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Horizon Forbidden West release date, gameplay, story and more

Horizon Forbidden West
(Image credit: Sony)

Horizon Forbidden West is easily one of the most anticipated games for the PS5 after the breakout success of Horizon Zero Dawn back in 2017. While the new installment will also be released on the PS4, Sony CEO Jim Ryan stated in an interview with The Telegraph that the game is "built from the ground up to take advantage of the PS5 feature set." 

That includes nearly no loading screens, which considering the massive environments and wide-ranging post-apocalyptic terrain spread across the western U.S. is astounding. The PS5 hardly needs a system seller at the moment given that it's still hard to buy one, but Horizon Forbidden West looks to be that caliber of game. 

We are gathering every last bit of information we can find on Horizon Forbidden West as we wait impatiently, so here's what we have so far including the expected release date, the trailers, the setting, the gameplay and more.

Horizon Forbidden West release date

(Image credit: Sony)

Horizon Forbidden West is not expected to launch until early 2022 now according to Bloomberg's Jason Schreier, following on an earlier rumor from Jeff Grubb indicating that Sony was considering the delay. 

This shouldn't come as a massive surprise given the lack of a firm release date for it, during the PS5 Launch video in November 2020 Horizon Forbidden West was listed as "Anticipated second half 2021." Not exactly showing supreme confidence. 

The game is unfortunately in good company with numerous other exclusives having been pushed back to 2022 including Ghostwire: Tokyo and Stray most recently.

Horizon Forbidden West trailer and gameplay video

We got our first extensive trailer for Horizon Forbidden West courtesy of the big PS5 games event last year, which was a tantalizing glimpse into what Guerilla Games has in store for Aloy this time around.

However, during the PS5 State of Play we got a much more in-depth look at the game with over 14-minutes of actual gameplay and cinematics captured on a PS5.

Horizon Forbidden West setting

For those who haven’t already played the original Horizon Zero Dawn, the general setting is Earth roughly 1,000 years in the future. Humans have reverted to a tribal society with limited technology, and robotic creatures roam the earth and have become increasingly hostile.

(Image credit: Sony)

The official description for Horizon Forbidden West from the reveal trailer reads, “Horizon Forbidden West continues Aloy’s story as she moves west to a far-future America to brave a majestic, but dangerous frontier where she’ll face awe-inspiring machines and mysterious new threats.”

While the trailer gave us a vast array of landscapes, including the ocean, beaches, a desert, lush forests, icy mountain peaks, and more, there were only two easily identifiable man-made landmarks: the remnants of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Ferry Building, placing you in what was San Francisco.

(Image credit: Sony)

However, given the varied terrain and the reports of the “gigantic” scope of the game from VGC, it’s clear you are traversing at least quite a bit more of California with Yosemite glimpsed at another portion of the trailer.

Horizon Forbidden West

(Image credit: Sony)

Horizon Forbidden West gameplay

The basic style of gameplay is unchanged from the original Horizon Zero Dawn based on what we saw in the initial gameplay reveal. This is an open-world action RPG that will focus on combat, evasion, traps, traversal, and stealth. 

Horizon Zero Dawn featured both a traditional RPG skill tree progression to enhance Aloy’s abilities as well as weapon crafting, both of which will presumably be present and more advanced in Horizon Forbidden West, but we don’t have any new information on them yet.

Horizon Forbidden West combat

(Image credit: Sony)

From the trailer and gameplay, we have seen Aloy riding, diving with a futuristic diving mask, climbing, fighting, and using some impressive new tools. These include a grappling hook (pullcaster) and doing her best BoTW impression with an electric parachute (shield wing). Her bow will again be the central weapon, but she will also use slings and ropecasters, which will all make liberal use of the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers.

We got a reasonably extended look at fighting against both other humans and the machines with Aloy clearly having learned some new skills. She has more extensive combos and different battle surge effects available during combat. The weapon wheel shows off some of her other varied options including adhesive grenades, explosive spikes, and more. Aloy can also pick up discarded enemy weapons to turn against them.

Horizon Forbidden West weapon selection

(Image credit: Sony)

Her signature “focus” earpiece is, of course, still present, which is a kind of AR device that gives Aloy special abilities to track and scan enemies. We saw a new quick scan feature in the gameplay trailer revealing handholds for Aloy, but there could be more to come.

The same report on the scope of the game also indicated that a co-op mode was planned, but it remains unclear if this is part of the main game or a standalone experience, as this does not appear to fit with anything we've seen so far.

Horizon Forbidden West

(Image credit: Sony)

Horizon Forbidden West story

For the story, we know that it picks up sometime shortly after the events of Horizon Zero Dawn and The Frozen Wilds expansion. 

Aloy is continuing on her journey to stop the HADES system and whatever triggered it from destroying life on earth. We get glimpses of a number of new characters including raiders that have the power to harness the machines, including the frighteningly large mammoths that Aloy confidently draws her bow on as the trailer comes to a close and battles in the gameplay footage.

According to the aforementioned VGC report, the plan is for the Horizon series to be a trilogy, which means we should expect one more game to reach the end of Aloy’s story.

If you are looking to delve further into the world of Horizon ahead of Horizon Forbidden West, a Horizon Zero Dawn comic book series offers a new story following the events of Horizon Zero Dawn.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.