Horizon Zero Dawn 2 - what we want, what we know, and when to expect it

Given the success of the original game, it’s certain that Horizon Zero Dawn 2 is happening. Perhaps we'll see the PS4 sequel as one of Sony's E3 2018 games. Not only did it sell 7.6 million copies on PS4, the game also helped to shift PS4 Pro, it won a bunch of awards, and it gave PlayStation a strong champion for a new generation of players. Aloy is a fantastic role model and her story during the game a fascinating one. So much so, that we wonder how developer Guerrilla is actually going to carry the franchise forwards, especially as the first game is one of the best RPG games out there. To what extent is Aloy’s story complete? And would a new game be the same without her? It’ll be a while before we find out, as the game hasn’t been officially revealed by Sony. Realistically, we’re looking at a release date of 2019 at the earliest too, maybe even March 2020. That seems so long away.

However, by looking at clues in the game itself, and speaking to some of the creators, we’ve managed to piece together a few clues about what the game will be, and taken some educated guesses about where Horizon Zero Dawn 2 could go. Developer Guerrilla is already hiring staff for 'an epic open world game', which is very likely to be HZD2. What follows is a breakdown of everything we know about Horizon 2 and a bunch of stuff that we don’t know…

Horizon Zero Dawn 2 release date will be 2019 at the earliest

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a game of the size and scale of Horizon Zero Dawn can’t simply be pumped out in a year. While we get annual iterations of Assassin’s Creed, for example, each of those games is being worked on for at least three years before they’re released - it’s just that, in the past, Ubisoft has had multiple Assassin’s Creed teams working on different projects all at once. Guerrilla - as talented as it is - doesn’t have the capacity to do that, so we should realistically expect a new Horizon to take about three years. The original launched in March 2017, so - at a push - we could see a sequel by late 2019. However, a more likely date is March-September 2020, especially given the fact Guerrilla made such a substantial piece of DLC with The Frozen Wilds. If it doesn't appear at E3 2018 in June, don't expect to be playing this game before 2020.

Horizon Zero Dawn 2 characters - will Aloy return?

Well, that’s a tricky one. We kinda feel like her story has been told, but maybe there’s more for her to discover and do. Speaking to GR for a recent feature, Hermen Hulst - Managing Director and co-founder of Guerrilla Games - says: “She’s really uncovered some of the main mysteries in the world, but how do you feel when you finish the story? Are there questions that come up that you want to relive and answer for Aloy? It was not difficult for us to build the Frozen Wilds and tell that story through Aloy. The environments and the world that we’ve put together easily raise more questions.” It’s a cryptic way of telling us that we’re not done with Aloy yet. After all, you can’t throw away such a significant part of the original’s appeal. Continuing, Hulst describes Frozen Wilds as a side-story for Aloy, saying that “we obviously couldn’t tell the next chapter of the personal journey of Aloy.” Why not? If there are plans to tell more of Aloy’s story, you’d probably need a full sequel to do so because there isn’t enough scope in the DLC.

Horizon Zero Dawn 2 gameplay and story - what is likely to happen?

Given that gameplay is intrinsically linked to story in the original, the two will evolve hand-in-hand for Horizon Zero Dawn 2. We know from the ending of the first game that Sylens has saved HADES for himself, so that instantly provides us with a new bad guy. Interestingly, when speaking to GR, Hulst commented on his interest in the subject of AI. “What you’re picking up on is the personification of AI systems, of giving them a face and a character and a behaviour,” he says. “These are huge themes in our world too: the autonomy of warfare, the potential threat of AI going wrong. I think it’s really nice to show and not tell in games, and have the player react to them - and fight them - that makes it much more interesting to me.” While that’s very much a thing in Horizon, and the main thrust of The Frozen Wilds, it sounds like AI could well be a continuing theme of HZD2. And the most obvious antagonist for that kind of story would be HADES.

And here’s another interesting titbit from the interview, which could give clues about where combat will go in the sequel. According to Hulst, the lead designer at Guerrilla loves Monster Hunter, and has been playing the heck out of Monster Hunter World (haven’t we all?). While it wouldn’t be a radical departure from the original, we could see many of Monster Hunter World’s innovations appearing in a new Horizon game. “Our lead designer has been a massive Monster Hunter fan from way before Monster Hunter World,” says Hulst. “He loves that game and a lot of the combat with the machines comes from that series.” Will we see hunting jobs? Massive creatures like the Baselguese stalking you post-game? Co-op? Actually, demand for co-op in Horizon has been pretty low. According to Hulst: “I think some people are very happy when there’s a beautiful single-player campaign and a story. That’s been the overwhelming majority.”

Horizon Zero Dawn 2 - what about the creatures?

Looks like there will be plenty more creatures in the HZD sequel too. Speaking to GameInformer, Art Director Jan-Bart van Beek says that the sequel should have “more machines. They are a lot of fun to design, build, animate, and play with. I wish we could have done a hundred. But reality is a harsh mistress; it doesn’t allow you to make hundreds of machines.” This goes without saying, as does the idea that there will be more powerful enemies too - yes, even more so than the Fireclaw. It’s also possible that we’ll see the creatures interacting more, and feeling like a more natural part of the world. This idea of an ecosystem was something the creators chose to show less of in the original, but could be a thing for the sequel. Speaking about the original game to GR, Hulst says: “It’s important that the world make sense and the machines have their own roles. You know, the Grazers are grazing, and they fulfil a role in this AI-driven existence. But how much you’re going to show of that, of the roles the machines play in the ecosystem, well we could have chosen to show more in that regard, but we also wanted to make it a challenge to fight them, to spend time developing the tribes and the worlds and the foundries.” It’s definitely something we could see in the follow-up - machines fighting machines, and playing more of a role in shaping the world we play in.

And what do we think?

Horizon Zero Dawn 2 needs to tell more of Aloy’s story, but she can’t stay in Yellowstone forever. What’d be great is if we see her taking a journey to a different part of America, to unite more tribes against the HADES AI. Providing the regeneration has spread that far… Perhaps we’ll see Aloy becoming a Chieftain, and maybe even a mother, forcing her to confront personal wishes while managing the needs of her tribe. We could see co-op, especially after the success of Monster Hunter World, but the true beauty of Horizon lies in the story it tells, so focusing on multiplayer would certainly detract from that. There’s nothing wrong with having a proper, single-player adventure game. Finally, have we seen the last of Sylens? No, obviously not. And there are plenty of questions remaining about how Aloy’s world was generated, and loads more secrets about its past, present, and future to find buried under the earth or in lines of ancient computer code.