Horizon Forbidden West proved that Guerrilla Games’ Horizon franchise is a lucrative one capable of lasting many years, provided it continues to fine-tune its gameplay. One of the areas that still need a little polishing is its melee combat. Although it has improved a lot since Horizon Zero Dawn, there are still some improvements that could be made. This could be done by borrowing elements from both The Frozen Wilds and Horizon Forbidden West.


The Frozen Wilds introduced spear modifications. However, this feature was dropped in Horizon Forbidden West in favor of a more robust skill tree where melee combos could be unlocked. It shouldn’t be the case that players have to choose one or the other, as both ideas could live harmoniously side by side.

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The Spear Coils of the Frozen Wilds

In Horizon Zero Dawn, the first weapon players are given is a spear. Although rudimentary, it’s a pretty efficient weapon when it comes to beating up both human enemies and small machines. Unlike other weapons, there aren’t various types of spears to collect throughout the game, and the options to upgrade it are quite limited. When players complete the quest “In Her Mother’s Footsteps,” they unlock a boost to their spear’s damage, but that’s about it as far as spear upgrades go.

Things change with The Frozen Wilds, which is a DLC for Zero Dawn that was released at the end of 2017. It has players traveling up north to the Banuk tribe whose region is brutally icy. There, the machines are fiercer, and players have to be on their toes if they wish to survive. In addition to adding new weapons and machines, the DLC also presents new missions for players to complete, with most of them focused on HEPHAESTUS, who is another one of GAIA’s subordinate systems.

After completing the errand “A Secret Shared,” players unlock the ability to modify their spear. Though there is only one modification slot, it makes a world of difference. With it, players can make their spear deal more damage, which makes it a worthwhile weapon to use when dealing with foes. The change is minimal, but in a game like Horizon Zero Dawn where melee combat is one of the most critiqued features, any improvements are incredibly welcome. Instead of innovating on the idea with the sequel, Guerrilla Games decided to scrap it entirely. Gamers can use their spear for powerful moves, but things work a little differently in Horizon Forbidden West.

The Spear Combos of Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West continues Aloy’s journey to rescue humankind. She ventures to the Forbidden West to investigate the Blight, which is a strange, red growth that threatens to destroy ecosystems and cause mass starvation. Her adventures in the Forbidden West are her greatest yet as she faces off against new machines and the Far Zeniths from outer space who have their own nefarious agenda.

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It appears that Guerrilla Games paid attention to the criticisms Horizon Zero Dawn received because melee combat received an impressive overhaul in Horizon Forbidden West. This was achieved by redesigning the skill tree. For players looking to perfect their melee skills, they would be best served by focusing their skill points on the Warrior category which unlocks powerful combos that Aloy can use to get the upper hand on her enemies during close combat. This includes moves like Aerial Slash where Aloy damages an enemy before leaping into the air.

The improved skill tree also introduced Valor Surges, which are powerful and flashy special moves that can be used once Aloy has built up enough Valor. The Warrior category has its own nifty Valor Surges which include Critical Boost, a move that increases Aloy’s chances of landing critical hits, and Melee Might, which lets Aloy deal more damage with her melee moves. The overhauled skilled tree along with the combos and the Valor Surges certainly gave players more reason to use their spears. However, the loss of the spear mods was deeply felt. A third Horizon game could combine the best of its predecessors by finding a way to blend elements from Horizon Forbidden West and The Frozen Wilds.

How Horizon 3 Can Get Things Right

According to Guerrilla Games, it has a trilogy planned for Horizon. Hence, gamers can expect at least one more mainline game. The next game is a chance for developers to finally find the sweet spot where the use and upgrades of the spear feel perfect, and the weapon isn’t overshadowed by everything else early on in the game. This can be done by taking the spear upgrading system of The Frozen Wilds and combining it with Horizon Forbidden West‘s skill tree.

Using a skill tree to unlock combos is a good idea, as Horizon Forbidden West illustrated. This is a mechanic that should be carried over into the next game. However, some elements are better left to be upgraded via spear modification. This would allow for a more diverse range of modifications. For example, adding a shock coil to Aloy’s spear could shock her enemies, or adding an ice coil could allow her to freeze them. It would also allow for handling modifications, letting Aloy strike with greater precision, or speed modifications that let her swing faster. Picking and choosing which coils to use, especially if there are multiple slots, would let gamers craft the perfect spear that is right for their playing style.

Although Horizon Forbidden West was released earlier this year, it seems Guerrilla Games has not taken a moment to rest. In addition to an upcoming VR game, rumors are swirling that a Horizon Zero Dawn remaster and multiplayer game may be on the way. This may be good news for series fans, as it means the franchise is being fully supported by its studio and Sony.

Horizon Forbidden West is available now on PS4 and PS5.

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