Announced during the PlayStation 5 reveal event in June 2020, Guerilla Games’ Horizon Forbidden West is the hotly anticipated sequel to 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn. Coming to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, we recently caught some gameplay footage from Horizon Forbidden West during the June 2021 State of Play giving us a glimpse at the sequel in action.
But you may be wondering about the story. How is it going to follow up Horizon Zero Dawn, and do you need to play the first game to understand the second? There’s not a whole lot of information out there just yet (Horizon Forbidden West doesn’t even have a firm release date!) but in this article, we’re going to dig into what we know so far, and hopefully help you understand the narrative stakes of this west-coast sequel.
What happened in Horizon Zero Dawn
To understand the sequel, we have to go back to the first game. The Horizon series is set in the distant future, where technological beasts now dominate the earth, forcing the remaining human survivors to regress into a tribal existence. The game’s protagonist Aloy is an outcast from the Nora tribe who navigates a feud between the Nora and a group of cultists who are trying to control the corrupted machines to wreak havoc and wipe out their enemies.
Throughout the game, Aloy uncovers ruins from the old world which reveal how mankind was undone. Way back when, the Faro corporation unleashed military machines that went rogue and started consuming biomass, making Earth uninhabitable. A scientist called Elisabet Sobeck created the Zero Dawn project in response. Overseen by an AI called Gaia, this project would restart humanity post-extinction, introducing artificial humans and friendly robot animals to the world to restore the ecosystem. As we can tell, this plan was somewhat successful, but the part where humanity would gain access to all of its prior knowledge was sabotaged. Zero Dawn was later interrupted by an AI called Hades, which was initially a fail safe created by Sobeck, but has since been activated by an unknown signal and has gone rogue, seeking to take over from Gaia and destroy all life again.
Back in the post-apocalypse, we learn that the evil cultists worship Hades, and that Aloy is being targeted by them because she looks like Elisabet Sobeck. Eventually we learn she is a clone of Sobeck, created by Gaia to fight Hades. Sure enough, Aloy defeats Hades and the cultists with the help of a man called Sylens, who initially found and nurtured Hades, only to be betrayed by the AI once it became too powerful. However, at the end of the game, we learn that Hades isn’t really gone, just captured by Sylens, who wants to learn more about the old world, and figure out the source of the signal that sent Hades rogue and caused all of these problems.
The story of Horizon Forbidden West
”Uncover the secret behind Earth’s imminent collapse and unlock a hidden chapter in the ancient past… one that will change Aloy forever.”
This is the main official nugget of information we have about Forbidden West, which sees Aloy travelling to the west-coast of America to fight a new plague, new enemies, new machines and a whole load of inclement weather.
In the reveal trailer for the sequel, we see natural life returning to Earth but also a red plague that is killing the wildlife and ravaging crops. Per the new gameplay trailer, Aloy seems to be uncovering more ruins from the old world to find new technology and fight the plague.
Sylens is back, and seems to be training other humans to tame the machines. It’s not clear if his intentions are good or not, but there also seems to be a new antagonistic tribe called the Tanarth with massive rogue machines at its disposal. How they’ve managed to control the machines appears to be a major plot point, and how that relates to the plague.