Sony kicked off their Summer showcases with a dedicated State of Play focused on the upcoming Horizon: Forbidden West, the sequel to the acclaimed PlayStation 4 title, Zero Dawn. This was our first look at gameplay for the title and developers Guerilla came out swinging with a dedicated 14 minutes of gameplay which showcased everything from new elements of traversal to new combat mechanics and an absolutely jaw-dropping graphics engine that showcased exactly what the PlayStation 5 is capable of.
The demo begins with Aloy coming to the aid of an ambushed team of Oseram scouts who fell victim to dangerous raiders. Their leader, and Aloy’s friend Erend, has been taken captive by the band of raiders. The raiders have learned how to command the machines and are using them to their advantage which means it’s up to Aloy to rescue Erend and put a stop to the band of savages.
The demo transitions into gameplay seamlessly as Aloy traverses the wooded area on her way to the coastline. Here we get a look at the impressive engine on display with simply jaw-dropping lighting and environmental effects on full display. Steam rises over the rushing streams in the morning light, rolling waves push against the white sands and most impressive of all we get a look at Forbidden West’s all new underwater mechanics. For the first time in the series Aloy is able to not only swim underwater, but explore without restriction thanks to the aid of her rebreather device. There are no oxygen meters to keep your eye on as you seek out hidden treasures and underwater paths in Horizon Forbidden West. That doesn’t mean however that the game is without its dangers in the deep. We get a brief look at a Snapmaw in the demo which Aloy wisely avoids on her way to rescue her friend. It’s unclear if underwater combat will be a part of the equation here but there are certainly hazards in the water to look out for.
Soon enough Aloy comes into contact with the enemy, both human and machine. The combat scenario with the raiders shows off a much more dynamic combat system more akin to later entries in the Uncharted series where there are context sensitive moments of close encounters where the camera removes itself from the players control in service of a more directed approach. This happened when one of the larger raiders picked Aloy up and slammed her to the ground and also when Aloy deployed a charged attack in a moment reminiscent of some of the more dazzling power moves in last years Final Fantasy VII Remake. Aloy inserts a canister into her spear and unleashes a powerful blast that knocks the enemy backwards. This is yet another tease at the new move set that our protagonist employs.
Combat with the machines seems to be a similar blend of tactical stealth, hunting, and blistering action that you remember from the previous entry in the seris. Aloy makes use of her surroundings to combat her enemies, scaling walls, using cover and deploying her new gadgets such as the grappling hook and glider. The latter of these is clearly a nod to Breath of the Wild’s glider as that was something many players called out as being a key difference between the two games when they launched in parallel back in 2017. I personally am keeping my fingers crossed that Aloy also learned to climb better in her four years off although the indication is that she cannot climb any surface as Link was able to. Bright and distinctly colored hand holds were a part of the demo on display so it can be assumed that climbing is still a more contextual mechanic akin to an Uncharted or a Tomb Raider and not one that is more free form and deploys a stamina gauge like Breath of the Wild or Genshin Impact utilizes.
All-in-all Forbidden West is looking like the game to beat this year, assuming it still does in fact launch this year. While previously stated as a 2021 title, the State of Play curiously gave no release date or even release window for Aloy’s next adventure. Hopefully we learn more about this title before the Summer ends. This first gameplay look had me hooked from the opening sequence and I only grew more excited with each passing moment. Horizon Forbidden West is looking to be a powerhouse sequel to one of PlayStation’s hottest franchises. I am eagerly awaiting my journey to the Forbidden West later this year.