How Horizon Forbidden West's Story Ties Into Zero Dawn

Horizon Forbidden West is a direct sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn. So, the story follows directly with many recurring themes, characters, and plot lines. In addition to new weapons and combat mechanics, Horizon Forbidden West revisits the world of franchise protagonist, Aloy, as she navigates the second installment in the series.

[Warning: Spoilers for Horizon Forbidden West are below.]

The Horizon games take place on a post-apocalyptic Earth in the 31st century, following a mass extinction event that wiped out all life on the planet. In brief, this apocalypse started in the 21st century and was caused by climate crises and killer robots, known as the Faro Plague. The Earth was detoxified and repopulated thanks to the efforts of Dr. Elisabet Sobeck, who engineered Project Zero Dawn to restore the planet after the fall of humanity under the AI: GAIA.

Related: Horizon Forbidden West: Every New & Returning Weapon & Trap 

The story of Horizon Forbidden West continues directly on from Zero Dawn as Aloy leaves after the conclusive battle at Meridian and defeat of HADES (the function-turned-AI intent on wiping out all life on earth). HADES represents one of several subordinate functions that Aloy needs to find in Horizon Forbidden West. Players quickly learn that Aloy has spent six months traveling in search of a backup for GAIA. It seems that in light of everything that Aloy learned about herself in Horizon Zero Dawn, she recognizes her importance as the only person that can save the world.

In Horizon Zero Dawn, HADES is the primary antagonist as an evolved subfunction that is hellbent on eliminating all life from the planet. Through manipulating humans, HADES nearly achieves this until he is thwarted by the efforts of Aloy and her company. The Zero Dawn DLC Frozen Wilds also introduced another evolved subfunction, HEPHAESTUS. Originally purposed with creating more machines, HEPHAESTUS became the cause of the Derangement seen in machine creatures causing them to become aggressive after being separated from GAIA.

In Horizon Forbidden West, Aloy is aiming to collect GAIA's subordinate functions, each with a different purpose within Project Zero Dawn's ecological restoration process. Specifically, Aloy must find the subfunctions POSEIDON, AETHER, and DEMETER; these functions are responsible for detoxifying the waters, the air, and restoring floral species to the planet, respectively. These functions do not seem to have evolved after receiving the signal that led to GAIA's end, so these are far easier to obtain than the sentient HADES or HEPHAESTUS.

The remaining subordinate functions are ARTEMIS and ELEUTHIA, responsible for reintroducing faunal species and creating new humans respectively, and finally APOLLO - an archive of all human history intended to educate the new humans born to ELEUTHIA - that was destroyed by Ted Faro in his arrogance. These subfunctions are mentioned in Horizon Zero Dawn and again in Forbidden West, but they do not really feature as they are "lost" to GAIA and she cannot sense their presence. However, they are actually under the control of a nefarious group intent on obtaining their own GAIA.

Horizon Forbidden West features several returning characters from Horizon Zero Dawn, including the major side characters, Varl and Erend. Varl is a Nora, just like Aloy, and by the end of Horizon Zero Dawn he became a Seeker and left the Nora Sacred Lands to aid Aloy in the fight against the Eclipse and HADES. Oseram-born Erend became the leader of the Sun-King's Vanguard during Horizon Zero Dawn, despite his struggles at the beginning of the game following his sister's death. Both of these beloved figures return in Horizon Forbidden West, fighting by Aloy's side until the bitter end (for one of them).

Related: Every New Machine Horizon Forbidden West Introduces

The return of Sylens marks a considerable link between the Horizon stories as he was a formidable antagonist of Horizon Zero Dawn. Sylens is a traveler obsessed with uncovering the secrets of the Old Ones and he was in league with HADES, introducing the AI to the extremist Shadow Carja to form the Eclipse cult. Although Sylens may not be all bad as he told Aloy of HADES' master plan that was eventually foiled at Meridian, the end-credit scene of Zero Dawn reveals that Sylens captures HADES with the intent of interrogating the AI for knowledge. Sylens' role in the story of Horizon Forbidden West shows the puppeteer working with a new rebel group of the Tenakth tribes, led by Regalla. Throughout the game, it is revealed that Sylens provided the rebels with knowledge on how to tame machines for mounts, and how to build superweapons.

The scientific group, Far Zenith, were mentioned in Horizon Zero Dawn as pioneering the space colonization mission that ended in disaster as the Odyssey spaceship exploded upon leaving the solar system. Except it did not. Far Zenith returns in Horizon Forbidden West as the major antagonist: The Odyssey actually never blew up and instead successfully settled on a planet in the Sirius system 8.6 light-years away from Earth. There, this group evolved exponentially; they gained the ability to fly, developed extremely advanced technology including plasma hand canons, and even became immortal. In fact, the individuals that return to Earth in Forbidden West are the same people that left on the Odyssey 1,000 years earlier.

Far Zenith have come back to Earth because their hubris led them on a quest that backfired. After a project aiming to achieve digital immortality failed, the Zenith left the digital minds of their kin unmonitored, and this collection of digitized human minds grew sentience and eventually wiped the entire Zenith homeworld of all life. A major link to Horizon Zero Dawn occurs here in that it was this hive-mind, called Nemesis, that sent the signal to disrupt GAIA and caused HADES to grow sentience and cause havoc on Earth so that the Zenith could not settle on the planet.

Despite exploring a much larger area than that in the first game, Horizon Forbidden West revisits and expands on much of the story of Horizon Zero Dawn, even answering burning questions like who sent the signal to disrupt GAIA and her subordinates. The story of Horizon Forbidden West ends on a similar cliffhanger to its predecessor, indicating Aloy must navigate more issues with out-of-control AI functions in the future.

Next: Every Way Horizon Forbidden West's Ruins Are Similar To BOTW's Shrines

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