Horizon Forbidden West is an Immersive, Mesmerizing Gaming Experience | Video Games

It will also take her across one of the most impressively varied game landscapes ever. From snowy mountaintops to seaside villages to lush forests, “Forbidden West” is a visual marvel. The world creation here is stunning. In one of my favorite chapters, Aloy arrives at a snow-covered village in the mountains, and I was struck, as I often was, by the sense of life existing outside of my character’s POV. This is rare, even in modern games, as most stories center the protagonist’s journey in a manner that makes the rest of the world feel like afterthoughts. In this snowy village, people are going about their lives. Aloy is just passing through. And the game is filled with that sense of dimensionality, giving Aloy’s story a backdrop that feels dense and weighty in ways that games rarely do.

Of course, “Forbidden West” is an action game too, and the combat can feel almost overwhelming at first. Like a lot of role-playing games, customization is deeply ingrained into the game style, from the weapons you choose to take into combat to the skills you upgrade via a massive, six-part skill tree. Every one of these choices changes encounters with the enemies of this world, but most of them will require mastery of a bow. Archery is still the major focus of combat in this game, whether it’s an ordinary arrow or one that includes an elemental aspect like acid or fire. However, you’ll find other weapons like spikes that explode on contact—I’m a big fan of the spikes—and a dozen or so traps or tripwires that can be placed around a battlefield before initiating combat. Everyone will play out encounters differently, adding to the sense of the game’s authorship, but some of the big battles require a bit of everything. You’ll be placing traps, firing tripwires, throwing spikes, running, dodging, etc. It can get a little intense in the early chapters as the game throws all of these combat variables at you quickly, but don’t panic. It becomes surprisingly organic and easy to use, especially as you pick your favorites to upgrade. There’s also deep customization with armor/outfits and even face paint. Everything in this game is designed to make you the author of the experience.

Well, almost everything. The crafting aspect of “Forbidden West” can be a bit much. You basically have to make everything in this game, which means you’ll be picking branches along every hour of your journey to make your arrows, and constantly pinging something called your Focus to try and find medicinal plants to keep you alive. It’s a never-ending cycle of hunting for supplies and using those supplies that can feel almost distracting from what this game does so well. It’s a minor complaint but it’s hard to appreciate the big picture when you’re constantly looking for a plant to heal.

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