'Horizon: Forbidden West' Is a Great Way to Smooth Your Brain

As of this writing, I’m 40 hours into Forbidden West. I’ve cleared about half the map and have no idea how much longer it will take me to see the rest of the story, let alone every corner of the map. It’s an exhausting, often repetitive, experience just barely held up by a good story, incredible visuals, and competent game design that lifts the best bits from other video games made in the past 10 years.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/n7nqjm/horizon-forbidden-west-is-a-great-way-to-smooth-your-brain

This sounds exactly like my kind of game. Because of the type of asbergers i have i dont always have the mental energy to engage with a story at more than surface level. So to have a giant open world i can explore, with a alot of side stuff i can clear, is what i want in a game. That theres a well told story going through it as a backbone is a +.

Sounds like im going to love this one as much as i did the first, which im currently finishing up a NG+ run in. :slight_smile:

About once every three years, I get the Assassin’s Creed itch and just plow through the latest few games in the series all in a row. Last time, I completed Unity, Rogue, and Syndicate all within a month and change. I’m actually due for another such Assassin’s Creed odyssey right now but I’m not sure if I’ll follow through given Ubisoft’s terrible state.

AC is definitely a brain-turn-off game for me. It’s an entropy reduction simulator. I start with a map full of icons and I methodically remove each one until I’m left with a nice pristine world devoid of content. The other thing making me hesitant is that the most recent AC games seem to have a metric fuckton MORE icons/content than the preceding ones and Ubisoft seems to be trying to forever game-ify them by adding weekly challenges. That’s not what I’m looking for. I want to erase the icons. I don’t want them to come back! I’ve had the first Horizon in the backlog for years. Maybe that’s a good alternative.

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While I understand the true sentiment behind this article’s title, I think we can put this particular phrasing in the ground, can’t we?


I think you’ll find Horizon: Zero Dawn to be an excellent alternative.

And while i fully understand why you dont want to support ubisoft atm, i will say that i loved both AC Origins and Odyssey. Origins has a daily you can do to get a random weapon, and sometime theres a monthly event to fight an avatar of an egyptian god, other than that it doesnt have anything that repopulates the map.

Odyssey on the other hand has daily/weekly quests to earn an ingame currency that allows you to buy from a random assortment of items from the ingame cash shop that renews every week. + notice boards with procedurally generated small quests that can be safely ignored.

The same thing goes for both AC Valhalla and Immortals Fenyx Rising when i cames to the Daily/weekly quests. And yes Valhalla atleast has some weekly challenges to get some extra stuff, but they dont surface it at all. To even see them you need to go to Ubisoft Connect and into Challenges. Its not something that shows up anywhere in the game other than there.

If you want some games that scratch a similar itch that arent from Ubisoft id suggest Ghost of Tsushima, inFAMOUS Second Son, the Marvels Spider-man games, Just Cause 3 and 4, Prototype 1 and 2, Mad Max, and Saints Row 2, 3, and 4, and Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Yeah, guess I’ll pass on this. I thought the first game was barely interesting enough to keep me going since the Ubisoft formula does little for me and the narrative lacked a great villain, love interest, or sexy rival for Aloy to deal with.

I know what happened now and that’s all I care about. I don’t care what happens next.

I really like the combat though, shame.

Pretty high praise for the writing in here. If the story’s still good and the combat’s still awesome, I’m in. Open world bloat doesn’t bother me because I just do as much of it as I enjoy and then keep moving.

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This isn’t to fault Matt in any real way but something I keep coming back to is how dissatisfying game criticism is when it focuses on player experience, specifically value judgements on the mechanics. I can’t put my finger on it but it always seems so irrelevant to the actual experience of the game ironically.

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I think it can be useful to hear “This is One Of Those, I did not have an appetite for One Of Those, this did not change my mind” but that’s why I try to read pretty widely

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Yeah, I am fairly confident this is going to be my one of those for the next little while. Not even the confirmation that most of the question marks mean nothing will stop me clearing that map while I catch up on all my podcasts.

Can you explain what you mean? I don’t get it.

From the surprisingly well-written Eurogamer review (not an EG fan usually), it sounds like they decided to double-down on the the thing they got the most heat for with Zero Dawn:

As a woman with African roots, it was also startling to see Zulu face paint in the game being treated as a cosmetic, something you can get at a settlement for shards, as if it were fun Halloween makeup - completely removed from its cultural significance

Here’s a link to the full write-up: Horizon Forbidden West review - a gorgeous sequel that continues to borrow more than it adds • Eurogamer.net

Guerilla appears to be turning the big dial taht says “Racism” on it and constantly looking back at the audience for approval like a contestant on the price is right.


That Eurogamer review was good! It’s been strange over the years since the first game to see how people try and justify this series’ appropriation issues. There seems to be widespread sentiment that because these cultural signifiers are decontextualized in the game, they are somehow not problematic. For me that’s precisely why it feels so icky! It’s taking the art and culture of real people and keeping only the part that is pretty to look at. It’s like an exhibit at the British museum (already icky) but without even the plaques telling you who made these cultural objects and why.

It’s been disheartening to read the reviews that came out today and see how few reviewers even mention these issues (or even worse, seemingly hand wave them by explaining that there are plot reasons for them).


While scrolling through a reddit review thread of the game, I noticed Gamers had already picked up on the Eurogamer review and the result is sadly what one would expect. It seems to be pretty hard for some people to understand that you can’t justify everything with the lore. Someone from our world and time (crucially!) created this fictional world and its people. This is one of the topics where something like the Death of the Author approach would be fatal for us being able to make sense of the fiction. The worst thing fictional worlds like Horizon can do imo, is to pretend that they aren’t exactly that, fictional and therefore have nothing to say about themselves. Crucify me Tolkien nerds!

I get it though, lots of people want a bag of chips without thinking about that same bag and I can relate to this more often than not tbh. In general, I’ve become much less interested in analyzing fiction from this perspective, as long as it’s not explicitly historical fiction, meaning its stated intention isn’t to portray the real world directly. That’s because I believe that most art reflects much more than it shapes, so the energy is better spent changing that which would inevitably also change the reflection (not for that purpose of course, but it’s a good outcome anyways). For historical fiction, I still believe in a direct educational responsibility existing, if the creators like it or not (which is why something like Horizon is barely fazing me at this point, despite how thoughtlessly this part of it is implemented, while I still get bent out of shape over games like Assassin’s Creed or Ghost of Tsushima).