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Horizon Forbidden West's New Abilities Explained

Guerrilla Games frustrated fans when they announced that "Horizon: Forbidden West" was pushed back until 2022. The new action-adventure game is the sequel to "Horizon: Zero Dawn," a game that sold 2.6 million copies in less than two weeks and became a landmark for the previous generation of PlayStation exclusive titles, so it's no wonder fans are chomping at the bit to get their hands on it. In the meantime, they're clinging to every scrap of information they can find about what new features this anticipated sequel will bring. Will Aloy have new weapons? Does her spear still work the same way? Will these new machines require new methods of stealth and combat?

There was a lot that players could pick up on from the gameplay trailer that dropped back in May, including one small detail the director thinks fans may have missed, but now Guerilla's community lead Bo de Vries has started a developer blog series where she's diving deeper into the features of the upcoming game and interviewing her coworkers on the project. The first entry was about Aloy's art design and character development, while another blog answers a lot of questions fans have been asking about the new survival mechanics and how our hero will be traversing the forbidden west.

New ways Aloy can move

Getting to play with new tools is cool and all, but there's nothing more satisfying in an exploration game than a character who handles the environment really well. Some of the best parts of the first game had less to do with battling giant machines and more to do with climbing a wall of wreckage to discover a scenic vista.

Lead systems designer David McMullen stated in de Vries' post that, "building upon the foundation of Horizon Zero Dawn, we have added a number of new ways to move through the world. Aloy can climb freely on and across huge sections of rocky terrain; even more machine types can be used as mounts; grapple points can be found throughout the environment which allows agile vertical traversal; [and] swimming underwater has opened up a whole new aspect of exploration." This seems like a big leap forward. The swimming in the game looks particularly incredible as the trailer shows Aloy navigating a vibrant reef full of fish and plant life. Climbable surfaces no longer require the tribal handholds like the ones from "Zero Dawn," although the trailer does show a yellow glow on climbable surfaces when Aloy activates her focus so that the player knows which areas are safe to jump to.

Introducing the Shieldwing and Pullcaster

One of the new tools the team seems most excited about is something called the Shieldwing. "The Shieldwing was always a team favorite," said McMullen. "It provides not only the most exhilarating way to return from an epic climb but also the most picturesque! This tool is invaluable with having so much more verticality, where backtracking down the same trail holds less of an appeal as on the way up."

The idea appears to be something resembling Link's glider in "Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," but it looks like Guerilla has definitely put its own spin on it. The glider appears to be made of the same forcefield that shielded the shell-walkers and the shield-weaver armor from "Horizon Zero Dawn." Original or not though, this is sure to be a popular addition among every player who's ever had an objective marker at the bottom of a cliff and had to spend valuable time searching for a safe way down. The grapple drops will be missed, but the Shieldwing seems like an excellent replacement.

They've also introduced a mechanical wrist-mounted grappling hook called the Pullcaster. This handy device allows Aloy to climb more swiftly and also works as a winch for moving objects in her environment. According to McMullen, "when grappling, the player can activate the launch — throwing them into the air, where they can grab a higher ledge, fire their bow, glide, strike-from-above or even grapple to a further point."

Changing combat tactics

Traversal is important, but combat skills are what gets fans excited. It seems that one of Guerilla's main focuses here was on allowing the player to deftly merge ranged and melee combat. De Vries also interviewed lead combat designer Dennis Zopfi, who said, "we wanted to bring melee and ranged combat closer together. Aloy is not a character who deals with brute force, so we were looking for ways to have the player go back and forth between melee and range, where she could use her precise bow skills to work towards a big payoff moment." This seems like a logical direction to take Aloy's combat as it reflects and enhances her established fighting style.

It seems that these kinds of tactics will also translate into new abilities as well. "A new example of a skill that does this is the Resonator Blast," says Zopfi, "where you charge up the spear with melee hits and when fully powered up, the energy can be placed on enemies (humans and machines alike) and followed up with a projectile – resulting in a big damaging explosion!"

On top of that, there are also twelve new "Valor Surge" abilities that can be unlocked and upgraded through the skill tree. These are sort of like super-moves that have to be charged up before they can be unleashed on Aloy's foes.

New weapons and ammo

One of the aspects of "Zero Dawn" that helped it stand out against "Uncharted," "Tomb Raider" and other action-adventure games of the time was the versatile range of weapons and ammunition. These each had different kinds of ammunition with abilities ranging from setting things on fire to blasting apart machine components. They could also be used in combination to deadly effect.

De Vries' post mentioned that the more iconic weapons such as the Hunter Bow, Sharpshot Bow, and the Blast Sling will return, but there will be new weapons as well. "The Spike Thrower," says Zopfi, "is a new, high damage weapon which, when thrown at the right moment, makes it easier to hit larger targets. For elemental damage, such as fire or adhesive, you can choose to stick with the Blast Sling, and so forth." This new weapon makes an appearance in the trailer as well, as Aloy uses it to cover a large mammoth-like machine in what appears to be yellow glue.

Zopfi also mentioned a new Workbench feature which allows players to not only "upgrade and strengthen weapons and outfits," but also unlocks new item-specific perks, skills and stat enhancements. Certainly useful tools for fighting the new factions of enemy humans and machines that were previewed in the trailer.