At first glance, it may seem that before us is everything the same, but with new assets. And yes, it’s no secret that the visual upgrade is the most tangible improvement, which is noticeable from the very first minutes. It’s possibly the prettiest game I’ve ever seen, but…is it enough to justify a purchase? Of course not. You won’t get far on one chart.

Luckily, Horizon Forbidden West has a lot more to offer. First of all, I want to praise the pacing and, that is, the pace of the gameplay. In recent months, we’ve been intimidated by huge games that can be fully completed in a few hundred hours (Dying Light 2: Stay Human), and Forbidden West boasts a world of no less elaborate or stuffed content. There are a lot of additional tasks, “contracts”, tests, lore, and so on. It even has its own desktop! But at the same time, she does not force you to do anything extra. If you want, just pretend that this is a linear game with one storyline.

This is very important, because not everyone has a few hundred hours of free time. But I would still advise you not to rush and explore the world in all its splendor. Because it has become not only larger, but also more detailed. Ruins appeared, which are sort of puzzle tombs from Tomb Raider (we will return to this comparison), and caves with treasured loot. The world is full of question marks, yes, but there are not so many of them that you want to grab your head.

Aloy herself also became brisker, having received a new arsenal of skills. She still prefers bow and melee combat with a spear, but now there is more verticality: the heroine can “wrap” to distant points thanks to a new gadget. Just like Lara Croft, she can use arrows to attract the elements of the world around her, thus breaking old walls and getting to hard-to-reach belongings.

The combat system has remained roughly the same, but now more attention is paid to weak points: both cars and people have them, and just blindly shooting is far from the best tactic. The arsenal itself has expanded, and several new tools have appeared. But the foundation of the first part has remained unchanged: we also hunt for robotic animals, we also do simple stealth and open the map, climbing onto the head of a long neck.

Most of all, the skill tree has changed. Upgrades were in the first part, but much more primitive. Now the tree is divided into several categories that relate to different ways of playing – aggressive, stealth, by capturing robots, and so on. You can complete the game without additional tasks, but you can open all the upgrades only by doing everything. There are also special attacks that allow Aloy to gain an additional advantage on the battlefield. For example, having accumulated enough energy, you can become completely invisible for a while – very useful.

The influence of other games is undeniable. I have already compared Forbidden West with Tomb Raider, but one cannot help but recall The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, from where both a glider that allows you to descend from any height and an improved climbing system migrated here. No, Aloy never learned to climb any vertical surface, but the world itself is much more flexible now. Using “Focus” allows you to highlight places that you can climb. Most often, there is not a single obstacle that could not be climbed over in the right place. Yes, there is no such freedom to climb wherever you want, but it’s hard to say which is better – when each new obstacle seems like a small puzzle, or when you have to constantly fight with fatigue mechanics and rain. Those who played Breath of the Wild will understand me.

Borrowing from successful rivals is the right tactic, but for the most part, Forbidden West is still oppressing the same line, but doing it better. Melee combat has acquired new techniques and combinations, and long-range combat has acquired additional tactical depth. But at its core, Horizon Forbidden West is a hodgepodge of many familiar open world elements. It doesn’t revolutionize the genre or do almost anything that others haven’t done. It’s just that almost everything she does, she does better than her counterparts.

The only thing we didn’t really talk about was the plot. The story behind the first game was very interesting, and for that reason I highly recommend playing through Zero Dawn and its expansion before taking on Forbidden West. This will help to get to know many of the characters and, most importantly, to understand what is actually happening.

It’s hard for me to somehow evaluate the script work of the sequel. In many ways, it turned out to be less focused and more fragmented: instead of telling one story, the developers are constantly distracted by the inter-clan feuds of the western lands and the minor problems of its inhabitants. There are still enough plot twists, but there are fewer elements of mystery – after all, we already know how the world has come to such a state. But I can speak very positively about Aloy herself, who from the intimidated half-wild girl from the first part turned into a real superstar. Even the most remote tribes know about your exploits in the first part, and, realizing her own importance for the whole world, she is always ready to use her reputation. She does not wait until she is allowed something, but takes everything herself. It’s her unfiltered coolness that makes Aloy one of my favorite video game characters.