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Horizon Forbidden West: Release date, confirmed information and rumours

Horizon Forbidden West is one of the most anticipated titles of 2021. We’ve gathered all the confirmed information, speculation and rumours in one convenient place – so get ready for the hype.

Horizon Forbidden West is a direct sequel to 2017’s acclaimed PlayStation 4 hit Horizon Zero Dawn. At the time of release it was perceived as a bit of a risk – being a brand new third-person adventure IP from a developer with little experience outside the first-person shooter genre.

Developer Guerrilla Games demonstrated that this fear was misplaced, creating a video game that in many ways helped to define its generation. The gorgeous post-apocalyptic world, characterised by nature reclaiming the world from man, was a major draw – capturing the imagination of gamers across the world. I can still remember the first time I came across one of those giant mechanical giraffe creatures: breathtaking.

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Screenshot: Horizon Forbidden West / Guerrilla Games

The game’s world gave the developers the perfect opportunity to craft a narrative about the dangerous ambitions of humanity, as well as the uneasy relationship between technology and nature. Horizon Forbidden West promises to continue the story of the original game’s main character Aloy – in particular, her quest to illuminate the mysterious history of her world.

The combination of returning to the wonderfully realised world of Horizon Zero Dawn, as well as getting to experience the next chapter in Aloy’s story, has made Horizon Forbidden West one of the most anticipated games of 2021. In this article we are going to break down everything we know about the game so far, including our own take on some of the unconfirmed rumours that have been lighting up the internet.

The story and world of Horizon Forbidden West

Because Horizon Forbidden West is a direct sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn there are few things we can surmise about the upcoming game’s narrative. The first thing that has been confirmed is that the game will be a continuation of Aloy’s story.

In the first instalment (spoilers ahead) of the series Aloy found out that she is a clone of Dr. Sobeck, the brilliant scientist that is largely responsible for saving what is left of humanity. Aloy ends up honouring the work of Dr. Sobeck by interfering with the plans of a giant artificial intelligence, referred to as HADES, which for one reason or another decided that humanity must be extinguished.

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Image: Horizon Forbidden West / Guerrilla Games

The game finished on a touching note, with Aloy paying respect to her long since deceased clone mother. However, while Aloy isn’t made aware of it, we are privy to the fact that HADES has not actually been destroyed. This could be a bit of a red herring, or it could be a hint that HADES will reprise its role as the series’ main antagonist. For the record, our money is on HADES rising again.

In terms of official information, Guerrilla Games have announced that Horizon Forbidden West takes place half a year after the events of the original. Aloy has been tasked with investigating a mysterious plague, which appears to be spreading from the west, that kills all it infects. During her quest for answers she will discover awe-inspiring locations that include “lush valleys, dry deserts, snowy mountains, tropical beaches and ruined cities”.

During this adventure Aloy will face down an evil that is responsible, not only for the plague, but for the continuing destruction of the world at the large. It seems possible that HADES could be at the centre of this mystery, but it is in no way confirmed. Nonetheless, it will be up to Aloy, and by extension the player, to get to the bottom of this dangerous situation.

Gameplay developments

The world of Horizon Forbidden West will be even larger than the already impressive map of the original game. This area, which will be made up of locations from California, Utah and Nevada will be fully discoverable; meaning that exploration will once again be an important part of the game.

Considering the trailers and gameplay reveals that we have seen so far, it appears that underwater travel will be featured rather heavily in Horizon Forbidden West. My personal experience with underwater games hasn’t been fantastic, so let’s hope the developers can get the mechanics of these sections right. Awkward swimming controls means frustrating drowning deaths – something I am keen to avoid.

The core gameplay mechanics of exploring, climbing, hunting robot-animals and combat will likely remain the same, with only minor tweaks being implemented to improve player immersion and experience.

New creatures

It has been reported that there will be many new types of creatures, some of which we have already seen in promotional material, to interact with in the world of Horizon Forbidden West. How you will actually be able to interact with each creature remains up for debate – although there are few options that we can all but confirm are off the table. For example, it seems highly unlikely, which I will note is highly disappointing, that the ‘Snappershell’ can be ridden as a mount.

Other creatures that have been confirmed include the ‘Bristleback’, ‘Sunwing’, ‘Tremortusk’, ‘Burrower’ and ‘Clawstrider’.

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Image: ‘Snappershell’ from Horizon Forbidden West / Guerrilla Games
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Image: ‘Clawstrider’ from Horizon Forbidden West / Guerrilla Games
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Image: ‘Tremortusk’ from Horizon Forbidden West / Guerrilla Games

Returning characters

So far there are a number of characters from the original game that will reappear in Horizon Forbidden West in some shape or form. The wandering man of science and mysticism, Sylens, will almost certainly play an important role once again. The extent of his relationship with HADES remains somewhat murky, and if I were a betting man I’d guess we will soon learn more about it.

Fan favourites Erend and Talanah Khane Padish will also return, helping to feed into the nostalgia so many of us have for the original game.

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Image: Horizon Forbidden West / Guerrilla Games

The music of Horizon Forbidden West

Music in video games is overlooked far too often in regards to how much it contributes to the overall success of a title. The team of composers that worked on Horizon Zero Dawn did a fantastic job of translating the inherent danger, and beauty, of the game’s world into musical accompaniment.

That original team of Joris de Man, Niels van de Leest, and composition duo The Flight all return. However, they are joined for Horizon Forbidden West by Oleksa Lozowchuk, who is best known for his work on the Dead Rising series.

Sony recently announced, through a post on their PlayStation blog, that fans can experience a taste of the upcoming game’s score through a free online EP.

Release date

Currently Horizon Forbidden West is scheduled to be released in 2021. Anything more specific than that is hearsay, and unfortunately, it’s possible that the game will be pushed back into 2022. Due to complications associated with the Covid-19 pandemic many games haven’t hit their release date – and Sony has a track record of delaying games until they are ready.

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Image: Horizon Forbidden West / Guerrilla Games

Console information for Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West is set to be a PlayStation exclusive, although what that actually means is open to some debate. What we know for certain is that the game will release on PS4 and PS5 at the same time. The only difference between the two versions will be performance related, and people that buy the PS4 version will have access to a free PS5 upgrade that they will be able to redeem at any time.

Guerrilla Games have announced that the PS5 version will feature a Performance mode that will enable players to experience the game at 60 fps. The other available mode will prioritise displaying the game in 4k, with a 30 fps rate likely.

There is a strong suspicion though that Horizon Forbidden West will eventually find its way onto PC, in much the same way that the original installment of the series has. Porting their biggest hits onto PC, well after they release on PlayStation consoles, has become a key part of Sony’s first-party exclusives strategy; allowing them to maximise their potential market while still reaping the benefit of a timed exclusive. Considering their past actions it would be surprising if Horizon Forbidden West isn’t treated the same way.

This page will be updated with any new Horizon Forbidden West information as it becomes available – so feel free to check back in with us at a later date!