Horizon Forbidden West: Master Aloy’s new abilities

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Horizon Forbidden West: Master Aloy’s new abilities

Guerrilla discusses everything to do with traversing and surviving as Aloy in the second entry of its developer blog series.

The open world of Horizon Zero Dawn is a true playground for players. Gallop through the wilds on your trusty Charger to take in the lush environments and vibrant settlements. Embrace your inner hunter and sneak through bandit camps, taking down enemies silently and disable any means for them to call for back-up. Or climb to the highest mountains for gorgeous views and mysterious Old World secrets… 

Horizon Forbidden West, our upcoming sequel and continuation of Aloy’s action-packed adventure, is built on the same principles of player freedom; in fact, it was important to the team at Guerrilla to offer even more ways to explore and experience the world.

Spoiler Alert: Please note this article contains some spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn and its storyline.

Travel through the Forbidden West

In the gameplay trailer, you’ll have seen Aloy using a variety of new tools in the Forbidden West. “Building upon the foundation of Horizon Zero Dawn, we have added a number of new ways to move through the world,” says David McMullen, Lead Systems Designer at Guerrilla. “Aloy can climb freely on and across huge sections of rocky terrain; even more machine types can be used as mounts; grapple points can be found throughout the environment which allows agile vertical traversal; swimming underwater has opened up a whole new aspect of exploration; and gliding with the Shieldwing provides the ultimate view of the beautiful world of Horizon Forbidden West – not to mention a quick way down from great heights!”

Captured on PS5

Before we dive deeper into some of these new mechanics, David will share some insights about the development process, the challenges that come with it, and why it was a goal for the team to increase the amount of player freedom throughout Aloy’s adventure. 

“Our traversal design decisions were always in service of increasing dynamic interactivity with the world around you. This could be to empower the player to manipulate and destroy their environment with a tool like the Pullcaster; or grapple-launching into a glide with the Shieldwing to set yourself up for a strike from above. What excites us most is how our mechanics, new and old, synergistically interact with each other to provide varied and dynamic approaches to any scenario.’ 

‘This wide array of new options also posed challenges to how we think about level design. We need to allow for players to outsmart us, using new moves or tools to bypass some of our challenges in clever and unpredictable ways. Traversal puzzles won’t always have a binary solution; we encourage players to experiment and have fun with the new tools. We will offer a variety of challenges, regardless of playstyle or skill or previous experience in Horizon Zero Dawn.”

And of course, the new features of the PlayStation 5 hardware presented another exciting challenge. While Horizon Forbidden West is developed and published for both PS4 and PS5 from the ground up, there are some highlights for those who will play on the latter console.

“The DualSense wireless controller is heavily featured throughout our mechanics,” David says. “From the scrape of rubble as you push a crate, to the sensation of an unravelling winch as you use the Pullcaster — with the increased adaptive trigger tension as you pull! We’ve also added extra tactile dimensions to increase both the gameplay value and the feeling of being part of the world Aloy is moving around in; these can be subtle as the sensation of grass brushing around you to indicate you are entering stealth grass, or the pop of the adaptive trigger as you reach maximum draw with a bow. We even use the absence of adaptive tension to help communicate when you’re out of ammo.”

Immersive exploration

Our Horizon community loves discovering new areas and climbing up high vantage points; to this day they share lots of images, videos, and memories of their adventures in-game! This level of immersive exploration was naturally something the team at Guerrilla took to heart during development of the sequel, David mentions.

“The free climbing system in Horizon Forbidden West is a huge feature we are extremely excited about, as it has allowed us to make large sections of the terrain climbable (where it makes sense visually and narratively) in a way not previously possible in Horizon Zero Dawn. Rocky surfaces in these areas are freely climbable without the use of tribal handholds!’

Captured on PS5

‘Another addition was the high vault traversal mechanic, which essentially allows Aloy to hoist herself on top of any object of jumpable height with room to pull up. Combined with the ability to free climb and adding grapples to our environment, the potential for exploration is greatly increased.”

Two other reveals from the Horizon Forbidden West gameplay trailer that have fans – and Guerrillas  – very excited are the previously mentioned Pullcaster and Shieldwing: new tools at Aloy’s disposal to make her more agile during both exploration and the inevitable battles she’ll be fighting in the West.

“The Pullcaster is a mechanical wrist-mounted device with two separate functions,” David explains. “The first function is a grapple mechanic, allowing the player to swiftly and easily ascend the environment and providing a dynamic traversal/escape option to the player toolkit. When grappling, the player can activate the launch — throwing them into the air, where they can grab a higher ledge, fire their bow, glide, strike-from-above or even grapple to a further point.’ 

‘The second function of the Pullcaster is a winch, meaning the player can dynamically manipulate, move and destroy the objects in the environments. Think about pulling a hidden loot chest from a ledge, or tearing open a vent to create a new climb path.”

“The Shieldwing was always a team favorite, it provides not only the most exhilarating way to return from an epic climb but also the most picturesque! This tool is invaluable with having so much more verticality, where backtracking down the same trail holds less of an appeal as on the way up.’

‘Hopefully players appreciate this level of freedom, as well as new gameplay, combat and exploration opportunities. The Shieldwing combines well with numerous other mechanics both in and out of combat, such as landing on your mount, ziplining, the strike from above skill, and more…”

A majestic but dangerous frontier

While exploration and traversing around the world all sound idyllic, the Forbidden West is also full of danger, with many unknown enemies and a roster of new machines for Aloy to deal with. It’s imperative to have the right weapons, ammunition, and skills available for when you stumble upon an enemy base, or an angry Tremortusk… 

As with traversal, it was similarly important to evolve combat design further from Horizon Zero Dawn, and build on the principles of player freedom and choice in an open world. With new combat mechanics, enemy types, and weapon variation (to name a few aspects), players can easily assess a dangerous situation and choose how to enter a combat scenario – then actively swap between combat tactics.

Guerrilla’s Lead Combat Designer, Dennis Zopfi, shares how the team expanded its key features in Horizon Forbidden West. “One of the focus points that influenced all our combat decisions was increased player choice, and we applied this to everything: melee, weapons, outfits, skills and other new mechanics. We wanted to give players more tools, depth and dials to play with.’

‘One entirely new concept in Horizon Forbidden West is the workbench, where you can upgrade and strengthen weapons and outfits. This unlocks new perks, mod slots, skills, and offers a bigger degree of customization, resistances, and new abilities for players!”

Another way to upgrade Aloy’s abilities is through the skill tree. “In Horizon Zero Dawn, skills were bought and unlocked as you levelled up,” Dennis explains. “While that principle remains in the sequel, we completely redesigned the skill tree with additional tracks and skills; within the skill tree, skills also synergize with those that are either already present on outfits or need to be unlocked on them.”

If you read our previous blog on Aloy , you’ll have learned about how character development has multiple teams involved; the Combat team also plays a huge role in her evolution. 

Dennis agrees: “We always start with the character and how we want the player to perceive her during gameplay. In Aloy’s case this means traits like smart, fast, agile, precise, and resourceful; our role is to translate these into game mechanics. Of course having launched Horizon Zero Dawn already, we had a base to start from, so for Horizon Forbidden West we looked at where these traits can come through stronger or maybe what could be added. There are the direct combat mechanics, like shooting and melee, but also indirect ones, like the skills, outfits, upgrades, and weapon techniques. It is a nice design challenge to make all these behind the scenes systems work together in the engine.”

New weapons and tools

And it’s not just Aloy who’s evolved since Horizon Zero Dawn. The Forbidden West is a majestic yet dangerous frontier with many mysterious threats that Aloy might encounter. This creates an additional goal for Dennis and the teams to make sure she has the right weapons and tools available to handle these battles.

“We wanted to bring melee and ranged combat closer together,” says Dennis. “Aloy is not a character who deals with brute force, so we were looking for ways to have the player go back and forth between melee and range, where she could use her precise bow skills to work towards a big payoff moment. A new example of a skill that does this is the Resonator Blast, where you charge up the spear with melee hits and when fully powered up, the energy can be placed on enemies (humans and machines alike) and followed up with a projectile – resulting in a big damaging explosion!’

‘Then there is the Valor Surge feature; there are 12 in total, with each of them representing and strengthening a specific approach to the game. You unlock and upgrade them through the skill tree with skill points. There are three levels of each Valor Surge: the higher the level, the longer the charge up, but the more powerful the attack.’

“This level is shown on the purple bar you could see during the gameplay trailer: you’ll receive more Valor – or charge up that bar – through skillful actions such as hitting weak spots on enemies or removing components. In the video you could see Aloy perform the Radial Blast on the burly Tenakth warrior. ’

“It was also important to reward players who go into a melee situation, as it’s very dangerous to be so close to enemies, especially the machines! If you are skilled and daring, you can do some really good damage with these new features – just be careful!”

Aside from these encounters, there’s another level of combat skill needed now that some enemy factions can mount machines. Players will have to keep a close eye on both the enemy mount and its rider, according to Dennis.

“In Horizon Zero Dawn, machine and humanoid encounters were very separate; they never really operated as a group against Aloy. The world has changed in Horizon Forbidden West, with more danger, more enemy factions, and more machines – and they can now fight together in groups, which poses a real challenge for our hero, and the player.’

“When it comes to mounted combat, the player will have to adapt and decide whom to take out first and in what most effective way; human enemies have weapons, attacks, and abilities that machines don’t and vice versa, so they complement each other in these encounters; keeping you on your toes!”

In the gameplay trailer, Aloy has a host of new weapons at her disposal. Familiar weapons like the Hunter Bow, Sharpshot Bow, and the Blast Sling will of course return, but there are plenty of new weapons to try out too.

“The goal for the weapons in Horizon Forbidden West was to give each of them a stronger personality, which is also expressed in how you have to handle them,” Dennis smiles. “Each weapon has their strengths and weaknesses in terms of the ideal situations to use them in.’

“The Spike Thrower, for example, is a new, high damage weapon which, when thrown at the right moment, makes it easier to hit larger targets. For elemental damage, such as fire or adhesive, you can choose to stick with the Blast Sling, and so forth. Each weapon comes with different perks, ammo types, and weapon coil slots to customize them further — though some weapons need to be upgraded first before you can make them stronger.”

More freedom and dynamic gameplay

As both David and Dennis have demonstrated, increased player freedom and player choice was absolutely at the heart of Horizon Forbidden West’s development cycle:

“There’s a number of other subtle yet impactful additions that enable more dynamic gameplay,” summarizes David. “Just to name a few examples: Aloy can wall jump, leap away from a climb surface, high vault, and more. While these might sound like small things, combined they make for engaging environmental challenges and more player options.”

Dennis attests to that: “We put a lot of effort into creating more choice and depth for the players, and are super excited to see how people will play as Aloy with so many new possibilities of skills, weapons and gear she can obtain throughout the mysterious Forbidden West. We had a lot of fun creating cool and powerful combinations for players to discover, and we hope people will enjoy the game when it launches!”

For more information on Horizon Forbidden West, please visit here. See you soon for our next developer blog.

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  • Really looking forward to this game!

    I finished the first one (after owning it for sooooo long) on my PS5 just before they updated it.

  • I can wait for the PC version.

  • This looks dooope!
    Gonna play the first Horizon on my PS5 once I am done with Tormented Souls 😱

  • Give us an option to desactívate the yellow indicator from things. Please, you guys can do this even via an additional DLC. Thank you.

  • *Also available on pc, im gonna buy it used on ps5.

  • Can’t wait to play this game

  • Why are you so negative on every PS blog? You’re mad that PS exclusives getting ported to PC? That’s a good thing really because more people will play those amazing games.

  • I hope they will not only include gyro aiming into this, but add it to Zero Dawn as well.

    • A million times this.

    • Yes, please!

    • God, yes. The fact that you can use a DualShock 4 or a DualSense controller for gyro aim on PC and not on Playstation is criminal. It’s the most ergonomic and underutilized gameplay mechanic of them all. If Sony doesn’t lead the way this gen and show 3rd parties how to incorporate gyro properly then back to PC (on Steam) I’ll go, where I can add gyro to any game.

  • Looks awesome! Now what about the flying mounts? Are they gonna be there?

  • I love reading about how much thought, care & development you guys at Guerrilla put into Horizon – you were the reason I bought a PS4 for HZD, and I can’t wait to explore HFW with Aloy on my PS5 next year.

    Take all the time you need to make this all we all want it to be, but if you could start to share a little more on the new machines we’ll see that would be really appreciated even if you do keep lots of surprises for us :)

  • Pc is for extra change for dead games calm down

  • HZD was amazing. Think I’ll wait a couple years for PC release on this one.

  • Thx for pc version! Never buy timed exclusive.

  • I am so excited about Horizon Forbidden West because Horizon Zero Dawn ended up being my overall favorite game on PS4. As I wait, I saw the cross-over promotion of Aloy going to Fortnite and then to Genshin Impact in recent times so I gave both those games a try even though they are F2P which is a genre I generally avoid because of the monetization models those types of games use (typically pitting wasting your time vs your money).

    Played Fortnite just a few rounds to see that the competitive shooter isn’t really for me.

    Played Genshin Impact which is a huge open-world exploration and adventure game with lots of story content for 40+ hours and counting. It definitely has the potential to whale players with gambling / monetization hooks typical in F2P games but I haven’t spent a dime and it is definitely possible to play through and enjoy all the best parts of the game as I am without the monetization model hindering play. The comparisons to the massive exploration world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are well earned as Genshin Impact is very clearly inspired by many of the same game design aspirations, yet it is its own game, especially on the elemental combat.

  • Hard to get excited for a game we should have got in November, December or January but we aren’t simply because you won’t release games in those months. Oh well, hope the few thousand sales you got from that PC version of HZD, that Guerilla wasted 7 months on, was worth it to miss out on MILLIONS of holiday sales.

    Can’t wait for God of War Ragnorok’s inevitable delay to 2023 because Santa Monica are wasting resources on a PC version of God of War, none of us asked for, that will barely sell 2 million units in 10 years when the sequel will sell 4 million in ONE SINGLE DAY on CONSOLES.

    • What they ought to do is just put all of their games out on PC day and date with the PS version moving forward. That’s good for both the consumer and the company’s bottom line, and best of all for those of us who know how to share because we wouldn’t have to listen to all of the whining any more. People would either accept it or leave, it’s a win-win!

    • The PC version of GoW 2018 is being developed by Jetpack Interactive my darling. Get your information right before speaking.

  • @oppa_arby_style Its not worth wasting the studio’s time that they SHOULD be spending on brand new games…… for a few measly thousand sales when the sells millions day one on console instead.

    Its baffling that they are willing to hemorrhage money/margin in this regard.

    Oh but a few more people get to play it, totally worth it and absolutely worth it when a game gets pushed back 4 months because it missed its October deadline of release by only a few weeks.

  • I find it hard to be excited about this… 5 years for a sequel of a generic open world game is way too long.

  • sounds incredible and great improvement of many HZD areas that weren’t its strongest points, I have a feeling this will be an absolute bomb of a sequel. See you on release day.

  • I as a consumer don’t like being lied to. I expect them to be more up front about their PC plans and let us make our own choice on where to buy their games. Don’t try and fool me into thinking a game is exclusive when it’s not.

    • Sony really need to commit to a consistent release method. It just frustrates PC-preferred gamers to have to make uninformed decisions on whether to buy on PS console or wait for PC release. Meanwhile PC gamers that would rather wait for ports are buying some of the precious few PS5’s that could be sold to console gamers… who would actually subscribe to PS Plus or give Sony a cut of 3rd party games sales.

      At least they have been moving in the right direction, even if ever so slowly lol

  • Hey just a question on pricing. Since the PS4 version is $10 cheaper than the PS5 version and it now offers you a free upgrade to the PS5 standard version will the PS5 standard versions price be lowered to the same price as the PS4 version?

  • Will it have Motion Sensor Aiming, like TLoU2? Either way, I like the increased focus on player traversal

  • Used copy for me or on sale. PC version when they give it for free. thanks.

  • Is anyone else loving Aloy’s new Carja outfit shown in one of the video clips!?!

  • Bro u got ur trophires of private ur weak ass should not even be talking AHAHAHHAHAHAH dude aint even a gamer LOL

  • Lol Look at all the ass hurt Xbots kids saying they will wait for pc GO ONU CAN WAIT TO PLAY IT IN 4 YEARS :) GOD I LOVE HOW GREAT pLAYSTATION IS THERE A REASON THEY ARE IN FIRST PLACE :)

  • Looks amazing!

  • Please add GYRO AIM to this game. Aloy’s ABILITY to aim is greatly hampered by the inadequacies of thumbsticks. I promise to buy this game twice if you do!

  • Kickass!

  • Starting to feel like a love letter to me with most of my criticism/wish list being addressed, loving every bit of it. Hope you guys get enough time to address everything also in render to make this feel like the greater game in every-way, I have Patience like a brick but I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Thanks for your time Guerilla

  • You gotta grow up and stop being a baby eventually. For now I suggest changing your profile pic from Kratos to Knack.

    And then when you grow up and stop complaining and just enjoy the things you like without gatekeeping or worrying about if PC players get to play them (not the same as Xbox players) then you can change your PFP back to Kratos.

    One thing you have to understand is the money SIE makes from PC ports is good for all of us. We want them to make bigger and better games in a new generation and make more acquisitions? PC ports are going to help with that. That’s just the fact of the matter. At LEAST they’re not doing day one ports.

  • I don’t think Sony realizes how patient PC gamers are and tied to their systems. They will wait for a port. They won’t buy a PS5 ESPECIALLY now that they release their strongest titles to PC. Money over legacy is the strategy unfortunately. People say, it brings more revenue in and they can spend more. True, except that you can chase money all you want, but where do you draw the line for the “PlayStation” brand? GOW and HZD by no means ever needed advertising. Sony had such powerful word of mouth advertising that people like me, a PC owner, buy into PlayStation. It’s their product, I was glad to. They had a business to sell there hardware. As a PC gamer, now the interest into their console is near non existent. I have both PS5 and PC.
    They need more money. Well, developing 25 IPs, half being new, will cost money. Not sure why, but porting your biggest head turners for money. Yikes.

    • Nice to see a pc gamer talking some sense and showing some concern for Playstation instead of just being happy to get ports on their system. As a Playstation gamer, it’s not that I don’t want others to experience these games, I just want to know it’s the best place to experience these games, and that’s no longer the case. So now both pc gamers and console gamers’ interest is near non existent. At this point I just hope Nintendo never adopts this strategy.

  • Be the best, not the biggest. Maybe out of these 25 IPs they talk about, things might change. I don’t know, but they have been very inconsistent on saying what their plans are. Porting will not becoming a thing, to some will remain exclusive, to only exclusive at launch. Lol

  • When is Sony going to make an actual RPG? Fantasy setting similar to what Final Fantasy and Square is doing with their titles. If your teams can’t figure it out, acquire Square and call it a day.

    • Legend of Dragoon in 1999?

      Something like a new one of those would be better than more generic third person action adventures with dull central characters, downbeat tone and optional stealth. The only difference between most of their games now is if it’s open world or not.

  • This looks great!!! Can’t wait to get hands-on with the new mechanics :)

  • I marathoned Horizon Zero Dawn at release all within a week, it quickly became my favorite game ever. Frozen Wilds later in the year helped reinforce the game’s brilliance.
    I played through Horizon for the second time ever earlier this year, and made a list of my biggest wants/desires going into the sequel. This blogpost and the gameplay showing back in May have gotten me so beyond hyped and proven how much Guerilla cares and has been listening to fans over the years.
    I really think this game is gonna come out and blow so many people away!

  • These are exactly the kind of improvements I wanted to see. Absolutely love the focus on gameplay mechanics and their combinations. It’s the Super Mario approach where robust and varied character control and abilities are tuned to perfection. If I wasn’t already sold on this game this post would have done it. Keep up the great work Guerilla!

    By the way, that second gif of the advanced techniques might be the coolest gameplay clip I’ve ever seen.

  • We need more tameable mounts

  • Sounds absolutely amazing! Thanks for taking such care and thought into making the game!

  • Also available on Skidrow blog 2023.

  • Can’t wait to play it. Love ZD and platinumed it. FW is what I’ve been waiting for since the announcement of PS5.

  • Looking forwards to the PC version. I very much enjoyed the PC version of the original game.

  • Can you notice pc ver release date? Hope someone sue to sony for gamer’s right.

  • Nice game i think,.really looking forward to it. I put the high hope i guess

  • This is a great blog post. It is wonderful to read about the effort, thought and detail about the game’s development. However, please consider adding gyro aiming! It would make aiming with the bow even more immersive, in addition to the resistance of the triggers and the sensation of the haptic feedback.

  • I can’t wait to buy this game next year I’m already saving up my money so I can pre order the game.

  • Will you be able to use the Ancient Armor from Zero Dawn? Can you go from Forbidden west to the Cut to the other places?

    I truly can’t wait for the game but I want these things answered.

  • Been playing Horizon since 2017. Each time one replays the game more questions arise.

    Horizon’s and aloy’s world and society are such an amazing piece of art.

    Also looking forward to see the mini game, hope it introduces more insight about the red raids and the future of the series, about the tribes and more.

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