There are just under three months to the launch of Horizon: Forbidden West, and after the appointments related to the gameplay and the new enemies of Aloy, Guerrilla Games has published a new in-depth analysis related to the game world, with references to the cities, the characters that populate the Forbidden West and the customization options of the protagonist.
“When you walk through the Forbidden West, everything should feel like it belongs there. The Living World team at Guerrilla works on aspects of the game that make the world feel authentic and alive: the tribes, the settlements, and the people within them. There’s an intention behind everything we place within the world.”
Clarity on those intentions comes from collaboration with the narrative team. “At the start of a project, we put a lot of thought into every tribe we’re going to encounter,” says Annie Kitain, Senior Writer at Guerrilla. “What their conflicts are, how they fit into the story, and how they interact with the world around them. Take the Tenakth, for instance. Many of their beliefs are influenced by the ancient ruins of the Forbidden West, and unlike other tribes, they’re comprised of three distinct clans. Their shared history, convictions, disputes – all of that is important to developing the characters that Aloy will meet on her journey.”
In a world as immense as that of the Forbidden West, it was important for the Guerrilla team to maintain the same level of authenticity achieved in Horizon Zero Dawn. “By adding animations and behaviors, we have further increased this sense of authenticity,” explained Espen Sogn, “when members of a tribe are in their settlement, in their safe spaces, they behave naturally. The Oseram is a pleasant and historically patriarchal tribe, so their animations abound with pats on the back and informal greetings. The Utaru, on the contrary, is more composed, and it is not uncommon to see them sitting together, with their typical cheered air. During exploration, these details communicate to us on an unconscious level where we are in the world. All of this is embedded in the narrative structure of the game.”
Guerrilla Games has paid particular attention to the behavior of NPCs, and this same attention to detail has been placed in the creation of crossroads, cities, and settlements, including, for example, Aspracatena, one of the first places that Aloy will visit during his adventure.
“With so much activity, so many visual cues, Chainscrape was a place where we could demonstrate many new systems and animations that make the world and its people feel much more alive. In Horizon Zero Dawn, there were a lot of assets and things in the background. In Horizon Forbidden West, they’re not just textures: they’ve been elevated into actual objects that are being used by people in-game.’
‘Where you previously saw a person standing in front of a forge, they will now actively engage with what’s around them: moving materials, leaning on walls, drinking from cups, talking to friends, and just living their daily lives. They move and exist with purpose.”
Of course, the world is not only beautiful to look at: it is also a constant threat. Aloy must rely on settlements and characters to refuel and equip himself. Progression, skills, upgrades, health, and tools are all part of what Guerrilla calls “the vast ecosystem that sustains the immense and complex open world of the Forbidden West.”
“When designing the core features that form the progression systems of a game, these features always have to be built in dialog with the rest of the game’s design!” says Steven Lumpkin, Senior Designer at Guerrilla. “Beyond the narrative of Horizon, it’s imperative that all our systems work together in harmony to give our players a fantastic experience from the first time they pick up their controller.’
‘Balancing progression is a leading focus for us, making sure that every player is readily able to acquire a set of gear that feels great to them in combat while remaining powerful enough to tackle all of the challenges throughout the game. We’ve built an ecosystem that rewards the player for engaging deeply with the whole world of Horizon Forbidden West while remaining friendly for those who want to stay focused on the core narrative.”
Aloy can also carry a maximum of six weapons, in addition to her inseparable spear. In addition to providing resistance to many types of damage that the protagonist will have to deal with in the Forbidden West, the clothes add bonuses to those already unlocked in her skill set.
Lumpkin went on to talk in detail about Aloy’s new equipment: “The plot of Horizon and the extraordinary peoples who inhabit his world has been a great source of inspiration for Aloy’s outfits. Each item of clothing is designed with style and made with materials that reflect the knowledge and skills of a certain tribe. Nora hunters prefer to fight at a distance and stealthily lurk. The Carja excels in the use of traps and cables. The impetuous Oseram swooped down on the enemies and hammered them. The Tenakth and Utaru also have their preferences, and the clothes that Aloy can get from each tribe reflect and highlight their respective fighting styles.”
Horizon Forbidden West will debut on February 22, 2022, on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, with a free upgrade. For more details on the game world, we refer you to the PS Blog article.