The Horizon series has a knack for bad timing.
March 15, 2023 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Horizon Forbidden West: A Year Later [Kotaku] “When series debut Horizon Zero Dawn released, Breath of the Wild came out mere days later. Last year, when Horizon Forbidden West came out, Elden Ring was on its heels days after. Now, it seems, Horizon is overshadowing itself. It’s been just over a year since Forbidden West came out and, aside from the recently released Horizon Call of the Mountain for PlayStation VR 2, the franchise is largely sitting idly. Sure, Horizon Forbidden West’s DLC Burning Shores is set to come out in April. But that’ll be more than a year after the game’s release. [...] We wait as we see Horizon Forbidden West’s Burning Shores DLC on the horizon, excuse the pun. Zero Dawn and Forbidden West’s overshadowings, from Breath of the Wild and Elden Ring respectively, cannot be changed. And the franchise has largely thrived in spite of those ill-timed releases, but now, the series needs to get out of its own way to break through the gaming landscape...”
posted by Fizz (34 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would not at all be surprised to see Elden Ring shadow drop/surprise-release their DLC the same week Burning Shores comes out. I know we don't have a confirmed release date yet for Elden Ring's DLC: Shadow of the Erdtree, but still. Guerilla Games seems to be cursed when it comes to releasing their games.

Btw, Horizon Forbidden West is currently on Playstation Plus Extra. It's beautiful and lovely. Highly recommended.
posted by Fizz at 11:57 AM on March 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'd imagine a PC release will be announced in the not too distant future. That'd give it a decent boost.
posted by pipeski at 12:02 PM on March 15, 2023

I'd imagine a PC release will be announced in the not too distant future. That'd give it a decent boost.

Yeah, maybe early May or something.
posted by mhoye at 12:12 PM on March 15, 2023 [4 favorites]

I get to fight robot dinosaurs. I get to blow the plasma cannon off a mecha-Tyrannosaurus with a C-4 slingshot, pick up said cannon, and swiss-cheese the former owner with it.

With full respect and admiration for the heroic effort the narrative team put into making this concept plausible, I still have to question their basic premise: I’m not convinced that an explanation was ever actually necessary.
posted by Ryvar at 12:29 PM on March 15, 2023 [7 favorites]

There's a lot to like about these games, but for some reason I just find the combat so, so hard. I'm just not very good at precision-aiming at a giant thing that's charging toward me, and I always end up leaning heavily on melee, which is definitely not what you're supposed to do. I'm having a much harder time with HFW than I did with Elden Ring, and I think I may be the only person in the world for whom that's true.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:30 PM on March 15, 2023 [3 favorites]

I’ve been playing Call of the Mountain in VR and it’s very, very impressive technically and it looks absolutely gorgeous, but the combat is verging on too hard for me and the climbing gets quite repetitive quite quickly.

That said, I’ve also been re-playing Zero Dawn on the Steam Deck and it’s a deeply lovely thing, runs really well and suits the platform really well. I’ve never gotten round to Forbidden West because of, well, Elden Ring. Maybe I will, one day…
posted by parm at 12:34 PM on March 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I always end up leaning heavily on melee, which is definitely not what you're supposed to do.

I do this myself and I honestly don't care if the game insists that I play more with the bow (I do use the bow a fair bit fwiw) but I am more inclined to use melee/spear b/c it feels so fucking good. And if the game lets me pour skill points into that particular weapon, I feel like thats enough of an excuse to keep on using it. That being said, I feel like the melee/spear works better in HFW.

But I hear you, the game does really want to push you towards ranged combat and stealth.

For me, the first game suffered from poor pacing and keeping some of the best moments of the game behind some really long check-points and much of those felt connected to the story, which was just taking too damn long. I've bounced off of the first game so many times and I finally was like, whatever, I'll watch an explainer and jump into the sequel and Horizon Forbidden West is the game I wanted the first one to truly be. But I'm fine with that. This is a lovely sequel and its beautiful. I'm playing on a PS4 Pro, and it still takes my breath away sometimes. I can only imagine what this looks like on an ultra PC or PS5.
posted by Fizz at 12:45 PM on March 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'm just not very good at precision-aiming at a giant thing that's charging toward me

On PS5 I found enabling the gyro controls helped a lot. They're not enabled by default.

(As long as you're messing with the settings: by default the game actually extends loading times so you can read their stupid tips. There's an option to turn that off too.)

I find the combat difficult (but then, I am playing on Hard) but my main gripe about the game is basically the same as the previous one -- you're expected to switch weapons so often, and going through the menu to do so takes you out of the action and is generally just awkward. It's actually much worse in the sequel because there are several new weapon types and a couple of new elemental damage types.

I would not at all be surprised to see Elden Ring shadow drop/surprise-release their DLC the same week Burning Shores comes out.

Current speculation among Elden Ring nerds is that Armored Core 6 will come out before Shadow of the Erdtree (I believe From indicated this at some point) and AC6 will come out sometime in Fall.
posted by neckro23 at 12:57 PM on March 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

The trick to the first game is stealth melee -> C4 slingshot. IIRC there’s only one spot in the game that spawns two T-Rexes simultaneously, and somewhere on my old PS4 I have a bunch of clips of me taking both down in under 90 seconds total with the slingshot and their own cannons as a sort of self-imposed speedrunning / time challenge thing. If you’ve mastered that, you’ll blow through the rest of the game about as fast as character runspeed + dialogue speaking time permit, and it goes by faster than, say, any recent Assassin’s Creed.

you're expected to switch weapons so often

Oh look! It’s the top entry on my list of Game Design Trends That Must Die (both as a player and a designer). On introducing a new weapon is fine so that I know what it’s for and why that matters, but after that “would you kindly” fuck off and let me use whatever makes me happy.

Thank Christ for crafting ammo in the original.
posted by Ryvar at 1:02 PM on March 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

So the series is “largely sitting idle” aside from the sequel that came out just last year, the standalone VR game, and the DLC that releases next month?
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:12 PM on March 15, 2023 [11 favorites]

Zero Dawn had a power where time would slow down A TON when you aimed while jumping. By the end of the game all my combats basically turned into me strafing around the dinosaurs, jumping like a crazed bunny. It was delightful. AssCreed Odyssey had the same thing and it was so much fun to abuse the same strategy. So did that Fenix thing Ubisoft did, with another power that let you call down lightning on monsters every time you got a headshot.

I’ve been playing Forbidden West and it’s not in there and I miss it. It thoroughly broke the combat in every game I saw it in and I am kind of not surprised to see it gone but I miss it. There is still a time-slow mode but it’s nowhere near as extreme as I recall ZD’s being, even with all the upgrades. It’s also missing the super-cool-looking “run at dinosaur, slide under it, time slows down as you gut its belly weak spot” move from ZD that I rarely *used* but always felt super cool pulling off.

I never use it’s awkward name in practice, it’s just Young Adult Novel because the whole thing really feels like a YA sci-fi series. “What’re you playing?” asks my husband. “Young Adult Novel”, I say. It’s a mid list series with a lot of installments and really gorgeous cover art.

And yeah the game really wants you to hang back and snipe stuff and use the Focus to highlight giant luminous weak spots on the enemies and drop traps in their paths and whatnot. FW’s lack of the Doom Bunny strategy has kept me doing that throughout the whole game, and it is fun, but also slows down combat. If you like being a stealthy snipey thief in other games this focus is great, if you hate it then this game’s really not for you.

The main flaw is that it’s so damn stingy with the good toys. Every weapon needs to be acquired, and then upgraded 3-4 times. You can easily go half the game with Aloy saying “oh I should use an elemental damage class I’ve never owned on this machine” and it’s really annoying, the combat really wants you to have a weapon wheel full of all kinds of options but in practice I just lean on a few things that it gave me early in the game.
posted by egypturnash at 1:24 PM on March 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I was one of the few people who chose to play Forbidden West instead of Elden Ring, and I loved it.

As for combat being difficult and the constant switching between weapons - one thing I appreciated about it is that you can approach combat in a variety of different but still viable ways. They don't actually make you use all those weapons and skills, though you do have to kind of figure out for yourself what you would prefer to do instead.

I hated switching between five different weapons, so most of the time I was only switching between two or three. I picked a few skills to really lean into, as well, and just never used a lot of the other ones even after I unlocked them. I don't think I ever used a slingshot but once or twice because I just disliked them that much.

I do think it would be very hard to get away from bows entirely though, especially when it comes to aerial enemies. (Luckily I liked the bows.)

I have some quibbles with it, including the combat, but overall I thought it was a big improvement from Zero Dawn.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:44 PM on March 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I played and loved HZD, but it took me maybe a year or more from when I first bought it to actually get to it. HFW I also paused on last spring (roughly, after crossing the mountains?) and haven't gotten back to it. Not entirely sure why, even. I did prioritize playing Elden Ring, but I also have completely and utterly burned out on that game many months ago so that's not the issue any more. Someday soon I'll pick up HFW again...

I’ve been playing Forbidden West and it’s not in there and I miss it.

The other kinda broken thing I was still very sad to see gone is the lure call.
posted by advil at 1:46 PM on March 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

The other kinda broken thing I was still very sad to see gone is the lure call.

Yes, so annoying! I think I enjoyed luring and silent-striking machines in HZD more than anything else.

I started HFW, and it's great, but it makes me so anxious trying to learn all the weapons and elementals, I sort of don't enjoy it.
posted by schoolgirl report at 1:52 PM on March 15, 2023

I won't fight Elden Ring's last two bosses, they just suck so much. From has a habit of making their core mechanic of dodge-roll and attack basically Not Work for many bosses unless you have frame-accurate timings memorized, so you have to start digging into massive buffs and specific limited-quantity items which to me is Not The Point of the game. A lot of the difficulty of some of the fights is even just environmental bullshit or even more absurd, the guy despawns if you get too far away. Or my least favourite, an asshole with an aerial attack that cancels the lock-on so you have no idea where the fuck it is and you lose three seconds spinning around like a goon while it spams AoEs on you.

I'm a little mad about it. If you put in game mechanics you want the player to get used to, then start making those mechanics Not Effective, you're now introducing a different game, one the player maybe isn't interested in playing so much.


I played and beat Horizon Zero Dawn and the Frozen Wastes on nightmare mode (to platinum the game), and it was really fucking hard, and also a real rush, because that's a game that said "learn how to do this thing" and then leaned into that thing and never pulled the rug out from under you, it just started scaling up how much damage you had to do and maybe needing to unlock a better weapon or get a new skill which made sense as a thing you'd learn. And if you just wanted to beat the shit out of robots while dodge-rolling, you could do that, because the stick would do a lot of damage when upgraded enough.

Forbidden West, I think, fucks with that a little too much, trying to get you to mix it up, and throwing lots of upgrade ammo types with scarce resources, which is a crystalline sign of bad spreadsheet work on the designer's part. This shit is Not Of Interest to me. I want to either shoot robots or hit robots with a stick, and dodge-roll out of the way, that is my groove. Give me that thing. I wish HFW had just kept all the weapons and gear and skill tree from the original game and, so what if you have to learn it all over again, that's cool. The new skill tree is just butts complicated and annoying. And the stick hardly does any damage! WTF

So anyway I definitely rate HZD over HFW in the core gameplay loop area.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:00 PM on March 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

Just, note to game designers, don't make things so damn complicated. Make a perfect gameplay loop. Make it feel good to do the core physical activity that your game needs. Allow the player to feel competent. Then don't fuck with that. Maybe increase the precision required in timing or direction, gradually.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:06 PM on March 15, 2023 [3 favorites]

I had a good time in a way with HFW but it felt so scatterbrained. There are a dozen different KINDS of quests to track and none of them seemed to give me anything but shitty bows or materials I had hundreds of already. So many gameplay systems that were only half thought out and integrated, so you could ignore them if you wanted. It's like they had a brainstorming session and only said "yes" and then everyone went off and started building, and then at the end all the pieces came together like a janky Voltron. So many things I saw the potential of but that they seemed to have just given up on 3/4 of the way.

God it was beautiful though!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:25 PM on March 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

One absolutely hilarious thing about HFW is that once you unlock the flying, you may not notice but they nerfed the flying speed of the thing to barely faster than riding a robot because if it was any faster you'd be across the entire map in two minutes.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:28 PM on March 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

There are a dozen different KINDS of quests to track

This is part of what's bugging me about HFW. Overall I like the game, but every five minutes it seems like it's saying to me "Oh, here's yet another set of MacGuffins we'd like you to go all over hell and gone to collect".

I might do some of it at the end of the game once I save the world (again), but unless I naturally run across one in one of the more story-driven quests, I'm not gonna bother.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:17 PM on March 15, 2023

My combat strategy in Zero Dawn was mostly finding somewhere inaccessible to the things I'm fighting, where I could duck behind stuff, and then gradually chip away at the enemy with various arrows. I have no skill at games that require timing or dexterity.
posted by pipeski at 3:45 PM on March 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

Really I think FW is one of those 7/10 games there was a post about recently. It looks gorgeous, but it is not great. It's okay. There's some nice bits, you get to beat up on a few billionaires (nowhere near enough and I really hope Horizon 3: Dealing With The New Boss Introduced In The Last Story Missions Of Horizon 2 just has the billionaires hanging out and getting the shit beaten out of them by everyone else in the game), and it's inherited a pretty solid "slowly disassemble giant robosaurs" core game, but there's so much other stuff that feels there to fill out a checkbox on a "what do games with this big a budget have to have" checklist.

The worst offender, to me, is the "stash". Stuff you pick up past your inventory maximum goes into the stash; near every crafting station in the world is a magic space-warping chest that lets you access it.

When you do, there is a brief load while the game swaps in the code and art for the stash. Maybe it's not there on a PS5, I dunno. Then there's a big grid of items with some controls for moving stuff between your inventory and the stash... and a note at the bottom of the screen telling you which button to automatically top off your inventory with one press-and-hold.

Then you hit the exit button, and wait a moment for the game to reload the main game.

And after a few rounds of this, I'm left wondering why the stash management screen exists at all. Why I couldn't just hold triangle to replenish my inventory and get a cute little abstracted whoosh of items coming out of it, and get on with the part of the game I and the designers are both obviously a lot more into. Was it supposed to be a lot more mechanically interesting at some point? Was it generally regarded as a bunch of bullshit an exec wanted, and given the minimum effort to work, and a quick "do it automatically" button added on because everyone hated it? Why is it even there?

I mean, Machine Strike is (as far as I can tell) pretty much entirely tangential to the game, I finished the main story missions without ever doing more than the "hello did you know we have a little strategy game lurking inside this sprawling open world game" mission, but at least there's clearly some thought put into it; there's mechanical and narrative reasons for it to be there - it's just nice to see that even in this crazy post-apocalyptic huntergatherpunk world there's enough slack in everyone's lives to chill out and make little figurines and have rules for a thoughtful, slow strategy game, even if I never bother playing it - and it's not constantly popping up in the main game flow and requiring you to... press the "skip this part" button, and wait for a couple of loads.

While I am stonedly rambling about this thing I'm still playing on and off, I will also note that I really hate the horse-riding AI. I've been spoilt by the horses in AssCreed Odyssey and Ghost of Tsushima, I just want to set a travel destination, take out the horse, tell it to ride, and then take my hands off the controls while the horse navigates. Maybe spin the camera around and enjoy the views. Maybe use the game as a magic painting in the background while I do something else for a bit. Not with FW. These guys just constantly stumble off the path and get in trouble and they're no fun to use. Maybe it's better if I bother unlocking more takeovers at the Cradles? The experience with the first two the game gives you is just so bad I never bothered diving into non-story Cradles to be able to ride better beasties. Shit, it's the evening and I have a cold, I think I am going to go order a pizza and find this out. Maybe load up Horizon 1 and see if it was this bad in that, too.
posted by egypturnash at 4:29 PM on March 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

The problem with HFW is that Guerrilla seemed to take absolutely nothing from other games in the intervening 5 years, and instead decided that the way forward was to make the sequel a LOT longer, overly complicate the inventory and upgrade systems, and perhaps weirdly of all, try to create a circa-2007 BioWare title with exhausting companion dialogue. Also for whatever reason they decided they didn’t like the combat system they created for the first and artificially cranked the difficulty up with new mechanics that make even low-level machine encounters an absolute slog.
posted by rhymedirective at 4:53 PM on March 15, 2023

I actually really enjoyed HFW, but I have to say that they really phoned it in with the final mission. Here’s a bunch of squids. It’s really easy to kill them now. And then here’s a big squid suit. Sure, why not.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:54 PM on March 15, 2023

I loved the first game, then found my entire style of play had been nerfed by the changes in forbidden west. I mean, sure, I'd spend a couple minutes figuring out what bottleneck to lead the giant robot down, then spend longer plastering things with tripwires, find somewhere high up, and start pinging away with sniper arrows. In FW, they just said "eh, no more than three (or four) traps/tripwires at a time, and by the way, sniper arrows? We're going to make those incredibly rare, and make it take ages to increase the quiver capacity.

I grumbled a bit, but damn, I loved the game. I figured out how to play the way they were thinking I should, then found a way to play the way I wanted to, and really enjoyed it. With as much as they crammed into it (and they did, it's a lot), it was nice that nearly every side-quest that pops up ended up providing just that little bit more of the world's backstory.

When I saw that the DLC is PS5 only, my heart kind of sank just a bit. I only just managed to get a PS4 a couple years ago, and I can't justify dropping that kind of money just now, or, well, any time for quite a while.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:34 PM on March 15, 2023

you're expected to switch weapons so often

Oh look! It’s the top entry on my list of Game Design Trends That Must Die (both as a player and a designer). On introducing a new weapon is fine so that I know what it’s for and why that matters, but after that “would you kindly” fuck off and let me use whatever makes me happy.

Yup. Zelda BOTW is the worst offender of this. Having an inventory cluttered with all sorts of stuff that breaks because they want to force you to switch things up. Just let me use what I want ffs.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:18 AM on March 16, 2023

I'm playing hzd but, the ✨sparkle✨just isn't there for me yet. I'm not 20 hrs in yet, though, so I've got high hopes
posted by rebent at 5:44 AM on March 16, 2023

Yeah I don't understand this PS5-only thing. I still can't buy a PS5 at retail. Why would they do this? I have a release-vintage PS4 and the game is astonishingly fucking beautiful on it, you're telling me it's not enough? What are you doing?
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:41 AM on March 16, 2023

Maybe it's not there on a PS5

It's not, sorry. (More generally, I'm really sorry, but I can't imagine playing this game on a ps4. From a dev perspective as someone who spends an inordinate amount of time on backwards compatibility, I have a lot of sympathy for anyone who chooses not to do that. I would guess that they did a cold market calculation and the PS4 sales numbers vs dev effort ratio is just not viable any more...)
posted by advil at 7:46 AM on March 16, 2023

I believe they said that the reason the DLC is not available on PS5/next-gen b/c they didn't want to break the game's performance on last-gen. It sucks but I'll be honest, the base game on the PS4 Pro runs phenomenally well and I'd rather have that work and work well, rather than them add DLC and break the game entirely b/c now it has too many things that it cannot handle.
posted by Fizz at 8:22 AM on March 16, 2023

It’s the top entry on my list of Game Design Trends That Must Die (both as a player and a designer). On introducing a new weapon is fine so that I know what it’s for and why that matters, but after that “would you kindly” fuck off and let me use whatever makes me happy.

I am morbidly curious to know how, as a designer, you can justify including multiple weapons in a single-player game if there's one good one (which there will be, this kind of balancing is effectively impossible) and there's no reason to switch weapons. I know Monster Hunter does it by expecting you to play multiplayer, so you simply can't make up for your weapon's weaknesses.
posted by Merus at 4:34 PM on March 16, 2023

Merus: the most common axes of singleplayer FPS are: effective range, DPS, time on target, AOE, and utility.

Range - shotgun vs sniper is a world of difference.
DPS - front-loaded damage (alpha strike) vs continuous (sniper v SMG). This frequently has some complicating factors in armor/resistance modulation of base hit damage and franchise skill-emphasis.
Time on Target - how easy is it for a high DPS continuous fire weapon to be consistently applied?
AoE - multi-target lethality vs single point target. Trash mobs vs bosses.
Utility - control and priming weapons (eg corrosive cloud that turns all mid-tier NPCs into one-shot kills for front-loaded damage weapons)

Generally speaking I’m in favor of four active weapon slots: close, far, AoE, other. Basically: Shotgun, Sniper, Rocket Launcher, and user’s choice / whatever weapon we’re forcing them to train on for the next section of the level. I feel like I need to call out that this is specific to singleplayer FPS and not multiplayer where two - or even one + utility - should generally be the expectation. Goes double if you have any notion of character classes or squad roles.
posted by Ryvar at 12:35 PM on March 17, 2023

In adjacent news, Sylens passed away.
posted by Gorgik at 1:13 PM on March 17, 2023

Well, that is bad timing indeed. Sad that he won't be able to appear in the third game, I quite liked his performance as Sylens.

I'm coming quite late to the thread (talk about bad timing), but I would like to share a couple of stories. First, Horizon: Zero Dawn was one of the games that got me to buy a PS4 - I had been a PC gamer all of my life. And Horizon: Forbidden West was the game that spurred me to look for a PS5 at the time when it was impossible to find one through normal channels (and I was able to find one without having to resort to scalpers).

I had a friend who was the type of person I would never have expected to spend time in front of a TV with a gamepad: she was an anarchist, vegan woman engaged in animal rights causes, who was finishing her gender studies degree at the time, and was the type of person who is not afraid to stand her ground against the riot police, or to chain herself to machines to stop coal mining. So I found out that her boyfriend had been more of a gamer as a child, and got her and her boyfriend a cheap PS4 slim and a few games. And she was immediately charmed by H:ZD. She got very far into it - when she stopped playing, she was a quest away from the final battle. I think Aloy is most of the reason she loved playing the game, and proof that strong women as main characters and role models are a good thing.

(I myself have the platinum in both H:ZD and H:FW, and even played a lot of Monster Hunter World with an Aloy skin).
posted by LaVidaEsUnCarnaval at 3:13 AM on March 18, 2023

Spent a long weekend mostly playing HFW, found myself agreeing with everything seanmpuckett says above about the changes in weapon balance.

The Horizon series does a much better job of respecting my time than most of its open world peers, but an equally important consideration that’s insufficiently valued in current design trends is getting out of the player’s way. And HFW is definitely not prioritizing that in their core combat loop.
posted by Ryvar at 5:45 AM on March 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

« Older Why every checkout counter in America sells those...   |   Further Debate Required Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments