For a lot of players, Horizon Forbidden West is up there as being one of the best PS5 RPG games available right now. It offers up stunning visuals, a rich and vibrant open world, and rewarding combat. With leaks suggesting that Guerrilla is developing an online multiplayer game set in the same universe, there’s a lot to be excited about.
However, there are some genres of online game that would suit the Horizon universe, and there are some that would simply be an insult to the series. Can you imagine this series reduced to a crafting-focused survival game like Ark or Conan Exiles? Or, dare I say, a Horizon battle royale? The thought of it makes me shudder. For me, there’s only one game with a formula that would be as close to perfect as possible for an online Horizon game – something that draws on its biggest strengths – and that’s Monster Hunter.
If there’s one thing, beyond the captivating characters, that makes both Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West stand out from the rest, it’s the game’s Machines. It should go somewhat without saying, but these incredibly unique enemies need to be at the forefront of any Horizon game going forward – online multiplayer or otherwise. Without the Machines, I fear any future Horizon series game would disappear into the bottomless pit of generic post-apocalyptic sci-fi worlds we come face to face with in video games.
I know, I know… I just said the characters were captivating – and they are. However, the Horizon universe we know and love is intrinsically built around the Machines. Whether we’re talking about the social hierarchy of the Nora Tribe, the economy of Oseram settlements, or the food you’ll find on a Carja plate, absolutely everything is, in some way, connected to the mysterious technology of the Old Ones and the Machines. The way the Utaru see Plowhorns as deities in Horizon Forbidden West is another perfect example of this.
Creating an online multiplayer game where the Machines are a secondary feature, or absent altogether, would be pulling the heart out of this universe. It wouldn’t be doing Horizon Zero Dawn or Horizon Forbidden West justice, which I feel would then be a disservice to the players. So, that’s why I think a co-op based game in a similar vein to Capcom’s Monster Hunter series is exactly what Guerrilla needs to do with the upcoming Horizon online multiplayer game.
Not only would this format put the Machines front-and-centre when it comes to gameplay, which would allow Guerrilla to take advantage of the excellent element-based combat system it has perfected over two blockbuster single-player games, it would also force players to respect them – which is thematically important to the series.
If you’re sitting there wondering what a game like this would actually look like, let me paint a quick picture for you. Imagine a game where you get to create your own Nora Brave, or your own Tenakth Marshal, tasked with hunting dangerous machines threatening your people. Or, you need to collect rare machine parts for your tribe, that can only be found in the toughest Machines out there. You would be able to explore Mother’s Heart or Memorial Grove, preparing your weapons and gathering supplies for an expedition into the unknown.
But, you know you can’t just come back empty-handed, so you need to pick and choose your equipment carefully. Do you craft some Blast Traps for the journey ahead, so you can deal devastating damage to any Machines that cross your path? Or, do you pick up some Vertical Shock Traps instead, to immobilise your prey? With so much reward riding on so much risk, these decisions matter – but, they’re also an exciting gamble that can change the outcome of every encounter.
Now, picture all of this, but you’re not just going out to hunt Machines alone. You’re going out into the jungles with your friends. Sounds quite good, doesn’t it?
Admittedly, I do think the traditional Monster Hunter gameplay format needs to be adapted somewhat to bring out the best this incredible universe has to offer. Preserving the series’ fantastic open-world environments and free-flowing combat is going to be just as important as retaining the thematic heart of the stories we’re being told in this universe. However, I can’t imagine that’s going to be too much of a problem with the power of the PS5 at the developer’s disposal.
I am worried that Guerrilla is going to try to shove a square peg into a round hole with this rumoured Horizon multiplayer game in an effort to capitalise on the monetisation opportunities almost every online multiplayer game offers. I want to see a game that stays true to both Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West, one that preserves the fantastic gameplay and open-world systems available in the single player games. What I don’t want to see from this game is a rushed cash-grab that compromises everything we love right now about Horizon for a repetitive gameplay loop that puts more weight on microtransactions and money-making than player experience. That isn’t too much to ask, is it?