Horizon Forbidden West PC Review – Truly Excellent

Horizon Forbidden West Travels to PC

Two years after landing on PS4 and PS5 Horizon Forbidden West has made its way to PC, continuing Sony’s ongoing experiment with bringing their first party content to PC. Outside of bundling the excellent Burning Shores expansion in, this is largely the same game I heavily praised upon release. Consequently, almost all of that original review still holds true, and I’d highly recommend reading both articles. The question here is: is this one of the good Sony ports? Or one of the bad?

First, let’s cover the basics. Horizon Forbidden West envisions a world beyond the inevitable apocalypse. The planet has recovered, and the remaining humans are back to the proverbial Stone Age. Earth is also overrun with machines in the image of animals, who are tasked with protecting earth from, well, humans doing what humans do. Again. Our hero – there has to be one – is Aloy. An outcast from her tribe, Aloy’s origins and connection to technology that eludes others is a major plot line.


The Butt of Internet Jokes

For some reason, Aloy often draws the ire of internet trolls. In reality, she’s an interesting if reluctant hero, and has a fascinating dose of egocentrism thrown in. She struggles to connect despite an obvious desire to fit in. She has a dramatic backstory. She’s ultimately flawed, and flawed characters make for good stories. And she’s not the only one. Varl, Erend, and Seyka all hold attention well, and were interesting enough to make me chase down their stories for a second time. There’s nuance to each situation; Guerrilla’s writing staff crafted a real gem. As I said in my original review: “In a world where subtlety in popular culture writing is distressingly rare, Forbidden West was a treat. There’s a massively diverse cast of characters who interact and grow through earned respect. Perhaps most importantly, the focus is on creating an engrossing world from the interactions that diversity creates.”

One thing Horizon Forbidden West does much better than some other recent RPGs – namely Starfield and Final Fantasy XVI – is sidequests. Many of them feel like anything but side content. Quality is on a similar level, and all of it contributes to Aloy’s overall story. To me there’s nothing more repellent than an open world that’s packed with throwaway time sinks, and Forbidden West does well to make things feel worth your valuable time. If you want to go on a collect-a-thon you certainly can, but traversing the forbidden west and meeting its inhabitants is organic. Forbidden West provided mysteries I desperately wanted the answers to. So for every Tall Neck I ran 5km to, there were equally as many times I ignored those activities in favor of continuing the main tale.


What A Wonderful World

In service of that organic experience, Forbidden West smartly features an explorer mode that turns off most of the floating icons that choke many open worlds. It’s the correct way to play the game. It makes the well crafted world feel dangerous, and makes finding a friendly face exciting. Aloy needs as many of those as she can get, and coming to grips with accepting help is one of the better parts of her main plot. As in many stories, Aloy has to literally save the world. The set up and most beats are good, though I’d criticize the lack of a well defined villain for much of the journey.

World design is a high point in Horizon Forbidden West. Despite knowing what to expect, the variety of landscapes and stunning asset quality  continuously dropped my jaw. Each of the regions feels like a real place, littered with relics of the past and lore to uncover. Elements are placed with care, exactly where you’d expect them to be in reality. Environmental storytelling is extremely well done, often leaving your imagination free to speculate. I took particular note of the old world interior locations this time around, and found myself tantalized by how many stories could be told in Horizon’s world. Mysteries are everywhere, and beg thorough exploration. If rumours about a live service entry to the franchise are true, it could be a truly remarkable experience.


Everyone Likes a Girl With Skills

As a AAA open world title, Forbidden West has all the bells and whistles you might expect. Crafting, gear scores, and skill trees are all here. Engaging with them is necessary, but none of them are particularly compelling or unique on their own. They play exceptionally well together, though. There’s no shortage of unique play styles to try out, each with an associated set of gear and skills. From reliance on stealth archery and traps, to more bombastic hit and run tactics, Horizon is remarkably flexible to player desires. Everything is harmoniously balanced, regardless of the approach you prefer.

One thing worth pointing out is the skill tree, which is actually a tree. Instead of treating skills as a checklist I knew I’d eventually complete, I found myself rushing toward certain skills in certain trees, because I wanted to play a certain way. A vast array of weapon skills have been added to what was available in the first game, and most exciting is the new Valor Surge. It’s essentially a super that builds up over time, and can turn the tide of battle in an instant. A special potion that causes constant health regen was particularly useful in close quarters combat, while a surge that massively increases ranged damage for a few shots was useful against enemies with particularly vulnerable weak points.


Under The Hood

Mechanically the combat is both tactical and well tuned. Enemies demand having due attention paid to their strengths and weaknesses. Each of them is a legitimate threat if approached recklessly. Swapping outfits and load outs, and planning out an approach before executing with precision is super satisfying. That’s really what role playing is all about, and having to approach dangerous territory with care makes the world feel more lived in.

Now, to answer the critical question. Is this a good port? Yup. Really good in fact. My PC is reasonably up to date with a Radeon 6800 XT, and it crushed Forbidden West. Graphical options show changes without leaving the menu, are well laid out, and easy to understand. With most everything cranked up – albeit with FSR and Dynamic Resolution on – I was easily above 60 fps in almost all situations. Frame pacing felt good too. Why can’t all PC ports be this good? If you’re a dev reading this and your PC port is bad, ask Nixxes for help.

And good god, this game is ridiculous looking. Everything is alive and moving, with assets and materials that hold up brilliantly to point blank scrutiny. Nothing is a throw away, or low res because you’re not likely to notice. The art and design teams at Guerrilla are among the best in the business. Show me a better looking open world, I dare you.

Cutscenes in particular look incredible. Aloy and the other characters look outstanding, with attention to detail that’s absolutely top tier. Aloy’s skin looks, frankly, real. Her cheeks are subtly windburned, a result of her months in the wilderness, while the fur around Varl’s collar looks… like fur. It’s a scary level of realism, and the Burning Shores content takes things a giant leap further ahead.


Bugs? Nah.

I’m happy to report that all of the bugs I discussed at the game’s original release have been squashed. I didn’t notice any performance weirdness, or strange animation behaviours, or… really anything of note. I’m sure there’s still some open world jank out there in the Forbidden West, but it’s far from prominent.

This PC release is the definitive version of Horizon Forbidden West. It looks fantastic, runs brilliantly, and tells one of the more compelling action RPG stories I’ve yet played. Aloy and friends are great characters, and the Horizon world is enticing by design. It’s not smashing through genre barriers by any means, but the systems are expertly balanced and exciting to engage with. It stands toe to toe with the best open world games of all time, and Guerrilla’s trajectory suggests their next effort will be even better.

***PC code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Phenomenal visuals and world design
  • Great characters
  • Engaging Stories
  • Plays very, very well

The Bad

  • Some open world collect-a-thon content