What the Next Horizon Game can Learn from Prey
Prey, the Predator prequel, is now available on Hulu. Naru (Amber Midthunder), the main character, encounters the Predator several times before they finally battle. Naru encounters the Predator in an open prairie. She learns that open space and its laser targeting system don’t make a good combination. She also sees the Predator moving through the trees and using its shield as both an offensive and defensive weapon. Another lesson teaches her about the Predator’s thermal vision and how it may be susceptible to distractions from above.
These scenes are used by Prey to set up a brilliant final confrontation in which Naru uses all she knows to attack Predator as efficiently as possible using her weapons. She is still in danger despite her preparations. While they might increase her chances of survival, the tension over whether she can survive is never gone. Her survival is not guaranteed because the Predator is bigger, faster and has more advanced weapons. I watched the movie in its Comanche Language dub again, which I highly recommend. I was excited to see how challenges and limitations create tension. I also began to think about how this could be integrated into the next Horizon video game.
Horizon, like Prey, is set in the American West. The protagonist uses a bow-and-arrow to fight a technologically advanced enemy she is trying to defeat. Horizon and Prey have a lot in common, but the similarities don’t stop there. Aloy, the main character in Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden East, travels through forests and battles robot dinosaurs in mountains, deserts, valleys, and jungles. The changing environments provide a nice backdrop for encounters with the different types of machines that you will find. How you approach fighting a machine in the mountains or in the forest doesn’t make a difference.
Aloy’s amazing athleticism is a major reason. Aloy can jump, dodge, and roll easily, so evading attacks from even the most powerful enemies is easy. This, combined with the fact that Aloy has no stamina meters and can move equally fast in any environment, makes it easy to avoid the attack patterns of most machines. Aloy has access to a grappling hook and a glider, which adds another dimension to the gameplay. Players don’t need to worry about survival in an encounter because they can access various tools and abilities.
Aloy is powerful. To put it simply, she feels that way. The designers decided to allow the player as much control as possible. The cumulative effect of all this control is a flattening experience of moving through and fighting in different environments. After spending hundreds of hours playing Horizon 2, I cannot recount any stories about fighting a particular machine in an environment that made it memorable.
Aloy is taken from her weapons at a point in Zero Dawn and placed into an enclosed arena with a corrupt beast. This was my first encounter with this machine, and I didn’t have my weapons. It was scary. I had to reorient and find out what I could do without my weapons. I could not control the game then and had to accept its limitations rather than giving me more options.
Your understanding of Nary’s capabilities and limitations continually improves as you watch Prey. While she is not weak, she does have limitations. She must be careful with her weapons, strength and speed as she fights the Predator. She uses the environment to her advantage and faces the Predator according to her terms. Horizon’s ethos has been to offer more movement options and weapons over two games. While this allows players to make incredible moves, it does not always encourage creativity or optimal play.
Aloy moves quickly through the environment, and her weapons fire so fast that it is easy to get through any encounter. Do not get too close to any machine. Instead, aim for the weak points, deal elemental damage and continue shooting until it dies. Reddit has multiple threads complaining about this problem. Forbidden West implicitly admits that it is what most players do. They also remind you to keep trying different weapons twenty-four hours later.
Most players choose the path that is least likely to cause them to harm in a game. Aloy’s bows will be the most effective in every encounter. Players won’t resort to using traps, mines or other distractions if they don’t have the option. The game’s environment doesn’t have to affect Aloy’s movements or the effects of her weapons and movement. It’s not about reducing the player’s enjoyment. This is a way to get them to engage with the many systems and mechanics fully the developers have spent so much time creating.
What if you had more variables to think about the next time you encountered a Sawtooth in the snow? Perhaps Aloy’s speed of movement is affected by the terrain so that you can’t run past the encounter. Fire projectiles, which Sawtooths don’t have the strength to use, won’t work in this environment. The primary strategy of running and shooting is less viable. However, you can still try it if necessary. There are other options. Perhaps it’s possible to override a group of machines nearby and bait them to fight against the sawtooth. You could also set up traps to lure the sawtooth into the traps.
It’s impossible to make every combat encounter unique. I also understand that not everyone wants to play this game. Although many of these options are available in the game, I won’t use them if it doesn’t. It could be a difficulty setting or a series of sliders. But I want the next Horizon to challenge me on how I can play in certain environments or with certain weapons. I also want more creative play. The developers demonstrated this in Zero Dawn. Seeing them expand on that idea in the next game would be fascinating. Prey’s Naru shows that even if a character has limitations, it doesn’t make them weak. Aloy’s limitations are not meant to limit their power. It’s about encouraging them to find creative solutions to problems they have already solved.