• Joe Allen

State of Play: Horizon Forbidden West

Updated: May 28

Since the announcement of Horizon Forbidden West in June 2020, both Sony and and Guerrilla Games had gone quiet on the game; that is until today! New gameplay and details about the game were announced in a standalone State of Play address. So here is everything we learnt from the press release.

So let's start with the obvious – breath-taking, stunning vistas and beautiful surroundings. The first game was very visually pleasing, but this game looks stunning! Of course the gameplay trailer was captured on a PS5, and Forbidden West will be available both on PS4 and PS5, but the world looks even more stunning. How PS4 will handle these graphics is yet to be seen, but if you are one of the lucky ones with a PS5, I expect you’ll spend a lot of time gawking at this absolutely gorgeous world.

Another aspect I loved is that this world seems to transition much more between the old and the new world. Many remnants of the society that was destroyed by Operation Enduring Victory still seem to litter the landscape. No longer is it only the giant edifices of the old world, but also smaller, local buildings such as ruins on the beach and the burnt-out, rusted husk of a bus.

Now onto gameplay – while there’s much that they hinted at we didn’t see, there was also plenty for us to love. Let’s start with climbing; Guerrilla really seemed to have listened to fans of the original game. One of the major complaints that in an age of games like Assassin’s Creed and Breath of the Wild, the climbing mechanics in Zero Dawn were stale. Whilst not opting for fully traversable vertical movement, they have introduced something much better than yellow bars to mark the way. Climbing is now achieved with a scan of the environment using your focus to identify things that can be climbed. This seems to be a happy middle ground, where not everything will be traversable, but there will be much greater freedom in how to climb.

Not only will you be able to choose how you climb, but also how you fly! That’s right, Forbidden West has two new mechanics for aerial movement; the “pull cross” and the “shield wing". The pull cross is a new grappling system that will pull you to your desired destination, whilst the shield wing is a glider, very reminiscent of Breath of the Wild. An additional thing I think worth mentioning, is that it is called a “shield wing” implying that this will also be usable as a shield in combat too. Each of these new techs are seamlessly worked in to your movement, neither requiring a slow-mo equipment wheel to utilise in transit.

Not only are there new forms of traversal, but newer ways to combat the mechanical monstrosities that dominate the landscape of the Forbidden West. Some of the weapons that were shown are a new slingshot ammo, the adhesive grenade, and a launcher which can launch spikes that explode on impact.

Once again, Guerrilla seems to have listened to feedback from the first game and made the melee combat deeper. Based on both Aloy’s move set and the weapon attacks of the enemy she fights in the footage, there seem to be a range of melee combos based on the weapon that is employed. It is unclear whether Aloy has the ability to use different melee weapons, but one thing that is clear is that she has her spear back, and it has multiple upgrades! Not only is it much shorter than the one seen in Zero Dawn, you now also have the ability to plug multiple different functions to the spear; the one we saw in the reveal footage was a knock back effect.

More weapons and ammo types were mentioned by the developer, but we don’t have details on those things as of yet.

Now on to, arguably, the most important thing about the new game – the story. Zero Dawn left us with more questions than answers. [warning – spoiler alert in case you haven’t played the original game]. Firstly, what we did see, and secondly, what we didn’t.

So there were two clues as to story; firstly, the tech that Erend recovered, and secondly, the storm that erupted as a result of Aloy using the tech. So the tech that Erend recovered revealed a world map that seemed to point to somewhere on the west coast of the USA (hardly surprising since it’s long been speculated the location was in and around San Francisco).

But what this tells us is that our protagonists are looking for something – perhaps to combat the “red blight”, as it was referred to in this footage. However, this was the lesser of the two revelations.

Not only is the red blight a problem, but seemingly the weather and climate are part of this problem too, as a huge storm begins to brew as Eloy and Erend look at this mysterious artefact.

Moving into speculative territory, this new information suggests that other aspects of Gaia Prime’s subordinate functions are now also rebelling against their directives, causing problems in the same way that Hades did in Zero Dawn. Aether was responsible for clearing the Earth’s atmosphere (could it cause storms?) and Artemis was responsible for re-establishing the world’s flora (did it cause the red blight). If this were true, what does it say about Hades, who was trapped and contained by Sylens at the end of the first game? Has the rogue AI shared more secrets of the Zero Dawn project with Sylens, and could he be responsible for the new threats that face Eloy and the world?

To round up this preview into State of Play, let’s talk about what was missing. Three things spring to mind – new robots, Sylens and a release date.

Sadly, we saw no evidence of new robots of which we didn’t already know about; it was the first time the claws riders (the raptor-like mount) were seen in gameplay rather than concept art, but it wasn’t the revelation many of us were hoping for. Hopefully more robots will come up in future reveals.

Sylens was also sadly missing, though I guess this is to be expected as he has been set up to be the main antagonist. And finally a release date was not announced as I had hoped it would be. Equally, there wasn't a year mentioned, which might indicate they are still on track for a 2021 release.

All in all, this was a fantastic reveal, showing off the stunning graphics, cool new gameplay mechanics and weapons, and tantalizing hints at the story of Horizon Forbidden West. I was hyped before, I'm absolutely psyched now.