After four hours of hands-on with Horizon Forbidden West, we feel like we’ve only scratched the surface, but still found an incredible amount of detail in Guerrilla Games’ sequel. Aloy’s world is brought to life in much more vivid detail, with improved animation, new machines, an evolved combat system, and so much more. While we await its full release on Feb. 18 for PS4 and PS5, let’s dig into all the amazing details we discovered about Horizon Forbidden West, and why they should have you just as excited as we are.
Some of these are confirmation of things the developers have said before now that we’ve actually gotten to play, some are more specific explanations of new ideas for the sequel, and others are brand new details that have us quite excited by Guerrilla’s refinement of its open world.
- Climbing is much more free and open in Forbidden West than it was in Zero Dawn. Not every single inch of every surface is climbable, but a much larger amount of is, making traversal so much smoother in the sequel.
- You can use your Focus to temporarily highlight climbable portions of the environment. Some of the points the Focus will find are what you’ll use the Pullcaster for. This new bit of Aloy’s equipment loadout can pull her from much further away to grasp onto a ledge. It’s used like a double jump would – hit “X” again in the air to employ it.
- You can Pullcast out of a glide using the new Shieldwing. So if you happen to be gliding by a cliff and realize there’s a spot a little above you, you can easily get to it.
- We won’t spoil how, but Aloy will acquire the Shieldwing early in the game during a story quest, so don’t worry about missing out on your sky-soaring dreams. But all of these tools are important because they are in service to how Forbidden West’s world is built.
As Horizon Forbidden West narrative director Ben McCaw said, “One of the things [in HFW} is there’s just a lot more verticality to this world, from the tallest mountain or skyscraper all the way down to the ground. But also now with these new underwater sections in the game, there was a new form of exploration, new things to explore and just a whole new kind of like geometry there.”
Weapons, Combat, and Machines
- Speaking of equipment, Aloy will gain some new and returning weapons and items through the main quest, such as the trusty tripcaster, like the one in Zero Dawn, early in her adventure. Others will be obtained through sidequests. A cool new explosive weapon, the javelin thrower, is one of the first you’ll come across, while a later one, the Shredder Gauntlet, offers another new twist on combat.
- Two new elemental options for attacks include Acid and Plasma.
- Players can now invest in six different skill trees with the points they earn. These include Warrior, Trapper, Hunter, Survivor, Infiltrator, Machine Master. Valor Surges will be unlocked by choosing specific abilities surrounding a Surge on any given skill tree.
- Aloy can now upgrade equipment at workbenches in the environment, and still use “Create Job” functions to track down specific parts for needed upgrades.
- Outfits can also be upgraded, and can provide stat boosts to specific skills in Aloy’s skill trees.
- Potions and other consumables return, and Aloy will be able to purchase from various sellers – Cooks for skill-boosting food, Herbalists for potions, Hunters for weapons, and Stitchers for outfits
- A new type called the Burrower is a Watcher-level threat, but with a few new moves, including the ability to, well, burrow, as well as send reverberating blasts that disrupt Aloy (and the player’s) view for a brief moment.
- Bristlebacks are a new machine type, akin to Chargers, that have acid canisters on their backs. Spiking those with an acid arrow is the key to victory.
- The Slitherfang, which we did not fight in the wild and only in the new Arena, has a variety of attacks, including the ability to jump below the ground and leap back up somewhere else, as well as shoot lightning from its tail (and even electrify parts of the environment).
- Melee is also improved – players can use the Resonator Blast ability to charge up Aloy’s weapon, strike an enemy and imbue them with energy, and then cause a massive amount of damage with an arrow aimed at that specific point.
- Players will be able to test their melee skills in melee pits that will be located throughout the Forbidden West. You’ll come to your first in Chainscrape.
- The Arena is a large, optional side attraction for players to engage in. Complete challenges against various different machines, and do under a time limit to earn medals to unlock great equipment. You can also compete with friends in online leaderboards for the best times.
“We wanted to make sure that there’s a certain path through this game, where if players want to experience the main quest and kind of get to the end of the story as quickly as possible, that they could do that, and also there’s definitely a progression through this game that’s really focused on combat,” McCaw explained. “If you want to just fight the biggest and bad machines, we’re going to let that happen. The arena is like a great example of that, where you can actually do it repeatedly.”
Horizon Forbidden West Screenshots
- Aloy’s journey picks up roughly six months after the end of Horizon Zero Dawn.
- Her main quest is to stop the Red Blight that is seemingly infecting the world, as she hopes to prevent another mass extinction of humanity.
- After an intro we haven’t seen, Aloy believes she can find answers in the Forbidden West, land beyond the Nora, Oseram, and Carja territory we know. But the border is guarded by Carja leadership on her side, and a group of members from the Tenakth tribe on the other.
- The Tenakth are actually made up of three different civilizations, each with their own customs and ways of life. They are one of two big new tribes, the other being the Utaru.
- For Aloy to pass beyond the border, she needs a planned Embassy meeting between the Carja and Tenakth to go well. Without spoiling it, it does not go well.
- Aloy will meet the new antagonist Regalla early on in her journey. And without spoiling it in detail, she has quite the memorable, frightening introduction.
- Settlements are going to be a much larger part of your time in Horizon Forbidden West, with new and returning sidequest types, more lively NPCs and interactions, and much more variety in animation. Chainscrape is a new one that we saw during our preview.
“With the Tenakth, you see a lot of drilling, a lot of practice fighting, a lot of games that kind of feel like one-upmanship between the tribal members; whereas the Utaru are much more focused on a kind of agrarian lifestyle, on music, on crafting, sort of more in the like weaving zone,” McCaw explained of Forbidden West’s new tribes.
- Aloy could craft health potions and other boosts, but one of the easiest ways to refill health was to pick up life-granting fauna in the world. Until your stash was limited, of course. Luckily, if you reach our capacity for health berries – which was 10 of them during the early portion I played – you can collect more. They just are sent back to your general stash. And if you hold down up on the D-Pad, you can refill your on-hand collection so that you never run out.
- Aloy will be able to access this stash from various settlements throughout Forbidden West.
- The Focus is key to observing machines before you fight. But in Zero Dawn, you’d have to carefully move the right stick around a machine to highlight each part. Worry no longer – hitting left or right on the D-Pad lets you cycle through each specific part of a machine, and it’s much less fiddly.
- You can even track specific body parts if you’re trying to collect specific canisters or horns, which will keep just those elements highlighted in the Focus’ outline while in combat.
- Sidequests across the board are meant to be more valuable and engaging for Forbidden West players than Zero Dawn’s. For example, an early mission in the Chainscrape settlement rewards players a brand new type of weapon, the explosive Javelin Thrower. It sacrifices finesse for power, heavily damaging enemies but also potentially damaging what parts you can scrape up after their death. It also introduced two new NPCs, Delah and Boomer, and it won’t be the last players see of this delightful new pair.
- A new sidequest includes a series of Melee Pits. The first is in Chainscrape, but you’ll find more in the Forbidden West. They’ll help train you on new combat techniques and test your skills, with the ultimate goal of defeating a member of the Tenakth tribes known as The Enduring.
- Another sidequest known as Vista Points will see Aloy gain some data from mysterious metal posts – essentially radio towers from our world. Players will then see part of an image corresponding to a location from the “old world” that they’ll have to line up with a spot in Aloy’s timeline. Similar to Vantage Points from Zero Dawn, but a bit more active.
- Horizon’s denizens have their own board game called Machine Strike. As we’ve seen it, it operates as a 1v1 game, in which players move pieces around a board representing machines to knock out their opponent’s machines. Boards, which are laid out in a grid, can be covered by spaces marking different terrain, and those unique terrains can affect power. And the way you move machines can lead to advantages and disadvantages based on where their armor is located (machines will have both armor and weak spots, and depending on the way they’re facing an opponent, that can make all the different). There’s even more strategy involved, like the ability to hit multiple enemies due to placement on the board, using an Overcharge ability to attack at the cost of HP, and much more. Aloy will only start out with a few pieces, but can gain more around the world.
- In the Forbidden West, you’ll run into a quest line known as Salvage Contracts, in which Aloy must hunt down specific parts to provide to outfitters who are ultimately aiming to make an incredible suit of armor for the Savior of Meridian.
“There are side quests in this game that are of similar scope to those in Zero Dawn, but we always wanted to make sure they felt a little bit more satisfying, a little bit more emotional and definitely a little bit more tied into the companions and other NPCs. So generally speaking, if you do a side quest in Forbidden West, that’s not the last you’ll see of that NPC,” McCaw teased.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s Senior Features Editor, PlayStation Lead, and host of Podcast Beyond! He’s the proud dog father of a BOY named Loki. Talk to him on Twitter @jmdornbush.