We just finished wrapping up our coverage of E3 2018, and despite a lack of surprises (and an abundance of leaks), it was a fantastic show. One thing that wasn’t surprising was the absence of a sequel to Guerrilla Games’ 2017 open-world masterpiece, Horizon: Zero Dawn. The team at Guerrilla spent years working on Horizon, but now that they have many of the assets and foundation laid out, the possibility of a sequel could happen a lot more quickly than we’d expect. Some fans were speculating that a new game in the series would be announced at E3, but when looking at the timeline and how long games take to make, I’d say we’re still a few years off from that. There’s no doubt that Guerrilla is working on a follow up, due to the critical acclaim of the first one. But what do we think could, should, and will be in the Horizon Zero Dawn Sequel?
Ideally, sequels should address the criticisms of the first game and make changes to improve the experience. This doesn’t always happen, for various reasons, whether it’s budget, time restrictions, or internal creative differences. It’s interesting to evaluate because Horizon is a great game, with few flaws. That isn’t to say it’s perfect, because no game is perfect, but when discussing possible improvements, it’s easy to get into nitpicky territory.
Something often criticized in Horizon: Zero Dawn is the writing, which I totally agree with. The main character, Aloy, was fine, but the supporting cast had stiff lines that were performed just as stiffly. Guerrilla could improve this by using all the money raked in from the staggering 7.6 million copies of Horizon sold. That’s the beauty of the idea of a sequel: the first game sold so well that Guerrilla should have the budget to make the sequel even better.
Speaking of the supporting cast, many of the character models look muddy and downgraded compared to Aloy. Again, this has to do with time and budget, so it’s understandable that Guerrilla had to prioritize where to put that money. In the sequel, I’d love to see all of the character models be on the same playing field, preferably looking as good (if not better) as the first one. Nothing breaks immersion like seeing a beautifully rendered Aloy next to a PS3-looking no-name NPC. I know you can do it, Guerrilla!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can get into the nitty-gritty of what I’d like to see in a sequel to Horizon: Zero Dawn. I know the major first-party Sony games tend to be more focused towards narrative, single player experiences, but I can’t help but thinking about how cool it would be to take down a herd of robot dinosaurs with a buddy. Yes, I think co-op could be neat, as long as it isn’t an afterthought. We can tell when something is slapped together just for the sake of it, like having missing features, or lacking content. As of late, first-party Sony games have done well, critically, so I don’t doubt that Guerrilla would know how to make a co-op mode work. I don’t find this addition likely, but I think running around with a friend, Monster Hunter-style could be tons of fun, especially in this world.
Part of the reason Horizon did so well was because the world was unlike anything we’d seen before. I like to compare it to Bioshock, at least in the way the environments are so unique. It’s hard to recapture that magic in a sequel because the world doesn’t feel as novel the second time around. Because of this, Horizon: Zero Dawn 2 (or whatever they call it) should take place in a new world, entirely. I’m sure the game would still sell like crazy if it took place in the same exact area as the first, but a new setting could help move more units. I’m not a designer, so I don’t have any specific ideas for this, but maybe something in a swampy area would be interesting? That or a city in the sky (taking another page out of the Bioshock book) might help keep things fresh.
Additionally, I’d like to see a more unique story. This may be blasphemous, but I wasn’t wild about the story of Horizon: Zero Dawn. It wasn’t bad, but after about 10 hours, my eyes glazed over after trying to pay attention to the nonsense that was going on. The relationships between characters were fantastic but attempting to care about all the futuristic tech and wars going on was straining. This is probably just me and if you liked the story, that’s awesome. But what I love about this game is exploring the world and fighting robot dinosaurs, not trying to make sense of all the convoluted back stories.
What would be awesome is a more personal story. Take something like God of War, which has a beautifully simple story: get from point A to point B with your son to deliver the thing (trying to avoid any spoilers). It was effective, personal, and it made me care about the characters. If the sequel of Horizon took this approach it would be a more rounded package and I think players would be way more invested in the story.
Aside from that, having an additional playable character might put a much-needed twist on the sequel; Maybe a friend or a family member of Aloy’s. I’m envisioning being able to swap between Aloy and another character on the fly, similar to Grand Theft Auto V or Castlevania. The second character could play differently than Aloy, allowing for an interesting and refreshing dynamic. Like a lot of these suggestions, I don’t think this one will happen, but it would be neat!
Hopefully it didn’t seem like I was bashing Horizon, because I do think that game is a masterpiece, despite its flaws. Luckily, a game can still be incredible to me even with a bonkers story and off-putting voice acting. My desires for a sequel are to improve on the mistakes of the previous game and recapture the magic from the original. It might be hard to do, but I think Guerrilla has proven that they can pull it off. Sony has been great about letting their developers take all the time they need, and it really shows. I have no doubts that the sequel to Horizon: Zero Dawn will be fantastic. What would you like to see in a possible sequel? Let us know and remember to stay savvy!