Horizon: Forbidden West first impressions
So I let the people out in internetland decide for me what game I was going to play next between Horizon: Forbidden West, Death Stranding, and South Park: The Fractured, but whole and the outcome was what I really should have expected in that Horizon was overwhelmingly the choice by the masses. I should have seen that coming and in the future I will make an effort to ensure that one of the games isn't a lot more popular and well-known than the others. Now that I think about it the voting was kind of rigged because of this since Horizon is significantly more well-known and sold much better than the other two, probably combined.
So even though this game has been in my library for close to 6 months and on my hard drive for a month or so, a few days ago was the very first time that I ever fired it up. Thus far the experience has been relatively good and very reminiscent of how I felt about the first release in the series, Zero Dawn.
First off I want to congratulate Guerrilla Games and Sony for somehow managing to have the game boot up in less than half an hour. I'm exaggerating here, I don't know how long the game took to boot up but compared to other AAA games of this magnitude, it actually booted up very rapidly even on a PS4. I don't understand how any of this works but it was a delightful to have it move so quickly. This is something I was not expecting and was a nice surprise. I think that a lot of games out there really kick us in the nuts right from the start by giving us a bunch of unskippable, basically advertisements for all the crews involved in making the games and this just irritates the hell out of me. I DGAF about your company and neither does anyone else. If I like the game I am going to remember your company name, stop spamming me with a 30 second graphic about it or at least allow me to skip it.
Then when you get into the game Horizon surprised me a second time by not having some sort of absurd-length movie that you have to watch before you can play. Some people don't mind this sort of thing but it irritates me an many other gamers. If I wanted to watch a movie, I would do that.
Instead we get a reasonable-length video that introduces us to a few major new characters and a catchup about what happened at the conclusion of the first game. We are shown that Aloy is a bit older and that things have not resolved themselves on earth and in many ways have gotten worse. This was good because it has been long enough since I completed part one that I had forgotten a bunch of this.
we then get a tutorial area that is considerably shorter than the first game and much shorter than other titles, which I thought was actually just the perfect length. I think most players were already at least somewhat familiar with how the game works so they didn't feel the need to hold your hand for an hour and instead we are only in the "tutorial area" for about 10 minutes but screentips (which you can deactivate entirely any time you want) pop up every now and then, even hours into the game. This is very good programming IMO.
If you know me, you know I am a fussy gamer and little things like this that are done incorrectly really piss me off a lot more than they probably should.
Now, onto the things that have changed that I am still trying to wrap my head around.
The skill tree, which is where you spend skill points earned from quests or leveling up, is absolutely fucking massive. Thus far I have found it quite confusing and I haven't used any of the active bonuses to my advantage just yet. There are some pretty complicated combos in there such as melee 2x followed by a jump action, followed by slowing down time and firing an arrow while in the air. That hurts my head just trying to think about actually pulling that off and I don't see myself ever using it.
For me, I have just been aiming for passive bonuses such as added defense, increased stamina and damage.... you know, the usual stuff. It has been working out for me.
The game is actually quite easy to breeze through on the normal setting. I'm in areas that are 5-8 levels above my own level and not experiencing a great deal of trouble and have only died once. I think this has a lot to do with the massive amount of healing items that you have access to early on in the game. I can only presume that this will change later as enemies start to hurt you a bit more with each hit. In the beginning it is quite easy to survive any fight simply by using the plethora of healing herbs that you find all over the damn place.
Now if you know me and am familiar with you I roll, you know I can't possibly showcase a game without finding something to gripe about and so far, I only have two minor gripes and one of them there is nothing that they could have done to prevent.
First off, there are a TON of cutscenes in this game, to the point of overuse. This might appeal to some people who love getting engrossed in a story but I do NOT like that. I appreciated how in the first game that a lot of the additional information was optional and accessed via your scanner, in Forbidden West most of this stuff just happens and interrupts gameplay. I admit that I am reticent to talk to many of the optional people that I encounter because I know it is most likely going to trigger a cutscene that I am forced to watch just to get an optional quest that I likely won't end up doing anyway. Thankfully, in some of these scenes the dialogue is skippable line by line since most of us can read subtitles faster than the voice actors are going to say the lines. However, in a lot of them the only option is to skip the scene entirely, or endure the very long and drawn out sequences. It would have been better in my mind if all of the scenes were advance-able line by line at your own pace.
The second gripe is something the Guerilla couldn't have prevented and this is the loading times. I really believe that this game is pushing the limits of the PS4 and therefore there is a lot of waiting whenever you want to do almost anything. Annoyingly, this happens even when just accessing your inventory, map, and quest menus. I wonder if this was put in there intentionally to try to encourage people to buy a PS5.
the enemy of all gamers!
For those of you that have played on a PS5-I do not own one - I would be curious to know if there is a lag/load time when accessing the menus.
So far the game is as great as I expected it to be and I am really enjoying it. This is a great start and I can already tell that even though I promised to play at least 10 hours, that I will likely end up playing far more than that.