One of the most prominent locations in Horizon’s Forbidden West, the Las Vegas ruins attract attention not only for setting a key moment in the story, but also for their incredible visuals. The landscape hidden beneath the tranquil dunes took a long time to recreate and a lot of effort to faithfully represent the North American city.
Samantha Schoonen, quest designer at Guerrilla, was responsible for designing the quest’s “Sea of Sand” level and incorporating destroyed postcards from Old Vegas. He spent months researching casinos, parks, buildings and structures and adapting them into game concept art in a way that respected the planned visual identity.
For main quests, we always start with a story summary provided by our story team. We then created a design document based on this summary, with information on story pacing, mission objectives, an area map to visualize mission flow and locations, and a detailed description of those areas.
After planning the mission, developers created three-dimensional models and were supported by the technology team. This made it possible to combine the sketches with various gameplay effects in Horizon Forbidden West, such as pockets of water, affected visibility, reduced movement, and the innovative swimming system.
Powered by the Decima Engine, Aloy can glimpse “new types of natural beauty” that only the depths could display. During the mission, warrior Nora traverses crumbling pillars, old toy buildings, still-functioning neon lights, and a “fascinating and mysterious” ecosystem surrounded by marine vehicles.
Early in development, we explored which aspects of water could create interesting gameplay challenges that were also impressive. Then we thought about the flow of water. Sometimes Aloy encounters strong currents in the water, which take him away from the direction he should go.
You can try to go through them, but the best way is to use submerged reinforcement bars. Aloy can absorb these bands and use them to receive impulses and conduct electricity.
The limitations of the underwater world in the Forbidden West of the Horizon
Aside from the scenery itself, the serene dunes map of Forbidden West Horizon forces players to move in peace. From a distance, more observant fans may notice small points of light and distortion, but only getting close enough will reveal whether an object is an enemy or a path to progress.
Las Vegas also marks the first introduction to the Tide Cross creature. The monster constantly interrupts Aloy’s actions and appears as an invisible threat, combining with other threats such as darkness, limiting offensive mechs, and small vehicles. Therefore, until the moment of the final confrontation, it is necessary to act carefully and hide in the algae and debris.
Aloy can’t attack while swimming, so she has to be smart and stealthy to outrun her enemies. The best way to stay out of sight is to use smoke bombs or hide in the algae. They’re dense enough to prevent crazy cars from spotting you, but still allow you to peek while hiding. This makes for an extremely tactical hunting or hunting moment.
And just when players think they’ve seen enough of underwater exploration, the “Sea of Sand” ends with a complete drainage of the waters and a light show where new exploration sites appear. According to Guerrilla, multiple versions of these locations have been set up, allowing them to recreate “the holographic map the player encounters at the beginning of the mission.”
We were very excited about Vegas and wanted to make the mission worthwhile. Incorporating different elements such as tracking, combat, stealth and small challenges, the gameplay is varied enough to always feel fresh.
It was difficult to create enough elements without relying on combat and challenges that rely heavily on physics. That is why we wanted to create spaces with air pockets where it would be possible to interact with the environment.
Horizon Forbidden West is available for PS4 and PS5.