Horizon Forbidden West: Trailer Breakdown and Analysis

There's a lot to unpack in the first trailer for Horizon Forbidden West. Here are a few things we found that might tell us more about the sequel's story!

Horizon Forbidden West Trailer
Photo: Sony

Horizon Zero Dawn arrived at a strange time. In the midst of 2017’s open-world fatigue and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild hype, Horizon hit the PlayStation 4, becoming an instant hit and critical darling, solidifying a new franchise for Killzone developer Guerrilla Games. Now, a sequel is coming to the PlayStation 5. Revealed in a trailer during June’s PS5 reveal event, Horizon Forbidden West looks gorgeous.

In the sequel, Aloy ventures into the “Forbidden West,” what used to be the states west of Utah. Key elements in the trailer include are modern ruins overtaken by nature, low-tech human settlements, and futuristic animal robots. The lush greenery of Aloy’s world is also heavily on display here. The environmentalist story threaded remarkably well through the first game’s world-building comes to the fore again with a mysterious threat targeting animal life. Aloy, the cloned daughter of a scientist who put an AI failsafe in place just before all life on Earth went temporarily extinct, is headed to the risen Pacific to stop it.

We went through the trailer again and found a few details that may tell us more about what fans should expect from the new game:

Buildings underwater in Horizon Forbidden West

San Francisco

The trailer opens on buildings drowned by the ocean and covered in greenery. Horizon Zero Dawn’s world-building has shuffled around the ecology of the world. Even if the plants and animals are different, some remnants of cities are still recognizable. Several San Francisco locations can be seen in the trailer, including the Golden Gate Bridge. Chinatown has also survived in the form of signage and a holographic dragon, similar to the holographic animals seen in the series’ Yellowstone Park. 

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Red vines in Horizon Forbidden West

A New Threat

Some kind of red vine is causing animals and plants to sicken and die. In the trailer, we see as a woman digs up a dead, gray carrot.

The first game’s threats were primarily mechanical, with nanobot “corruption” infecting robotic animals. The new threat, which could be organic or more machine manipulation, gets right to the heart of the “save the environment” story by threatening animal life.

There are two possible culprits who come to mind right away: Artemis or Demeter, two subfunctions of the world-spanning AI GAIA who re-seeded the Earth after total extinction. Artemis was the part responsible for organic animal life and Demeter handled plant life. Both disappeared after the parts of GAIA were scattered. Artemis has been sending messages to humanity in the form of poetry, but other than these collectibles, they’re both rogue agents. Could one or both be creating this new rot? 

Giant mechanical turtle in Horizon Forbidden West

New Machines 

Of course, new Horizon means new machines. In the game’s lore, each kind of machine has a function intended to help foster Earth’s natural life: cleaning the water, aerating soil, etc. But they become dangerous when corrupted, or when the factories that make them are turned to making weapons instead of gardeners.

The new trailer gives us an enormous turtle living in swampy water, robot pterodactyls with solar panel wings, and a behemoth mammoth harnessed by some new cultists. Hopefully, we’ll get to ride some of these, but so far the only mount machines confirmed are the original ones. 

Horizon Forbidden West Swimming

Swimming!

Aloy could swim in the first game, including some especially fun dips in Yellowstone Park hot pools. But swimming was mostly a traversal mechanic, with occasional machine fights dipping into the water. Navigation was basic. Forbidden West seems to dive deeper by giving Aloy a far-future rebreather. This implies a lot more goings-on in the oceans swelled by climate change, and maybe new underwater machines to fight. I just hope they’re more fun to fight than Assassin’s Creed Odyssey‘s sharks.

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This Barrier 

This is new. It looks a little bit like Rockbreaker machine teeth, and a little bit like Aloy’s home area, but other than knowing Aloy is determined to break through it, it’s a mystery. The aesthetic isn’t quite like any of the cities or machines seen in Horizon before. It’s possible this is a sign the game is going to separate its final battle area from the open-world a bit differently than before. Horizon Zero Dawn’s slightly anticlimactic ending was one of the big flaws in its open world. 

Control Tower in Horizon Forbidden West

Control Tower 

Another mystery is this tower. It looks a lot like the control towers introduced in the 2017 DLC, The Frozen Wilds. Made by Hephaestus, the AI subfunction responsible for the robotic animals, they produced an energy pulse that can heal machines. This usually meant Aloy had to take them out before clearing an area. This mechanic might be present in the sequel, too.

Sylens in Horizon Forbidden West

An Old Enemy

The man watching the sky is Sylens. Sometimes a villain and sometimes an ally, he helped Aloy out earlier in the series. Obsessed with discovering the technology humanity once possessed, he stole the most destructive of the AI subfunctions and now seems to be putting together an army. Why exactly is unclear, as is whether Sylens or the AI Hades are really in charge here.

Sylens helped Aloy when it also benefited him but also formed the cult that hunted her throughout the first game. He’s one of the few people in the world to have a Focus, the prevailing smartphone ear clip designed for the end of the world. 

Tenakth in Horizon Forbidden West

New Cultists 

Sylens’ newest allies have elephant machines and an aggressive red and green color scheme. These could be some of the Tenakth, residents of the American south who wear distinctive green, red, and blue clothes and armor.

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A bandit and a couple of background civilians are the only Tenakth present in Horizon Zero Dawn. Lore states they have a ferocious band of “reavers” and that they’re the only nearby group never subjugated by the Carja, the kingdom which for a while terrorized and enslaved nearby people.

It’s possible Sylens’ group is a splinter faction from the Tenakth just like the Shadow Carja, the Hades-worshipping cult Sylens helped found before the first game. Or maybe they’re something totally new.

Horizon Forbidden West doesn’t have a release date as of yet, but when it does arrive, it’ll drop exclusively on the PlayStation 5. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.