Horizon Forbidden West, Guerrilla Games’ upcoming sequel to its 2017 hit Horizon Zero Dawn, has just gone gold and launches next month. And though it’s landing at an unusually busy time for game releases, this follow-up title is at the top of many fans’ most anticipated lists. Horizon Forbidden West appeared on our magazine cover in December, meaning we learned a ton of details about the game. So, there’s a lot to pack into this beefy round-up of everything you need to know before you start Aloy’s next journey. Let’s dive in.
Continuing The Story
Some games don’t require you to play the previous title before jumping into the follow-up. And though the developer states you can enjoy Horizon Forbidden West without playing Zero Dawn, we don’t recommend it. The sequel picks up a few months after its predecessor, and if you haven’t played it, we highly suggest you do. If you are trying to avoid details on the original game’s plot, be warned there are minor spoilers below for Aloy’s first adventure.
Once an outcast to her people, Aloy brought disparate neighboring tribes together to defend against a common threat in Zero Dawn. The inhuman foe, an ancient AI program capable of unimaginable destruction, began taking control of once-friendly machines, making them hostile. The game’s ending gave us a lot of answers about the world and the origin of its animal-like robots, but it also left us with questions. For instance, what initiated the threatening program in the first place?
In the upcoming title, Aloy navigates unfamiliar terrain, both physically as she explores new landscapes on her westward trek and psychologically as she deals with the side effects of her newfound fame. Aloy travels to the titular Forbidden West to figure out what is causing a famine-inducing red blight and destructive weather patterns. Luckily, she won’t be going it alone.
Old Pals And New Foes
Last year, we got our first glimpse at Horizon Forbidden West’s gameplay during a dedicated State of Play. Here, the developers revealed Erend, a lively and loyal Oseram warrior who befriended Aloy in Zero Dawn, is working with her again. Hoping to give players more time with the world’s characters this time around, Guerrilla lets players interact with many of the first game’s recognizable faces, including the Oseram settlement head Petra and Talanah, leader of the Carja Hunters Lodge.
More recently, we got a glimpse of Aloy’s fellow Nora tribesman, Varl riding machines and infiltrating ancient structures with the redheaded protagonist. Residing in Plainsong is the melodic Utaru tribe’s Zo, who, it seems, is also happy to help save her people from the red blight.
However, not everyone in the recent trailer is friendly. Once again, the morally ambiguous Sylens is stirring up trouble by aiding Forbidden West’s new antagonist: Regalla. She leads a band of “rebels” and is looking to settle some scores now that she has the power to control machines. This rebellious group is just one faction of the Tenakth tribe, the other members of which, like Kotallo, we’ll meet in the Clan Lands.
Perhaps the most intriguing recent character tease is Tilda. Appearing only for a moment and with no dialogue, Tilda’s striking, futuristic look sets her apart. And, judging from comments by actor Carrie-Anne Moss who voices the character, she may not be a trustworthy ally.
Returning to Horizon Forbidden West are the machines that resemble anything from deer to Tyrannosaurus Rex. Of course, this new entry has an array of new mechanical creatures for Aloy to contend with, which Game Informer rounded up back in December. These include the oversized armadillos called Rollerbacks, svelte Burrowers, boar-like Bristlebacks, mechanical monkeys named Clamberjaws, towering Tremortusks, Velociraptor-inspired Clawstrider, massive turtle-esque Shellsnappers, underwater hunter Tideripper, and the machine-version of a Pterodactyl, Sunwings.
Guerrilla Games also took special care to shine the spotlight on one of its most fearsome newcomers, the Slitherfang, which spits poison and shoots lightning from its tail. Why did it have to be snakes?
Treading New Ground
For the sequel, the developers want to focus more on settlements, giving players more reason to explore them. That includes hanging out at the local watering hole and perhaps playing a round or two of Machine Strike, Forbidden West’s in-game board game. Players can also look forward to testing their mettle in the Arena, where you’ll attempt to defeat waves of hostile machines. As part of our cover story on the game, Game Informer got exclusive shots of the Daunt, an arid canyon under Carja control, and we’ve also seen a bustling Oseram city called Chainscrape, but there are bound to be many more locales as Aloy heads west.
Possibly the most recognizable landmark we’ve seen in the sequel so far is San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. And we saw a great deal more of the city’s sights in last year’s gameplay reveal, which featured a water-logged Lombard Street, a crumbling Transamerica Pyramid, and even several decayed cable cars. You’ll be able to climb any of these with the game’s new free-climbing feature. It was also here that we saw Aloy dive into an explorable underwater environment for the first time, which we hope to see more of throughout the game.
The Forbidden West’s geography, closely mirroring the United States west of Utah, boasts almost every imaginable climate. From snowy peaks and rugged deserts to sandy beaches and lush wilderness.
To navigate both the hostile terrain and machines, Aloy added a few new items to her tool belt. A breathing apparatus lets her swim underwater with ease. A futuristic-looking glider allows Aloy to float between structures or above combat. And a mechanized grappling hook makes scaling heights a breeze. Narrative director Ben McCaw explains these gadgets in more detail in a Sony Blog:
“The Pullcaster speeds up climbing, getting her quickly out of trouble; the Shieldwing allows her to safely descend from great heights (or surprise enemies from above); and with the Diving Mask, a whole new underwater world is open for exploration. Not to mention big upgrades to her Focus, which now shows areas that allow free-climbing and gives her the ability to override more machines for mounts or combat.”
Mix a round of new deadly weapons, like grenades that stick to enemies and spike launchers, with fresh wardrobe options, and Aloy is ready to take down any foes the Forbidden West can throw at her.
New Tricks Up Her Sleeve
Your primary melee weapon in Zero Dawn, the spear, was notably less effective in battle than any other weapon. To combat this problem, the developers, as discussed in an interview with Game Informer editor Kim Wallace, have totally reworked the game’s skill tree to support different play styles. Valor Surge abilities, which can be unlocked on the skill tree, are another exciting addition. Players can activate these superpowered moves after filling bars on the screen by playing “tactically.” This includes landing perfect headshots and knocking components from machines. You can also find new combos for hand-to-hand combat in the revamped system.
Not limited to just combat, Aloy is learning additional ways to craft at workbenches. Now able to track parts needed for making new gear, the expanded and settlement-based crafting process gives players a reason to visit major city centers during their journey.
Initially expected to release in 2021, Horizon Forbidden West is set to launch on February 18 on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4.