Horizon Forbidden West is the follow-up to 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, a sprawling action-adventure game where machine animals have inhabited a post-apocalyptic planet. Humans have reverted to becoming a hunter-gatherer species and the contrast between that aspect and the advanced-tech creatures were striking.

The story continues to follow Aloy as she ventures into a new territory called the Forbidden West. Aloy recently comes across a plague that kills off anything that it infects, and she believes that her journey out west will help her find the source of it.

What’s apparent about Horizon Forbidden West is that it features much more environmental variety than its predecessor. Whereas the first game was mostly filled with forests, grasslands, and snowy mountains, the new Forbidden West frontier also features deserts, swamps, and beaches. Aloy also has new exploration tools, including the Shieldwing that she can use to safely glide from high altitudes and her snorkel for breathing in underwater areas.

All of these different biomes make it a delight to explore the Forbidden West for treasure, bandit camps, and secret areas. While the world looks beautiful, it’s nothing without the people living in it. Horizon Zero Dawn had amazing side quests—they had thorough subplots and the NPCs provided a lot of worldbuilding.

Horizon Forbidden West is no different here as it continues to offer these same kinds of deep and thoughtful side quests. A memorable one for me involved Aloy helping out with her friend’s love triangle between another man and woman. To make matters more complicated, the woman has been missing for years. It’s incredibly easy to get distracted with all of the different activities, but none of them ever feel wasted as they all enhance the overall gameplay by providing experience points and skill points to put towards learning new abilities.