Horizon Forbidden West is the sequel to the highly acclaimed Horizon Zero Dawn. And is one of the most amazing RPGs to come out of the PlayStation 4, I will fight someone about this. If you haven’t played HZD do yourself a favour and just get started on it yesterday. During Sony’s PlayStation 5 preview event, Guerilla Games teased the game’s next-gen sequel. And it looks crazy amazing. In there we get snippets of the story, the world and new gameplay. Here’s everything we know about Horizon Forbidden West. But first the trailer.
Note: This post has been updated to account for the information in May 2021’s PlayStation State of Play presentation.
Let’s Recap (No Spoilers)
In the first Horizon Zero Dawn, a young hunter named Aloy is looking for clues to her past in a beautiful but deadly post-apocalyptic world. It’s the 31st century and humans have returned to living in tribal-like populations. Even though nature has reclaimed the Earth there is still smatterings of advanced technology that hint to a time before this existence. Large robotic beings dominate the Earth and together machine and human have lived peacefully.
However, a corruption has leaked into the machines causing them to become more aggressive. Larger and deadlier machines have also begun to appear. After Aloy’s tribe is attacked she strikes out on a journey to find out where she came from and the root of the corruption.
—– S P O I L E R W A R N I N G —–
When Does The Story Take Place
Horizon Forbidden West picks up sometime in the future where the previous game leaves off. We’re not sure how long after the original game HFW takes place. But Aloy does mention that it’s been 1000 years since the Old Ones fell. The original game was set around the year 3040, some 974 years after the human extinction back in circa 2066.
If Horizon Forbidden West was actually set 1000 years after the Old Ones’ extinction, we’d be looking at about a 26-year difference than the previous game. Aloy was around 18/19 in the original game, which make her around 45 years old in this sequel. She looks pretty good for her age so it may be that she got some sort of post-apocalyptic skincare regime. Maybe she got frozen in cryostasis? She doesn’t look that much older than she did in the original game.
May 2021 Update: In the State of Play gameplay footage, Aloy has sent her loyal friend Erend into the remains of San Francisco to recover an important artifact. But he quickly runs into trouble, encountering a rebel faction of the Tenakth tribe – vicious fighters who have somehow acquired the power to override machines. Aloy must cross the ruins and fight multiple enemies to rescue her friend and continue her journey.
As the name suggests Horizon Forbidden West is set Westward from where the game was originally set. Horizon Zero Dawn was set in and around the states of Colorado and Utah, parts of northern Arizona, and a very small part of Montana in the United States. However, it’s clear not only from the name of the game but also locations featured in this first trailer that Aloy’s gone west. We’re seeing several references to San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge, and it may well mean that we’re seeing several states featured in the game’s eventual full map. From the looks of the gambling symbols she reveals, we may also be going to Las Vegas too.
Because we’re heading out of the snowy icy mountains and towards California’s sunny skies expect completely different scenery. The trailer showcases crystal-clear blue oceans teeming with underwater creatures and dramatic coastlines. Coupled with leaning skyscrapers and wide-open plains where gigantic robots dominate the skyline. It has a very different feel to that of Horizon Zero Dawn.
In these new lands expect to meet new tribes and encounter ever more deadly machines. At the end of the trailer, we glimpse a new, heavily armoured tribe that hasn’t been seen before. Armed with shields, adorned with bones, and rocking gigantic elephant machines, I don’t think this lot are going to be the friendly type.
The Big Bad
Similar to the corruption that was turning the machines more aggressive in the first game, there’s a brand new red plague taking over the world of Horizon Forbidden West. And it’s clear that humanity – and the natural world as a whole – is at risk of extinction again. Whether it’s part of the governing AIs that make sure the world keeps turning, or something else entirely (we’re looking at you Sylens). There’s a red weed that’s seemingly infecting the water supplies in Forbidden West. Fish are seen with this weed down their throats, crabs picking at bloated pustules on their flesh, and, later, a fox is seen clearly in distress surrounded by this same weed, the water around it running red.
This will likely be the extinction event that Aloy is trying to prevent this time around. Will she be able to call on GAIA for help? Or is it down to her and the tribes folk to right the world again? I’d personally love to see Aloy more at one with her robotic counterparts rather than at war with them.
In addition to the monstrous fauna that’ll be skulking each biome, a new tribe with the ability to control machines, much like Aloy herself, will be attempting to thwart her search.
Before we go into what’s new let’s talk about everything that’s staying the same. It seems like Aloy is still rocking our trusty ole Focus from the original game. As well as having the ability to ride a Charger around despite losing her spear at the of the last game. Maybe she got a new one or maybe there’s a new mechanic for taming the machina roaming the Earth.
New gameplay elements we can see in the trailer seem to include underwater exploration. That’s going to be tricky being stealthy underwater as we can see Aloy swimming directly underneath a Snapmaw. Some of the old creatures look to be coming back, but Guerilla Games have also shown off some massive new robotic creatures. In the trailer, we spotted a giant turtle, a huge mammoth or elephant and new flying creatures that don’t look quite like the Stormbird or Glinthawk.
Update May 2021: Horizon Forbidden West gives gives Aloy’s combat some new flair with a bunch of new weapons. Her spear can now be used at close-range to chain multiple combos. Additionally, you can apply buffs, called surges, to the spear to take down those harder enemies with more amplified attacks.
The slingshot gets an upgrade that can now chuck adhesive grenades to temporarily stall hunkering machines. And of course where would Aloy be without her arrows? She now has arrows that can be used to strip armor, a launcher that fires explode-on-impact spikes, and smoke bombs to blind enemies.
Finally, Aloy can retrieve dropped weapons from the battlefield (you can see this towards the end of the gameplay footage). Can anybody say loot drops?
Pullcaster – An additional piece of gear that speeds up climbing by catapulting Aloy to greater heights.
Shieldwing – A sort of Breath of the Wild handglider. Allows Alloy to safely descend from great heights (or surprise enemies from above).
Diving Mask – Swimming is one of the biggest gameplay changes in Horizon Forbidden West. It opens up a whole new underwater world for exploration.
Focus – This isn’t new gear of course but there’s big upgrades coming to it in the sequel. Based on what we learned it now shows areas that allow free-climbing. As well as gives her the ability to override even more machines for mounts or combat.
Horizon Forbidden West – Release Date
Sony hasn’t officially announced any formal release date for Horizon Forbidden West so far. But an announcement by Jim Ryan in February stated that he believes that the game will still arrive in the second to late half of 2021. I’m guessing it might be an end of year game.
So far that’s everything we’ve gleaned off the new Horizon Forbidden West trailer. If any of you spotted anything else be sure to let us know! This article was updated in June 2020 and now May 2021.