Horizon Forbidden West’s new machines are the game’s biggest advancement

Horizon Forbidden West faced a monumental task when it came to new machinery. The wide array of designs – a mix of animals, dinosaurs and entirely made-up creatures – formed the backbone of world-building and was generally recognized as the game’s strongest asset. It never seemed that Guerrilla Games was holding anything back for a sequel either, instead going wild (and wild bull, wild crocodile, and wild eagle) with its range of designs. Forbidden West had to do something special to surpass its predecessor, and in the machine stakes, it exceeds even the greatest of expectations.

We knew the scale of the game was going to be bigger this time around, but making the game bigger is easy. Or at least it’s as easy as anything on the triple-A scene, which means it’s still pretty damn hard. But in the grand scheme, expanding a map, adding more collectibles, even more machine sites, is all about volume. All the money in the world can grow your game almost infinitely, but you can’t buy creativity. Luckily, the new machines aren’t just bigger, they’re so much better.


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The Slitherfang was revealed in December, and I was concerned that Guerrilla had gotten too big too soon. The snake was a huge improvement over the previous creatures, but showing it heavily in marketing seemed to blow surprise, and no one likes a snake that blows too soon. When I met him on one of the first missions, my fears were heightened, but they should have been allayed. Much like the heavy marketing of the elephant (actually called Tremortusks in-game), the reason we got to see the Slitherfang pre-release wasn’t because it was the best new machine, but because the best were chosen.

Horizon Forbidden West Aloy faces a Tideripper

The Dreadwing, for example, has been kept completely secret and isn’t encountered until the middle or end of the game. It’s basically a huge robot bat that swoops down on you and engulfs you in its darkness. There’s also the Tidripper, which is only encountered in side missions and while wandering the shores in the endgame, meaning only the most dedicated explorers will find it. One of the designers clearly saw Lapras from Pokemon and decided “yes, that”, and I have to respect the hustle. This is possibly my favorite machine of the lot, not only for its great design, but also for the way it makes you think. It sprays jets of water at you almost constantly, meaning you need to react quickly and pick your moments rather than trying to smash your way through battles like you can with Bellowbacks and Shell-Walkers, which both return with some improvements here.

The Tideripper’s water jets are part of a new machine tactic that makes the environment itself a danger to you. Elemental effects are now more useful, but machines retaliate twice as hard. The best example of this is the couple Fireclaw and Frostclaw, which is a group of huge bears that surround you with fire or a blizzard of ice respectively.

Horizon Forbidden West is not a perfect game. It’s not even “not perfect” in the sense that no game, no piece of art is ever truly perfect. In my review, I felt its weak story, inability to fix Zero Dawn’s mistakes, and inability to take full advantage of the beautiful world it creates for itself cost it a fifth star, but the plethora of perfect scores didn’t surprise me at all. The machines make it worth exploring in many ways. Yes, there are far too many resources to keep up with when it comes to taking down machines, but I was always looking for one more fight to get my fix.

Horizon Forbidden West Aloy on a machine in Las Vegas

I wandered from quest to quest, always taking the scenic route to kill as many beasts as I could along the way. In the first game, the machines are introduced as enemies, and a central plot point is to determine their origins and clear them of corruption. Here, the machines… are fair. Yes, they attack on sight and the tribes have built their walls to keep the beasts out, but the antagonists are barely connected to the machines. They may use machines as tools, but they are like horses in war. The horses are not the enemy, it is the soldiers who overcome them. I didn’t hold any grudges against the machines, I didn’t hunt them in the name of what was right, for revenge or to make the world a better place, I just wanted someone who could meet my might on the battlefield. The machines, meaner and more menacing than ever, gave me this game.

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