Horizon Forbidden West is one of Sony’s most anticipated games of 2022 and is just around the corner, launching for the PS4 and PS5 (review) on February 18, 2022. Sony has just dropped the story trailer for the game and you can check it out below.
While the story trailer highlights what we can expect from the game, we had a chance to talk to Benjamin McCaw, Narrative Director and Annie Kitain, Senior Writer for Horizon Forbidden West to get a deeper understanding of the story. While there are no spoilers in the conversation for either Zero Dawn or Forbidden West, there is some interesting information about what players can expect from the game.
How big is the world in Horizon Forbidden West?
One of the most important questions asked was about the size of the open world. While Zero Dawn was a large game, the game world isn’t as large as some other open-world games. That isn’t a bad thing as the world was densely populated with enough to do without giving you the feeling of traversing barren land. When asked about the size of the world, the developers said, “You know, it’s obviously a really big open world. And we’re super excited about adding a lot of new dimensions to it, specifically, the underwater space spaces, I should say in the game, so there’s a lot more verticality in the world. There are a lot more interesting types of traversals and of course, we have beautiful, beautiful underwater sections”.
While the developers did not talk about the actual size of the game, they did confirm that it is larger and denser than Zero Dawn.
Keeping the story in mind, Horizon Zero Dawn had a fairly linear story even though it offered some dialogue choices. These choices just added some emotion or a slightly different direction ultimately leading to the same outcome. We asked Benjamin and Annie about the choices players would have in the game and how that could affect the outcome. Can we expect something as dramatic as the Bloody Baron quest in Witcher 3?
The developers told us that the story of Forbidden West is “strongly rooted” in Aloy’s story and the narrative flows from her perspective. The developers said, “What we really wanted to do with the first game and the second game is making sure we have some expressiveness within that possibility space. But there aren’t as many really big branching choices, as you would see, for instance, in the Witcher. But there are some pretty exciting ones (choices), where it does get to where the player gets to have a kind of big impact on how things go. But in general, because we’re so firmly rooted in Aloy’s perspective, as a former outcast, as a machine hunter, as someone who has a very strong moral and ethical base, there’s less of that (branching choices and stories) than are in some of those games that you mentioned”.
While dramatically changing the outcome isn’t something we can expect from the game, what we can expect is to manoeuvre the quest with choices that have some form of an impact.
More quests with AI companions in Horizon Forbidden West
Another staple of Sony’s flagship games has been an AI companion or a companion for some quests. While God of War (review) has an AI companion through the journey, games like the Last of Us part II (review) and even Ghost of Tsushima (review) offer companions based on the quest at hand. We can expect to complete quests with an AI companion in Horizon Forbidden West.
On the topic of AI companions, the developers told us, “One of the big things we wanted to emphasize with Forbidden West is Aloy’s companions in the fact that she needs to rely on her companions. And we wanted to make sure that with these companions, we had a deep and sort of emotional story around each one. In terms of actual gameplay, there’s a lot more gameplay with companions in the game. And there are a lot more situations where they’re aiding you in combat. And what we always were trying to do there is strive for balance, where it feels like the companions are genuinely helpful, but also that, we never take the power away from the player”.
Benjamin and Annie go on to say, “both for the main quests and in the side quests, when the companions are with Aloy, that’s also really a moment to spend more time with them to get to know them and to expand on their stories. So, it’s serving both, the gameplay side of it helping you fight and the narrative side as well”.
If you are new to the franchise and haven’t played Zero Dawn then worry not. The developers have said that there is a story recap to bring those new to the franchise up to speed. Considering the depth of lore on offer in the game, it will be interesting to see how the recap of the first game is presented. Also, those that have played the first game must know that there is a data text which highlights the existence of the Forbidden West. So, the events of the sequel were in the minds of the developers even when making the first game. We can rest assured; the lore and narrative direction will be as deep as the new depths added to the gameplay of Horizon Forbidden West.