Underwater gameplay is only a portion of Forbidden West, and most of the action plays out on land. This game is truly open world, with side quests, battles and interactive moments scattered around an expansive map. Aloy ends up at various villages and fortresses, where she’ll often find hunters, cooks, designers and weapons dealers to trade with, and a workbench to upgrade her equipment. Different outfits grant Aloy specific perks, while weapons and clothes can be infused with ability upgrades. Crafting and loadout customization are significant aspects of Forbidden Westand alongside the skill tree, these features put a generous amount of power in the player’s hands, making each win taste even sweeter.
Two new tools stand out in Forbidden West for their fun factor alone: the Shieldwing and the Pullcaster. The Shieldwing is technically a glider, but in action it looks more like an illuminated umbrella, which is less hardcore but still perfectly effective. Whatever you call it, Aloy can use the Shieldwing to cover large gaps and leap from mountaintops, giving her more room to roam. The Pullcaster is a grappling hook that Aloy uses to open vents and snap to out-of-reach locations, and it’s especially helpful in the middle of intense fights against multiple machines. Both of these tools are reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wildand they add a delicious layer of mobility and environmental puzzle-solving to Aloy’s journey.
Any area that looks climbable generally is, allowing Aloy to scale mountainsides and abandoned buildings with relative ease. Pressing R3 on the DualSense highlights areas that Aloy can grab onto in yellow, and there are usually multiple ways to reach the same destination.
This led to at least one instance where I got stuck – while hunting for valuables, I scaled an old tower and crouched through a suspiciously small crack in its façade. Inside, I found a crate and cracked it open, and then I tried to leave, only to find an impossible escape. I jumped around for a few minutes before restarting from my last save, which thankfully wasn’t long before. Use those campfires, people.
My biggest glitch occurred in the middle of a big battle against a mammoth-like Tremortusk and its captors. Mid-combat, I activated my Valor Surge, a special ability tied to my skill tree choices, and instead of turning on camouflage, I entered a weird kind of developer view, where Aloy was invisible and I was able to fly around the battlefield, untethered. I eventually fixed this by selecting a new weapon, which brought Aloy back into view.
Given the sheer size and density of Forbidden West, these issues feel incredibly small, and they haven’t spoiled my positive perception of the game. I mean, I haven’t even talked about the Tallnecks yet – just like in Zero Dawn, I’m lowkey obsessed with these lanky loafs, and I will always detour to climb all over them. And override them, of course. The view from the top of that satellite head is worth it, every time.
There are plenty of new cyber-beasts in Forbidden West, including Tremortusks, an invisible bat called a Dreadwing, and massive cobras called Slitherfangs, and they’re all intimidating in their own special ways. Scanning enemies with the Focus reveals their weaknesses and strengths, including elemental damage possibilities and whether their weapons are detachable. My advice is to take fights slow and strategize, just like in Zero Dawn – use environmental traps whenever possible, take the time to investigate the machines before attacking, hide in the grass and Silent Strike when no one’s looking. And when that all flies out the window, Pullcast your way to safety.
Forbidden West is a triumph in many ways. Its world feels alive and packed with secrets, and the story advances swiftly as Aloy makes her way to the Pacific coast. Combat is frenzied, with an arsenal of elemental weapons at Aloy’s disposal and multiple ways to attack any situation. The environments range from flooded, neon-lit facilities to expansive deserts and thick jungles, complete with dynamic weather and time progression. The machines are as stunning as they are terrifying. And throughout it all, Aloy’s voice actor, Ashly Burch, tells an emotional, complex story of survival, collaboration and evolution, demonstrating incredible versatility along the way.
This is a game worth diving into, no matter how afraid of the water you are.
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