‘Horizon Forbidden West’ dev explains new traversal mechanics

Journey to the Forbidden West.

Guerrilla Games has revealed new details about the upcoming Horizon Forbidden West, ahead of its February release date.

In a new PlayStation Blog post, Bo de Vries, the Community Lead at Guerrilla, revealed more about the game’s new exploration, and traversal systems.

“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.

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“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!”

The post also outlined the development process for the game. Originally revealed during the PlayStation 5 reveal event, the game will release on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4.

“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.’

Guerrilla goes on to explain how the DualSense controller will impact gameplay, saying that it’s heavily featured throughout the game’s mechanics including the use of adaptive triggers for the Pullcaster’s tension.

“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,” McMullen said. “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.”

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McMullen touched on what the team are calling ‘Immersive exploration’, describing the new functions of Aloy’s equipment from the first game.

“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.

“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.”

Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West. Credit: Guerrilla Games

Two new items, which were revealed in the recent gameplay trailer, the Pullcaster and the Shieldwing have also been detailed:

“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 favourite, 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.”

The Shieldwing, which was shown in the gameplay trailer to be an umbrella-like glider, caused many to draw comparisons between Horizon Forbidden West and The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of the Wild.

Later in the blog, Guerrilla’s Lead Combat Designer, Dennis Zopfi, revealed some of the new ways players will be able to upgrade Aloy during her journey.

Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West. Credit: Guerrilla Games

“One entirely new concept in Horizon Forbidden West is the workbench, where you can upgrade and strengthen weapons and outfits,” Zopfi explained. “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, where skills can be bought and unlocked as the player levels up. “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.”

Zopfi went on to say how the team wanted to bring melee combat and ranged combat close together, explaining that Aloy isn’t a character who “deals with brute force” so they were looking for ways to have the player go back and forth between melee and range.

“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!” Zopfi said. “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 skilful 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.”

Horizon Forbidden West is set to release, along with every other video game ever made, on February 18, 2022.

Elsewhere, veteran TV presenter Sir. Trevor McDonald will take the reins as the new GamesMaster when the show returns. He takes over Sir. Patrick Moore who had held the role from 1992 until 1998.

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