Horizon Forbidden West is one of the most anticipated titles in the world right now. 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.
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.
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.
A world that feels alive
Chainscrape is one of the major hubs Aloy will visit in the early game. It is an Oseram outpost settlement located on the border, offering a variety of resources and opportunities for adventure. A point of note is that the previous background textures in Horizon Zero Dawn have now been transformed into actual game objects that people in the game use. Which brings us to the next aspect of the game – the environmental storytelling that is ever present in Horizon Forbidden West.
“When you walk through the Forbidden West, everything should feel like it belongs there. The Living World team at Guerrilla works on aspects of the game that make the world feel authentic and alive: the tribes, the settlements, and the people within them. There’s an intention behind everything we place within the world.” Guerrilla’s Lead Living World Designer, Espen Sogn, says.
The writers have to balance engagement with narrative in order to create an interactive environment that players can explore freely without becoming overwhelmed with new information. It is a delicate balance, one that involves transcribing a pre-established narrative into the very world of the game. The little details matter, especially in a game that relies so heavily on visual storytelling.
Each tribe, each encounter, begins as a bunch of ideas. A series of base concepts, which are then transformed into beautiful and unique settlements that are woven intricately into the game’s world. It feels natural, it feels believable, but most importantly – it feels real.
Adding to the realism is the crowd system that dictates the actions and movements of the non-combat NPCs. It includes basic rules like reactions and pathing, but also includes an attitude system, that allows both the writers and the developers to build unique personalities. The way the tribes handle a simple task, for example, such as transporting water, is different, allowing players to identify them at a glance.
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.
While Horizon Forbidden West was made for both the PS4 and the PS5, PS5 players will experience some additional highlights via the DualSense wireless controller, which features heavily in the game’s mechanics. From the scraping of the ground beneath you when you interact with objects, to the increased adaptive trigger sensation as you pull, the extra tactile dimension will take your gameplay immersion to a whole new level.
With the game’s free climbing system, players have free reign to explore areas that would not have been reachable in Horizon Zero Dawn, adding to the game’s already impressive visual and narrative storytelling – players can even climb rocky areas without using tribal handholds. This, along with the new high vault traversal mechanic, vastly increases players’ ability to explore.
Also revealed are two new tools at Aloy’s disposal – the Pullcaster and the Shieldwing. The Pullcaster is a mechanical wrist-mounted device that can function as either a grappling hook or a winch, depending on the situation, while the Shieldwing functions like a hang glider, allowing for a swift and safe landing from a particularly high climb.
Players will also be able to upgrade their tools and outfits via the new workbench, which also unlocks new perks, mod slots and skills. It offers players a huge degree of customization, resistances and new abilities, and promises players a very fun game of trial and error to find the gear that best suits their playstyles. Not only that, the skill tree has also undergone a complete overhaul. Now with additional tracks and more options for players to choose from, some skills in the skill tree will also synergise with outfit-bound skills.
Aloy’s kit is a blend of melee and ranged options, requiring players to switch between the two in order to make the most out of her. Her Resonator Blast skills charges up her spear with melee attacks, before unleashing a burst ranged attack in the form of a massive explosion. Spicy!
Then there is the Valour Surge system, featuring 12 Valours that represent and strengthen a specific approach to the game. They can be unlocked and upgraded with skill points via the skill tree – the higher the level, the more powerful the attack, though there will also be an increase in the charge time. That’s equivalent exchange for you!
Another thing to note is that enemy factions will now be able to mount machines. This will require players to keep an eye on their enemies and surroundings, and be prepared to deal with mounted combat should the situation require it. This is especially important given the additional challenge of group combat, because the battlefield will get a lot more chaotic.
Long time fans will also be pleased to know that the Hunter Bow, Sharpshot Bow, and Blast Sling will make a return in Horizon Forbidden West, along with some new weapons like the Spike Thrower, which is a high damage weapon that makes it easier to hit large targets when timed right. All weapons will come with different perks, ammo types, and weapon coil slots – allowing players a variety of upgrade and customisation options.
— Guerrilla (@Guerrilla) June 7, 2021
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’.
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.
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.
Horizon Forbidden West release date
Currently Horizon Forbidden West is scheduled to be released in 2021. Anything more specific than that is hearsay, but unfortunately, a recent rumour looks to all but confirm that the game will actually be released in 2022.
Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, who has a strong track record of knowing such things before they reach the public, reporting that “a person familiar with the matter” had told him that the game would be delayed until the first quarter of 2022.
Of course, until official word from Sony themselves, a Horizon Forbidden West release date remains nothing more than rumours.
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 60fps. The other available mode will prioritise displaying the game in 4k, with a 30fps rate likely.
It's confirmed! Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition is coming to PC 🏹
We're excited that more players will be able to meet Aloy and explore the world of Horizon Zero Dawn this summer! https://t.co/Q1BknmCsQT
— Guerrilla (@Guerrilla) March 10, 2020
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 instalment 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.
PlayStation Blog post shows off a stunning amount of detail
While a lot has been made about Horizon Forbidden West being released on PS4, and how that might affect the overall look of the game, a new post on the PlayStation Blog should alleviate some of those concerns.
The feature does a great job showing off the work artists have done in capturing and realising Alloy, right down to the smallest details.
Everything from her freckles to her mangled tress is on display, and it all screams next-gen to us. Don’t believe us? Take a look yourself.
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!