5 Things I Want, (And 5 Things I Don’t) From Horizon: Zero Dawn 2

Aren’t these list articles the worst? Well since you’re here…

In a small coffee shop in West Midtown Atlanta on a Tuesday I realized that I was strongly leaning toward putting HZD as my favorite game ever. I don’t mean the “best” game ever (though it could deserve that as well) I mean the game that I enjoyed the most start to finish, through combat, story, graphics, and game play.

With an inevitable sequel gamers are left to openly wonder what the next installment could bring to the world of tribal communities and robot dinos. I think I need to go on record here and stay that I don’t want anything major changed. But working from the base Horizon Zero Dawn provided we could have something groundbreaking on our hands with HZD2, especially as a possible PS5 launch title.

Early this year HZD creator Guerrilla Games moved into a brand new 5 story studio in Amsterdam. We can only assume this means HZD2 is a much larger project than HZD. With that in mind here’s a few of the changes that I think could push the sequel into the realm of gaming immortality.

1: WANT: Improved Melee Combat

I got a little sassy playing Horizon Zero Dawn when I realized that Aloy’s human enemies had a blocking mechanic and that Aloy couldn’t block. I believe the devs wanted to push the “Aloy is a ranged fighter” kind of story. Originally her spear was so basic it couldn’t even be upgraded. For the sequel I’d like to have a one-button block as well as a parry. The number of games that have incorporated this mechanic is already mind boggling.

HZD is chalk full of human enemies that rush Aloy and get in close. Imagine being able to parry those enemies and open up spear finishers. Adding an animation flourish (similar to Assassins Creed) would put melee over the top in HZD2.

2. WANT: Water Water Water

It almost feels like a video game right of passage to show off water in your sequel. I understand that. Swimming mechanics aren’t cheap and you really only want to commit to them if you know your game is a hit.

HZD really showed off a diverse set of bimoes. Snowy mountains, lush forests, arid desert plateaus are all done in a nearly perfect way. Just look up the work of literally any virtual photographer and you’ll see plenty of HZD.

For HZD2 I’d love to see a water heavy environment complete with a map area of small islands, a water-obsessed tribe, water specific robotic beasts, and possibly even traversal via Aloy riding a robot dolphin or shark.

Diving underwater should be at least considered, since so much of the ancient world would be under the waves in Aloy’s time. Why not have her explore some under-water ruins? Make a snorkle from downed robot parts? Yes please.

3. WANT: Large Scale Robot Control

In HZD Aloy could override enemy robots and turn them friendly. Not only was it a great element of the game it also became an important strategy to completing some of the more difficult areas.

What if you could call entire herds of robots and create a large scale assault or mount a large scale defense of an area? Isn’t the point of any sequel to take all the things that worked in the original and turn them up to eleven?

4. WANT: Larger Machines Mountable

In HZD Aloy could ride any robot that was essentially “horse-sized” and obviously, that makes sense. This is the sequel though, and bigger is better is the rule for all sequels of anything ever.

This time around Aloy should be able climb and control the big boys. The Thunderjaw (which is basically the robot T-Rex) would be incredible to utilize against enemies. Since the larger enemies have multiple weapon systems it’d be fun to see how much destruction one could work. And while we’re at it let’s ride flying robots as well.

5. WANT: Large Scale Tribal Battles

SCENE: Two tribes squaring off on a large grassy plain, bad guy tribe overwhelms good guy tribe and Aloy shows up with her own army of machines to save the day. In the battle can she give her machine dinos commands to all attack together? What would that look like? I want to know!

6. DO NOT WANT: Survival Elements

Aloy can hunt yes, but you don’t have to cook/eat food for survival. Aloy has outfits for different environments sure, but you can essentially wear whatever you want anywhere. Donning the winter Banuk gear in the desert is just fine. Wearing your crop top in a blizzard is just fine too.

In games with survival mechanics this would be a huge no-no. Think Red Dead 2, where the wrong outfit in the wrong place can actually bring you near death. Survival elements would hurt the HZD2. The game loops are all so quick and effortless. The game is made to never slow the player down. HZD is built toward momentum. There’s very little in this game that slowls you down in any way. Let’s keep it that way.

7. DO NOT WANT: Relationships

Relationships are getting close to “overdone” in the larger video game landscape and I don’t see what new or fun relationship mechanic HZD2 could bring to the table.

Also, if you follow the story of Aloy things are typically way too tense and/or fast moving to allow for anything like a relationship. It just doesn’t seem to be an important part of her story (for now).

I will say if HZD turns into a trilogy or a longer franchise then yes, we’ll need to explore Aloy’s attractions and how she forms and builds relationships. For now the sequel can do without.

8. DO NOT WANT: Multiple Playable Characters

Please don’t give us one of the best protagonists of the PS4 generation and then smack us in the face with another character to play. This is Aloy’s story and playing as any other character is a negative to the game. Full stop.

9. DO NOT WANT: Fully Climbable Surfaces

I might be in the minority here and I understand that. The open world games that have come in the years after HZD literally sell themselves on “climb anything.” That’s not a negative thing but I don’t think it fits HZD. This is a game where you play a non-superhuman character who simply cannot shamble up sheer cliffs because that’s not a thing that humans can do.

There’s a strange sort of beauty to the climbing holds built around the world in HZD. It’s as if a tribe saw a mountain that was impossible to pass and then forced themselves to find a way through. Aloy utilizes the trails left by others for much of her exploration and it just fits. This is the world we’re in. It’s a harsh world and human tribes have found figurative and literal footholds that defy the inhospitable nature of earth.

10. DO NOT WANT: Over 60 Hour Campaign

I know that a few paragraphs ago I mentioned the point of any sequel is to go bigger. But you know what? Humans make mistakes.

We do not need an HZD2 that is long just for the sake of being long. Sony exclusives have essentially mastered the 20-30 hour campaign and that’s exactly perfect for me. Let’s play stronger not longer.

Nathan is the co-host of the Splash Damage Bros Podcast. He’s an ENTP, an Enneagram 7, a Hogwarts Gryffindor and an Aries.

He can be found at @thenatejc and @splashdamagebro

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