Not Quite Like Riding A Bike

A year after Horizon Forbidden West came out, the game’s finally gotten its DLC. A new chunk of story and adventures, called Burning Shores, was released this week. Owing to general business and the responsibilities of being an adult (with boring things like a job) I haven’t really had the chance to dive into it too much, only really picking it up last night for a couple hours before succumbing to other adult responsibilities (sleep).

Now, I played the absolute crap out of Forbidden West when it came out. I left no stone unturned, did every side quest, got the trophies, did the things. Then I left it alone for about a year. I’d finished the game, done most everything, and was happy to let it go.

Returning to it is fun. The game is absolutely gorgeous, something perhaps accentuated by my current diet of PS2 Final Fantasy games interspersed with Destiny. But like returning to any game you haven’t played in a minute, there’s that having to relearn how to play a game.

A lot of games are designed to onboard you. There are systems in place to teach you how to play the game, maybe by introducing systems over time, timed out so you usually have time to grok one aspect of gameplay before the next. Skill trees mean you unlock new abilities over time, learning new combos and ways to use your arsenal as you play.

Revisiting a game where you’ve already done everything means that everything is already unlocked and the game assumes you know how to play — because you did, once upon a time. There’s no curated onboarding anymore; if you wanna learn those combos you’ve gotta check the skill screen and start memorizing.

This is of no fault of the game; Forbidden West did an excellent job of introducing systems and skills such that by the end of the game I felt like a total badass, able to mix elemental weakness with deft maneuvering and all that. Revisiting it, I’m getting sprint, jump, and crouch confused.

The disconnect is that I know I’m good at the game, but I’m trying to remember how to be. It’s like revisiting any skill I haven’t used in a minute, be it 3D modeling, metalsmithing, or Excel. And like those skills, it’s a matter of being patient with myself and being willing to learn again. Then I’ll be back to killing robot dinosaurs like nothing all over again.

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