Multiple sources have told VGC that Sony Interactive Entertainment has greenlit ambitious plans for the post-apocalyptic open-world franchise, which debuted in 2017 with the ten million-selling Zero Dawn.
Amsterdam-based Guerrilla had always desired to deliver a series of Horizon games – and a multi-part script was written – but the plan was only officially agreed after the original game’s strong debut on PlayStation 4.
Horizon is set on a far-future Earth where nature has reclaimed the planet, but massive animal-like machines rule the land. Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, a young woman on a quest to explore the ruins of the ancient past.
The title was both a commercial and critical success, with the team going on to win the 2018 BAFTA Games Award for Original Property.
The next instalment, Horizon Zero Dawn 2, started development soon after the first game’s successful release, sources said. Initially, the game was planned for PlayStation 4. However, it’s thought that development has now entirely shifted focus to Sony’s next-generation console.
Horizon Zero Dawn 2 is said to be ‘gigantic’ in scope with a larger game world and more freedom to explore it than in its predecessor. People with knowledge of the game also indicated the inclusion of a co-op feature, although it’s not clear if this is delivered via the main story or a separate mode.
At one point Guerilla was planning to release a standalone co-op game preview, with progress carrying over to the later, full version of Zero Dawn 2, one person involved told VGC. However, it’s not clear if these plans are still in place.
Co-op is a feature Guerrilla has long intended to introduce to the series, and it’s understood PlayStation was equally keen to see online functionality implemented in the sequel.
A co-op feature was initially planned for the first game but was ultimately scrapped so the development team could focus on other areas of the title. Zero Dawn concept art that leaked online in 2014 – verified by VGC – even shows initial plans to have multiple players battle the game’s huge mechanical beasts.
Guerrilla’s work on a sequel has recently been suggested by a series of job advertisements, which mention an open-world game featuring quests and creatures.
PlayStation has even made possible reference to how the PS5’s innovative controller could impact gameplay in Horizon. System architect Mark Cerny and CEO Jim Ryan have said the DualSense’s adaptive triggers will help players feel the tension of their actions, “like when drawing a bow to shoot an arrow”.
In 2017 PlayStation America’s then-president Shawn Layden confirmed Horizon Zero Dawn was a franchise the platform holder intended to leverage in the future.
“[Guerrilla co-founder] Herman Hulst has got a very keen mind on where he wants to take Horizon and what the roadmap is – and that roadmap is expressed in multiple years,” he told The Telegraph. “I think we’ll be in the Horizon business for a long time.”
According to Hulst – who was recently promoted to head of PlayStation’s worldwide studios – Sony remains highly committed to the creation of story and character-based games.
Internally it’s felt that these types of experiences ideally complement the blockbuster multiplayer titles that are favoured by third-party publishers.
Sony recently said PlayStation 5 is still planned for launch later this year, although a media report suggested there could be a limited supply of PS5 stock.
Sony Interactive Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment.