Horizon Forbidden West: 5 Big Changes from Horizon: Zero Dawn

From a location change to new gameplay mechanics, here are five ways Horizon Forbidden West is evolving from its predecessor.

Sony’s latest State of Play showed off a whopping 14-minutes of gameplay for Horizon Forbidden West. The highly anticipated action-adventure sequel to Horizon: Zero Dawn, which was announced last year, is shaping to what could be another hit for Sony. 

While anyone that delved into the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn will recognize the game's (so far) polished animations and bow-based combat, there were a number of elements of this ambitious sequel shown in the gameplay trailer that will hopefully mix things up in Aloy's second adventure.

We may be some time away from the Horizon Forbidden West launch date — something noticeably absent from the latest State of Play. However, here are five changes we know are coming to Horizon Forbidden West.

New Horizons

It may be in the title, but one of the most striking changes to Forbidden West is its new locale. Players will explore and fight along the sandy beaches of post-post-apocalyptic San Francisco. With tropical palm trees and stunning blue waters, this looks like a marked change over Zero Dawn’s already beautiful pastures.

Swapping out the snowy mountains of Colorado for the sun-bleached West Coast, Forbidden West isn’t just changing the look of everything, but it's also diversifying and increasing the amount of verticality in the world of Horizon.

New Gameplay Features and Mechanics

By and large, Horizon Forbidden West’s gameplay looks largely similar to the first game. However, there are already a couple of noticeable additions that will help diversify gameplay and work into the sequel's more vertically-inclined design.  

Aloy is seen utilizing a new grapple and glider, which yanks her up and across to select points and ensures a soft landing from high heights. The new tools lean into San Francisco’s increased verticality, and we see them used as both ways to traverse the ruins and as getaway tools in combat.

Melee combat has been reworked, too. Zero Dawn’s melee was a simple swipe at the tap of the square button, but here, Aloy swipes and pounces, comboing her attack, and even dishing out special blows with an electrical blast.

We are sure there will be plenty of additional gameplay features revealed in the lead-up to Forbidden West's release date. Now we are just wondering how good bow combat feels with the pressure of adaptive triggers and the rumble of haptic feedback.

And don’t think we didn’t notice that handy slide mechanic, either. 

New Enemies

Horizon Zero Dawn had it easy. Show off a couple of robo-dinosaurs and almost any sci-fi fan was in. Forbidden West has the challenge of introducing new enemy types that still give fans those same goosebumps. Turns out, velociraptors and giant elephants are all you need.

With chainsaw jaws and that Spielberg-infamous click of their piercing claw, the robo-velociraptors, or Clawstriders, are immediately the most intimidating enemy in Horizon's universe yet, and much like some of the beasts in Zero Dawn, they also make handy rides.

However, it is the giant Lord of the Rings-esque elephants, Tremortusks, that have stolen the show so far. Anyone else planning a Legolas-styled elephant takedown? No? Just us?

Underwater Areas

To add to the variety of the game's West Coast environment, Forbidden West will also let players dive below its depths. The underwater segments were among some of the most visually impressive of the whole gameplay demo.

With a breathing apparatus always ready to go, Aloy can explore the underwater depths for as long as she likes, and there is a lot to see. However, the waters aren’t entirely safe, with menacing Snapmaws lurking and strong currents to avoid.

While we didn’t get a sense of how explorable these underwater segments are, with its open-world structure and coastal setting, we’re hoping that underwater segments will play a huge part in Forbidden West.

A New Story

With mass extinction, cloned humans, sentient AI, and a robotic apocalypse, there was a lot going on in Zero Dawn. Uncovering the truth about the apocalypse that wiped out humanity 1,000 years in the past was one of the first game’s many strengths. With more overarching mysteries, Forbidden West tasks Aloy with uncovering the origin of a deadly virus that is plaguing the land and killing everything it touches.

This mystery will take Aloy across to the Forbidden West, where we imagine she’ll find something to do with that pesky homicidal AI HADES. 

And of course, new locations mean new tribes, ruined locations full of lore, and new struggles for Aloy, who will undoubtedly begin to uncover more elements of Earth's apocalyptic past.


There's still a lot we don't know about Horizon Forbidden West, and everything listed above came from only 14-minutes of gameplay. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more info on Guerrilla Games' next open-world adventure. 


I am a freelance journalist from Scotland, writing, debating and sometimes video making about all things film and games.

Published Jun. 3rd 2021

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