Guerrilla Games and Sony have accomplished incredible things with Horizon, getting the series off to an excellent start with Zero Dawn and then making huge improvements to an already solid foundation with the recently-released Forbidden West. The latter, of course, is still not even a month old, which means it’s going to be several years before we even hear a whiff about a third mainline Horizon game- but there is, of course, going to be a third mainline Horizon game. When it comes, we’re hoping that it continues the series’ upward trajectory, and we do have some particular ideas in mind for how we want it to do that. Here, that’s what we’ll be talking about.
Horizon Forbidden West has made some significant strides from its predecessor where mobility is concerned, with the addition of mechanics such as free climbing and the Shieldwing contributing significantly on that front. Our hope is that with the sequel, Guerrilla continues to do that. In particular, we feel there’s still room for improvement with the climbing- particularly in Aloy’s movement while she climbs up surfaces. It might sound like a granular change on paper, but having faster, smoother, and more responsive climbing movements would be a huge improvement in practice.
Stealth is never really the main focus in Horizon games, so it makes sense that that aspect of the experience isn’t nearly as polished and deep as the combat is- but it is enough of a focus that we feel it could stand to make big improvements. Even in Forbidden West, which does make changes on this front for the better, stealth can feel a bit too rudimentary and basic, and our hope is that that will no longer be the case when its sequel arrives a few years down the line. Of course, we’re not expecting Horizon to turn into Metal Gear Solid all of a sudden, but having smarter enemies who aren’t so predictable in their actions and so easy to cheese should definitely still be a priority.
Horizon Forbidden West is a rare example of a game getting underwater sections right. Being able to freely explore gorgeous sunken environments with complete freedom of movement in large spaces adds another excellent layer to the experience- and Horizon 3 can take that another step further in one very simple way. Introduce combat. We’re well aware of the fact that underwater combat won’t be nearly as complex and expansive as regular combat for obvious reasons, but having at least some options to be able to take enemies on in a pinch and not having to completely rely on stealth mechanics would be a massive improvement to these sections.
DEEPER WEAPON CUSTOMIZATION
One of several areas that Horizon Forbidden West deserves a ton of praise for is the range of options it provides with its weapons- not just with unique weapon types, but even the variety of options available within each different type, with each of them being upgradable across each type. The logical step forward for the series now would be to throw in more granular customization options. If players get a bow, maybe they should have the option to add a craft and attach a scope to make it a more viable long-range weapon. If we get a ropecaster, maybe we should be able to add elemental effects of our own choosing. Forbidden West doubled down on its RPG mechanics, which was the best thing it could have done, and something like this would crank that up to 11.
SUMMONABLE COMBAT MACHINES
Overriding machines and using them to your benefit for both traversal and combat is a huge part of these games, and it is undoubtedly an area that Guerrilla will be looking to improve even further with any future instalments. So how could they take things to the next level here? Well, maybe players could always have a combat-focused machine that they could summon to fight by their side in tight situations. Imagine how cool it would be if you could summon, say, a Tremortusk in a fight against a Thunderjaw. It’s not like Forbidden West doesn’t already allow you to do this to some extent- you can make machines fight against each other, and you can summon your mounts to fight by your side during combat, but doubling down on the mechanic and making it an even more integral part of the core loop would make for an excellent addition.
This is another way that Guerrilla could expand the machine overriding mechanic. Players do get a decent range of options in how they want to use their overriden machines as it is, but providing even more granular control would only improve things, similar to what we spoke about with the weapons. Maybe you could deck out your overriden Clawstrider with a gatling gun, or maybe you could add another layer of armour to your Charger. Forbidden West’s overriding-focused skill tree already veers in this direction as it is, so it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world if its sequel had a dedicated machine customization system.
SYSTEMIC WEATHER MECHANICS
Weather effects in Horizon Forbidden West are absolutely gorgeous. When you’re caught in the middle of a furious sandstorm or a blinding blizzard, you can’t help but stop for a moment and take in all the beauty around you. These weather effects, however, are mostly aesthetic in nature. What we want from Horizon 3 is for the weather mechanics to have a gameplay impact. Like maybe machines getting slower in cold weather, or becoming overheated and going on something of a rampage when caught under the baking sun of a desert.
We’ve spoken plenty of times about how the Horizon template is basically begging for a Monster Hunter-style spinoff, and while we firmly believe that something like that should be its own full-fledged co-op game, we wouldn’t mind seeing co-op being an option in Horizon 3 either. A lot of that would probably be down to how the story is structured, of course- Aloy is alone for the bulk of both Zero Dawn and Forbidden West, so maybe justifying having a co-op partner will be easier said than done. If Guerrilla can figure out a way to make it happen though, it could open up some exciting gameplay opportunities.
CHOICE AND CONSEQUENCE MECHANICS
Both Horizon games have flirted with the idea of choice and consequence mechanics on occasion. In both games, players get to make what feel like key decisions at certain points- though of course, given the very nature of these games, those decisions don’t ever really impact the story and how it plays out. That’s a little disappointing, in all honesty. Horizon 3, then, should go all in on that- keep giving us the opportunity to make these big story decisions at Aloy, but then also make sure that those decisions actually mean something. Have them have a meaningful impact on the story.
This one would probably be an ancillary addition, and not nearly as gameplay-centric as a lot of the other stuff we’ve spoken about in this feature- but we’d still love to see a full-fledged codex in the next Horizon game. This is a ridiculously lore-heavy series, with so much history and backstory attached to so many things, and sometimes, you just want to learn more about all of it- either because you want to refresh your memory, or because you’re just genuinely interested in it. Forbidden West does have a section in its menu dedicated to character bios, which is definitely a step in the right direction, but having a codex would be an excellent bonus.