every single animal that crossed my path because I remembered that collecting animal parts was a major frustration. Even though I focused on collecting animal parts, I still hit a wall when it came time to upgrade.
The problem with hunting animals is that there isn’t a reliable way to find them. Unlike machines, which graze in specific places on the map, every animal is just everywhere (except for fish). So if you need a fox skin, you can’t really target one and go get it. You just have to carry on and hope you run across a fox, and then hope that it drops this rare material. Horizon Forbidden West should probably just drop animal hunting all together, but at the very least animals should be easier to track down when you need a specific item.
When you engage your Focus to examine a machine, it is difficult to gather information about each individual weak point and what weapons work best against them. You can see the canisters and other destructible parts glowing yellow, but when it comes to specifics, like shooting the power generator with an electric arrow to shut down the Shell-Walker’s energy shield, you’re only going to figure that out by going into your lore tab and reading about each machine. You can highlight specific parts with your Focus, but if the machine is far away or moving, it can be really difficult. Even then, you can only see a symbol that represents that part’s weakness, and no other information.
I’d love more detail when scanning machines. Maybe the Focus can be upgraded in the sequel so that you can see more information when you highlight each part. I think it would be really nice to borrow from Fallout and have a V.A.T.S.-like system that would allow you to pause the game and highlight each part to read about its weaknesses in the moment. I know you can pause and look through the lore tab, but I find it difficult to keep all of the different machines in mind, and I don’t want to have to refer to the pause menu before or even during each fight. I think the Focus could really benefit from some improved functionality.
This is my personal pet peeve with Horizon Zero Dawn. Guerrilla Games made such an incredibly detailed world with realistic shifts in elevations. The world is full of cliffs, valleys, ridges, and mountains, but it’s also so frustrating to get around. Aloy is incredibly agile and the controls are precise and responsive, but she gets completely blocked by even the shortest ledge. To make matters worse, Aloy is an exceptional climber – but only on very specific surfaces. The developers took a Nathan Drake approach to mantling, but it’s a really poor fit for an open-world game. You can feel an extreme amount of magnetism during designated climbing sections, but the second Aloy is just free-roaming, she gets tripped up by a curb. Aloy needs to be able to grab ledges and pull herself up when she should realistically be able to do so.
This is a small thing, but it’s been a point of constant frustration with HZD. When you open your menu to craft arrows, you have to hold R1, point the right stick to the arrows you want to craft, then let go of the stick and press square to craft them. I do this action quickly because I’m in the middle of a fight, but it feels like half the time I either miss-direct the stick or the selector floats off to another arrow by the time my thumb reaches square. This is another thing Horizon needs to borrow from Monster Hunter World. When the radial menu is open, you should be able to press in the right stick to craft whatever weapon you’re selecting.
Horizon’s biggest miss is the way it doles out gear upgrades. While there are some items you earn by completing side quests, for the most part all of your gear progression comes from buying weapons and armor from merchants. This system presents a number of issues that impede a satisfying progression curve. First of all, there’s no indication of what weapons you’ll have access to at any given point. It’s entirely possible that you’ll waste a bunch of time-saving up to buy a specific weapon only to reach the next town and discover that you could have just waited and purchased a better version. The weapon progression is completely linear, so every weapon is obsolete when you earn the next one.
You also need a combination of metal and machine/animal parts to buy gear, which ties back to both the inventory management and animal hunting problems. You have to go pretty far out of your way to buy a new weapon, and it feels like a waste of time when you get to the next town and realize there’s an even better weapon you could have bought. You also stop getting new weapons fairly early on, so it’s actually best not to buy anything at all, save all your money, and then just buy all the Shadow weapons when you get to Meridian. That’s not a great progression curve, and it’s something I seriously hope they fix in Horizon Forbidden West.
Next: The Best Thing About Horizon Zero Dawn Is The Damage Feedback
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Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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