Horizon Forbidden West PS5 PlayStation 5 1
Image: Push Square

History has a way of repeating itself, and just like Horizon Zero Dawn in 2017, the discourse surrounding Horizon Forbidden West has been destroyed by the arrival of an alternative open world game. Twitter is awash with the repetition of an increasingly tedious gag: apparently gamers can’t wait for the third instalment in Guerrilla Games’ post-post-apocalyptic property, because based on past trends, it’ll be flanked by an even more impressive sandbox.

A lot of this chatter is, of course, intended to be taken tongue-in-cheek, but there’s venom to some of the hot takes that’s increasingly rubbing me the wrong way. Aloy’s inaugural outing got unfairly pitted against The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, an entirely different type of adventure game with the only real commonality being an emphasis on bows-and-arrows – and, frankly, the same thing is happening again with Elden Ring.

For anyone who followed the enthusiasts in the aftermath of Horizon Zero Dawn, a recurring sentiment is that the game was undone by the arrival of Nintendo’s seminal Nintendo Switch sandbox – a release with an entirely different emphasis on emergent gameplay encounters, traversal, and puzzle solving. I feel like a lot of Zelda’s strengths were pitted directly against Horizon Zero Dawn’s weaknesses, and a lot of the things Guerrilla did well – like story-telling – got undermined.

Elden Ring PS5 PlayStation 5 1
Image: Push Square

It’s been difficult to ignore this kind of discourse over the past five or so years, but it’s noise that I’ve learned to block out because ultimately I love both games. However, I see the same thing happening again, with some of the mood souring on Horizon Forbidden West already, simply because it’s not Elden Ring. For me, I’m playing both games simultaneously, and I find it so disingenuous – largely because they’re completely contrasting experiences, each with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses.

The world-building has been exquisite in the opening hours of Elden Ring, for example: subtle and understated, told through sheer artistry, as you’d expect from FromSoftware. Horizon Forbidden West takes a different tact – it embeds you in its world with a wide-range of characters, all of whom have contrasting personalities and opinions on the events occurring around them. That’s not to discredit Guerrilla’s art direction, of course – the Forbidden West is stunning – but it’s a different approach to story-telling.

In fact these two titles couldn’t be more different if they tried: I’d argue the comparisons are even worse than the aforementioned Breath of the Wild ones, which were already strained to begin with. Both games have statistics and levels, but Horizon Forbidden West’s combat is more about elements and strategy while Elden Ring leans into observation and overcoming impossible odds. Both are brilliant in their own way, but ultimately different experiences.

Horizon Forbidden West PS5 PlayStation 5 2
Image: Push Square

The same is true of the actual sandboxes – at least, from what I’ve seen so far. Elden Ring feels like an enormous playground, designed to house little linear offshoots that stick more closely to the traditional Dark Souls blueprint. Horizon Forbidden West, on the other hand, is a more traditional open world: a dense and varied collection of biomes, each packed with activities to cross off. While some may be tiring of this format, Guerrilla keeps the quality of all its side-content consistently high.

I know I’m feeding into the narrative a little bit by publishing this article to begin with, but it feels unfair for these two juxtaposed adventures to be pitted against each other so unnecessarily. In my opinion, both are excellent games, and while it’s totally fine if you appreciate one more than the other, there’s really no reason for either to be undermined. Increasingly bizarre to me is that there’s not even any underlying console war rhetoric here: both games can be played on the PS5 and PS4.

I suppose I’ve lived long enough to understand that this is all human nature: video game enthusiasts have always struggled to appreciate one thing without inadvertently – and, if we’re being honest with ourselves, advertently – bringing down another. But you know what: I love Horizon Forbidden West; I love Elden Ring. After a slower than expected holiday, it’s been a great month for PS5 – and there’s still Gran Turismo 7 to come. Not everything has to come at the expense of something else.

Elden Ring PS5 PlayStation 5 2
Image: Push Square

As the old meme so eloquently asks: why not both?

We like both games here at Push Square, so you can check out our Horizon Forbidden West guide and Elden Ring guide respectively through the links. Are you tired of these two titles being unfairly compared? Make the same old tired joke for Twitter clout in the comments section below.