With the overwhelming success of their predecessor, Horizon Forbidden West was anticipated by many. Everyone of critical acclaim was evident upon its release, firmly cementing itself as a must-play PlayStation exclusive because of luscious environments, an immersive story, and stellar gameplay. Though it hit shelves inside a less than opportune time, finding a place in the cisco kid of FromSoftware's Elden Ring, Guerrilla's newest title reaffirmed the studio's prowess at handling the open-world genre, with simply a few blemishes on its otherwise solid resume.
Horizon Forbidden West is significantly more ambitious than 2022's Horizon Zero Dawn, boasting a much larger map and settlements that litter the landscape. Yet with more communities and tribes comes more characters that require adequate screen time. In the returning, loyal Varl, towards the standoffish, militant Kotallo, Aloy's world-saving quest isn't undertaken alone this time, as her associates create a place in the game's wider narrative. However, the game's main human threat to her cause, Regalla, doesn't leave a considerable impact on the storyline. Together with her fantastic character design and intriguing character arc, it's noticeable just how underutilized she's throughout.
A Not So Tough Decision
Regalla's devote the Horizon Forbidden West tale is really as the leader of the number of rebels that once belonged towards the Hekkaro-led Tenakth tribe, who believe the Chief to be a traitor for wanting to forge peace between your Tenakth and Carja tribes. Her introduction at the embassy was memorable, and though Aloy bests certainly one of her champions, Grudda, Regalla's presence promises more tensions later within the story. Toward the end of the game's campaign, her army encroaches around the Grove along with a final battle happens between herself and Aloy. While it is challenging, it is nothing close to the enjoyment that can be had when fighting Helis in the latter stages of Horizon Zero Dawn.
Regalla appears sporadically in Horizon Forbidden West, as Aloy's fight with the machines and knowledge of the Zenith threat take center stage through the majority of the game's 30-hour story. Regalla is presented being an engaging character, but the fleeting nature of her presence within the story helps make the ultimate decision feel inconsequential. Choosing to spare her or to end her lifetime should have been a tough decision for players, but knowing that there are many more threatening forces at play makes the (underwhelming) final confrontation between Aloy and herself feel like a playground skirmish in contrast. It's a waste of a personality which had such huge potential, and her fate finding yourself in both your hands of Aloy should have left far more of a lasting impression following the credits roll.
A bit of Sylens' Puzzle
Outside of Sylens, who's more of an intellectual threat, Regalla may be the only real human antagonist of the game, and after learning of Sylens' intentions, her devote the storyline ensures she feels a lot more like a significant inconvenience than the usual menacing villain. Horizon Forbidden West is really a game that has enemies in all directions, from the often overwhelming machines on the floor towards the futuristic Far Zeniths in the sky, yet Regalla's forthright personality and intimidating character model put her in prime position to become the most memorable antagonist of the game.
The reality makes her much less frightening, as Sylens is the orchestrator of much of Regalla's deeds. He plans to use the rebels to accept battle to the Zeniths by making an uneasy alliance with her with the Sons of Prometheus, and in return, Regalla would have the opportunity to overthrow Hekkaro and claim the title of Tenakth Chief for herself. However, Sylens knew that they would fall to the might of the Zeniths not long after she sent the Tenakth tribe to battle for his cause. For the reason that synopsis alone, Regalla ranges from seasoned war veteran to oblivious lapdog, despite the fact that Sylens' intellect would best most people in the Horizon universe, it takes from her presence and potential greatly.
Regalla Must have Been The Villain On The Ground
The story lacks a grounded, plausible antagonist that makes their mark throughout, as the majority of the machines and the Zeniths would be the real criminals. Horizon Forbidden West's fantastic story has new narrative threads emerging constantly, however the constant shifting from villain focus, whether it is Regalla in early stages, the Far Zeniths in the game's other half, or the machines that pose a threat in all directions means there's not one single entity that feels like the true antagonist. Sylens may be the closest thing, but doesn't feature prominently within the story until far later. If Regalla was more present, she could, and maybe should, have been the constant nemesis to Aloy the game lacks sometimes.
An antagonist that shares so much in common with the protagonist is likely to stick with players the longest, as it's always shocking to see a human participate in villainous deeds, and putting a stop to them carries more emotional weight than shutting down a threatening AI. Unlike Helis in Horizon Zero Dawn, who's universally feared by Sun-King Avad's Carja tribe and also the separatist Eclipse cult, Regalla holds an identical title but feels decidedly weaker in execution, due to a lack of screen time. More exposure might have surely resulted in more effective character development, because the underpinnings of a truly great adversary exist. By underutilizing her throughout, the sport doesn't make use of the things that make Regalla so interesting to start with.
Horizon Forbidden West succeeds due to far more than its story and characters. The varied setting, engaging combat, and litany of involved side quests make for nearly all moments that will stay with players for many years, and with a lot content packed right into a single release, it's difficult to find faults using the end product. However, the way it introduces Regalla to the fold is promising, but by making her have a back seat with the main story and having her be a well-behaved piece inside a far bigger puzzle, Horizon Forbidden West's otherwise fantastic story has a rare blemish.
Horizon Forbidden West is available now on PS4, and PS5.