With the release of the fantastic Horizon: Forbidden West DLC, The Burning Shores, I’ve been thinking a lot about Guerilla Games’ third-person action-adventure series. Despite being consistently high-quality experiences that push the boundaries of PlayStation hardware, every addition to the Horizon mythos suffers from a single factor: few people, if any, care about it.
Why is that? Each game has been critically acclaimed, adequately marketed, and well-received by those who buy them. I count myself as a fan of Aloy and her adventures, cultural coding issues aside. The game has massive friggin’ robots, slick combat, and great traversal, and that’s really all I need in any game. The real issue is…
Every game or expansion seems to be timed to compete with one tentpole, industry-smashing game or another.
Let’s go back to the release of the first game, Horizon: Zero Dawn. This game introduced us to Aloy and the post-apocalyptic world she’s hell-bent on saving, as well as the honestly fascinating mystery behind her very existence and the circumstances surrounding the aforementioned massive friggin’ robots. It was released February 28th, 2017, toward the beginning of the year, on the PlayStation 4.
As a game made by Guerilla, a studio that has a solid track record for squeezing every ounce of performance out of PlayStation consoles, Zero Dawn definitely carried that legacy on its shoulders. Gorgeous visuals, a living, breathing world, and tightly interwoven systems made that game hit pretty hard with critics. It looked like it might have been on track to be a slam dunk for Sony.
But then three days later, Nintendo launched a hybrid console that would become a cultural phenomenon alongside a game that is considered perfect, even a masterpiece by most people – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
In the midst of explosive sales and talks of outrageous attachment rates, I’d venture to say that just about everyone forgot Horizon: Zero Dawn even existed. I myself bought that game on release, played it for four hours, and didn’t go back to it until about a year later after I had squeezed every last drop of gameplay out of Breath of the Wild. Horizon was good, but it wasn’t Breath of the Wild good.
When I did manage to go back to Zero Dawn, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had in the few hours I logged before the Switch dominated my free time. It felt floaty, and somehow less polished than the game that ran on what was essentially a portable console. I did reach the end eventually, but it took much longer than it would have if I was fully invested in it. Especially after I tacked on the Frozen Wilds DLC, which added a visually delicious change of scenery and only had to compete with Nioh that same week, so it was never in danger of losing my attention.
Fast forward five years, and now the Horizon sequel, Forbidden West, is preparing for release. The explosive sequel was originally intended to be a PS5 exclusive, but did also hit the PS4 on launch, February 18th, 2022.
Being developed for Sony’s next-generation console meant that Forbidden West was literally a generational leap in terms of presentation, but it backed up its fantastic graphics with equally improved gameplay. New enemies, new ways to get around, and new abilities that made Aloy every bit as fierce as a seasoned warrior should be.
More near-perfect reviews and acclaim directed at Guerilla Games signaled a second chance, another shot at being the top dog of the video game industry for a little while.
And then a week later Elden Ring came out, and everyone forgot Horizon once more.
Literally the biggest, most successful, record-breaking video game, the kind of game that comes around once every ten years or so, quickly erased people’s memory of Aloy’s much-improved second outing. It doesn’t quite seem fair, but can’t release dates be moved? Shifted into more agreeable windows where your game is less likely to be buried in hype for another game? I guess that would signal weakness or a lack of confidence in a product, but that seems to be the only way Horizon will earn its stripes at this point.
That brings us to now, April 2023. The expansion for Forbidden West, The Burning Shores, released on April 19th, and has some competition of its own. It was competing with Minecraft Legends on release, which probably has more support than you might think, but there’s another behemoth on the horizon: Jedi Survivor.
The sequel to Jedi: Fallen Order looks fantastic, and with just over a week in between those releases, I’d bet the majority of gamers are holding on to every penny they have so they can pick up that $70 game on release. It’s too early to tell what the sales are for The Burning Shores, but I would hope that they’re at least decent.
I really, really like Horizon. But I hope Horizon 3, if they ever make it, is released in the quietest, most boring month in video game release history, just so that it has a chance to shine the way it deserves to.
Mike has been playing video games since he was able to hold a controller, having been fascinated by Sonic 2 on his mom’s Sega Genesis. That fascination and passion for the art form has grown exponentially nearly 30 years later, and he doesn’t see that fading away anytime soon.