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"Horizon, Desperate West" Review: A Comprehensive Improvement Series Sequel

In 2017, Sony First-Party Studio Guerilla and Horizon Zero Dawn conquered almost all players around the world with this unique concept.

Order and chaos, technology and primitive, the “Horizon” series brings us not only the unique charm under the primitive impulse of hunting monsters, but also the world view with huge contrast in the game makes people want to immediately buy the game to explore why humans return to the barbaric era, while the beasts retain extremely high technology.

The cool red-haired female hunter holds various not-so-advanced bows and arrows, defeating steel giants several times her size through superb hunting skills. This reverse theme of “Trisolarans being beaten by primitive humans” is quite easy to hit XP.

Despite being a new IP without any emotional bonus, “Zero Dawn” has become the most successful First-Party work of the PS4 era, and its sales have also reached the tens of millions after two years of release.

After a 5-year hiatus, Guerrilla Games has released the second installment of the series – “Horizon, Desperate West”. As of April last year, “Desperate West” has sold 8.40 million copies, and the entire “Horizon” series has sold 32.70 million sets.

Just last week on the 21st, “Desperate West” ended its PS platform exclusivity and was officially unlocked on the Steam platform. According to the best-selling list on the Steam platform, the game has entered the top ten and ranks third among paid games, second only to “Dragon’s Creed 2” and “Jedi Stealth 2”.

At the same time, the domestic version of “Horizon: Desperate West” was officially released in the Chinese mainland market. Invited by Sony China, we received the domestic version CD of “Desperate West” and were fortunate enough to experience this PS5 escort masterpiece.

In Generation 2, Eloy’s story continues. After defeating Hades and saving Meridian City, she immediately sets out to find a way to save the earth. In an ancient relic, leads lead to a more mysterious and wild Western Forbidden Zone…

Unlike the Eastern civilization that had already taken shape in the first generation, the people in the West were still in the primitive civilization of slash-and-burn farming. Perhaps to highlight their mystery and barbarism, the people we met in the West had more exaggerated tattoos on their faces, and the totem elements in the settlements were more prominent.

Compared to the mountains and forests in the east, the climate in the west is more humid, with large swamps and waters. In the promotion, Eloy also has a lot of underwater scenes.

In fact, as one of the strongest visual performances of this generation, Decima Engine’s performance in “Desperate West” is still commendable, especially in the water area emphasized in the second generation. Whether it is the circular ripples around swimming or the particle effects such as bubbles when diving into the water, they all bring a very realistic experience. You can always trust Guerrilla Games when you can use any screenshot as a wallpaper. Moreover, while ensuring high-quality visual output, the optimization of this game is also quite good. The longest time I played it continuously was about 10 hours, and the fan sound of PS5 was still very small, and there was no obvious heating.

[The archery in the PS5 version of “Desperate West” is so cool!]

Before we officially start talking, I want to say something off-topic.

In addition to the better graphics that allow people to immerse themselves in the world built by next-generation technology, the powerful solid-state drive brings faster reading speed and allows for the transmission of images at any time. What impressed me the most about “Desperate West” is the all-round support for the Duel Sense controller.

Simply put, the feedback is too real and satisfying.

You must have heard that the Self-Adaptation trigger of the Duel Sense controller is very suitable for playing various shooting games. Coincidentally, “Horizon” is such a series that focuses on shooting experience. Even in the “primitive society” after technological destruction, most of the time we only have bows and arrows and crossbows driven by twisting force in our hands. “Desperate West” still uses the controller to simulate the shooting feel of different types of bows, crossbows, and slingshots.

For example, the longbow requires the highest arm strength from the archer. The resistance of the trigger button is the most obvious when pulling the bow, and the bow must be fully drawn to shoot arrows. The short bow has a faster attack speed and can shoot without being fully drawn. Its trigger button resistance is very small, and there is a slight rebound every time it is pressed, which is easy to make people addicted and unable to stop pressing. Mechanically driven crossbow weapons will give a “click” rebound feedback every time they are fully charged.

By providing different precise vibrations through tactile feedback, I can even distinguish the tactile sensations of different weapons without opening a menu specifically to check, as if they were really held in my hand.

Of course, the resistance encountered every time the bow and string are drawn does not dominate the experience, which can make me feel that I am pulling something, but it will not make my fingers feel tired after a long time of shooting. Its balance control is very good, bringing a quite immersive gaming experience. During the game, I can feel that the handle in my hand is no longer a medium that feeds back my operation to the game character, but more like a bridge connecting me and the world of “Desperate West”.

I even suspect that as the First-Party studio, Rangers must have known about the various hardware information and functions of the Duel Sense controller in advance, so as to make the first generation a “archery game”.

In short, if you can play the PS5 version, I strongly recommend you to experience the next-generation strongest controller that has been hyped up for a long time. The game experience upgrade it brings in “Desperate West” is just as enjoyable as upgrading from addressing only the symptoms but not the root cause of the issue to vigorously scratching with old man music.

[Advances in Open World Exploration]

Why are people nowadays less interested in “open world games”? In fact, it can be understood in this way: after opening a can of yellow peaches, the first piece is the flesh of the yellow peaches, and in the end, it is still the flesh of the yellow peaches. As for the remaining industrial sugar water, I think not many people will savor it carefully, right?

The same goes for open-world games. You must have seen the phrase “plenty to eat” in the reviews of such games, and you must have noticed the implied meaning of this high emotional intelligence compliment – it’s not very tasty and not very nutritious. Even with loose branches of gameplay such as fishing, hunting, and mini-games piling up game time, canned games cannot conceal the fact that the actual experience of players is actually very monotonous. Instead, it is easy to see “there are still large pieces of yellow peaches left in the can” and give up after about 10 hours.

In today’s open-world games, the map of “Desperate West” cannot be considered large, but the experience it brings me is still good, more like a mixed fruit can.

The “Horizon” series has a very unique core pleasure point – hunting mechanical monsters with the most primitive weapons. Each type of mechanical monster is not a complete individual. They are equipped with various parts. By attacking the parts, we can strip them off and make them lose some functions. We can obtain corresponding precious resources and also knock down their cheating software weapons for our own use. This hunting gameplay, which is somewhat similar to “Monster Hunter”, is very interesting.

The stacking of materials in “The Desperate West” also revolves around “the types of mechanical beasts that can hunt” and “the way of hunting”.

First of all, there are many types of mechanical beasts in this work, which not only include the old enemies such as charging beasts, shell beasts, and long-necked beasts in the previous work, but also many new mechanical beasts. The mechanical beasts in the previous work are only 20 + kinds, among which there are also guardians/red-eyed guardians, flame wind-backed beasts/frozen wind-backed beasts, and the mechanical beasts in the “West of Despair” are really 46 kinds, and the mechanical beasts that change colors will be classified as different species under the same category.

In terms of the design and performance of mechanical beasts, each type of mechanical beast in the second generation still balances the biological and mechanical parts very well. It has exaggerated muscle lines, but various metal parts make up the flesh and blood. There are also various liquid conduits on its body that look like blood vessels, flashing with electronic light such as red, blue, green, and yellow, which makes me, a mechanical enthusiast, quite satisfied.

Different types of mechanical beasts have very unique specialized organs. Like common cave-digging beasts and small rodents in reality, they usually use their developed front-facing camera for reconnaissance. After discovering enemies, they will also launch attacks from underground.

In addition to the cover monster in the previous work, the Lightning Jaw based on the Tyrannosaurus rex, this work also adds more mechanical beasts based on dinosaurs, such as the Velociraptor and the Sunwing, which give people the illusion of traveling back to Jurassic Park.

Through the equipped “Focus”, we can also scan the destructible parts of each mechanical beast and highlight these parts. Compared to the previous game, which could only be highlighted for a period of time and often needed to be scanned and marked every once in a while, the time limit for highlighting in “Desperate West” has been removed, which also makes the hunting process smoother.

The destruction of parts in “Desperate West” and the ecology of monsters have further exploitable elements.

For example, the steel-backed beast based on a wild boar can definitely be regarded as the newbie killer in this game. To make an analogy, it is similar to the “Akina Mountain Pig God” in the neighboring “Monster Hunter”. Although it has few attack methods and only knows how to charge, it excels in excellent guidance ability and high damage. The game also provides many coping methods. We can attack its two fangs, and after breaking through its fangs, its charging power will be greatly reduced. We can also aim at the fuel tank behind it. Attacking the fuel tank with corresponding attributes can cause fuel leakage, not only making it unable to charge, but also causing its engine to overload and cause a big explosion.

In addition, the new home of this work has added a wide-jawed beast based on the hippopotamus. Its teeth are a key material, but like the hippopotamus in reality, the wide-jawed beast mostly keeps its mouth closed, making it difficult to attack its teeth. Moreover, directly killing it will definitely not lose its teeth. Of course, we can try to attack and provoke it. Some of its attacks will show its teeth like the hippopotamus, making it easy to break through its teeth to obtain material.

The prototypes of each type of mechanical beast are easily distinguishable, and these designs constitute a complete ecosystem composed of machines in the West. My experience in this work is more like playing Eloy as a biologist, studying various mechanical monsters through my “Focus” and solving ecological puzzles.

Of course, the types of enemies have increased and become stronger. The protagonist, Eloy, is also becoming stronger. She has more means to reach the sky and earth, and can control hooks to grab some props/as her own displacement means. She also has a gliding shield wing, which can move faster on mountainous terrain with more obvious ups and downs.

The more RPG-like equipment and skill system also bring a more promising Eloy, giving the game a completely different gaming experience in the early, middle, and late stages.

Of course, as an open-world game, there will definitely be no shortage of small games such as Beast Chess and Robotic Beast Racing

[Increasingly mature RPG system driver]

In “Desperate West”, Eloy can evolve from a rural auntie who can only shoot arrows barehanded to a “Hawkeye” carrying various high-tech hunting equipment.

The second generation retains the equipment types of the first generation, including long bows, short bows, slingshots, crossbows, ray bows and other long-range weapons. This allows us to shoot various arrows in various ways during the game, retains the green → blue → purple quality distinction of equipment, and adds a growth mechanism for each equipment. By consuming materials, we can strengthen our weapons and armor. Strengthening not only brings numerical improvements, but also unlocks key skills or more powerful arrow types. We can also embed coils with different attribute bonuses on the equipment to enhance its attributes.

Some equipment also has effects similar to suits. Wearing the corresponding set of equipment can further enhance skills.

Compared to the first generation skill tree, which only had the Stealth specialization, the Archery specialization of the Brave, and the Forager (various miscellaneous), the genre of “Desperate West” is more diverse, and it is not just dominated by archery.

There are a total of 5 skill trees in the second generation, which are melee, trap, ranged, stealth, survival, and override-related. The literal meaning should be understandable. For example, the trap-based skills can enhance the upper limit of traps carried by Eloy, the speed of making/placing traps, and unlock various hidden functions of traps. By using this skill, we can completely avoid archery and become a hunter who waits for rabbits.

For example, although the second generation still cannot upgrade or replace melee equipment, the melee skill tree still makes up for the lack of melee gameplay in the previous game to some extent. Unlocking skills can unlock different melee combos. The combos are somewhat similar to the unparalleled C skill system. Through alternating light and heavy attacks and jumping attacks, combat skills such as armor piercing and sweeping can be used.

There are also stealth specialization of the assassin flow, enhanced super control monster black guest flow, it can be said that in addition to survival-related skills are essential, other skills need to be selected according to their own gameplay tendencies in the early stage, richer skill mechanisms also make the skill points of this work visibly scarce, relying solely on upgrading is not enough, but also through various Side Mission, hunting tasks, work tasks, contract tasks to earn skill points.

By the way, the second generation also added a new mechanism – Courage Skill. By attacking and killing prey, you can accumulate courage slots, consume courage value, and release courage skills similar to ultimate skills. For example, the long-range Courage Skill can strengthen your long-range output and damage the prey’s parts for a short time. The stealth Courage Skill can cover yourself with optical camouflage, and each skill tree has two Courage Skill.

Combining different courage skills can bring richer tactical choices when facing different mechanical beasts.

[Review Summary]

Build a set of your own build, then hunt powerful mechanical beasts, obtain resources, replace better equipment to upgrade your skills, and then hunt more powerful mechanical beasts. The difficulty transition arrangement is also reasonable, and you will not encounter the situation that Karazhan only deserves to fight Karazhan after graduation. “Desperate West” uses the common positive feedback loop in this RPG set, which makes me somewhat addicted to the “primitive man” life of fighting against various mechanical beasts.

However, the standing still dialogue is too awkward, and there are too few types of skills, weapons, and mechanical beasts. These shortcomings that were criticized by players in the previous work have been significantly improved in “Desperate West”.

It can be said that the progress of “Desperate West” in “Zero Dawn” is all-round, and the game plot is not complicated. The plot of rebuilding a new world on the wasteland is unfolding, and there is no special understanding difficulty for current players. If you haven’t played the previous work, I believe that you can quickly get started with a little background knowledge, and even the experience of playing the second generation will be better.

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