It’s easy to look at gameplay of the Horizon Zero Dawn games and be gobsmacked by the majestic robotic fauna that inhabit their vast worlds. Robots are kinda the point of these games, so you’d be forgiven to only have eyes for them. But might I suggest that you occasionally cast your gaze elsewhere? Far below the cloud-scraping Tallnecks or the fearsome robo-Stegosaurus, you’re liable to find the best pal you’ll ever need: the raccoon.
Both Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West feature raccoons in their starting areas. They scamper about, doing raccoon things with their cute raccoon tails and little bandit-mask faces. In the context of the gameplay, they exist to be hunted. Specifically: You need a raccoon pelt to craft a quiver so that you can carry more arrows. Later upgrades require all sorts of random fish bones and pelican guts, but the earliest ones basically just require raccoon parts. And this makes me sad.
See, for all the technological advancements that exist in Horizon Forbidden West, the one that stands out to me is that Guerrilla Games somehow made the raccoons cuter.
Behold the progress:
Image: Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon and Image: Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon
I’m not going to analyze exactly what makes these new raccoons more adorable, but I don’t think anyone could come away from this game not thinking the same thing. Like, just open your eyes.
Many of the nonrobotic creatures in Forbidden West can’t be interacted with for long. Birds jump up and fly away, and lobsters burrow into the sand, never to be seen again. But the raccoons? You can spend some quality time with these fellas.
Their AI encompasses a simple pattern: They saunter away from Aloy at a leisurely pace before getting tired and chilling in one spot for a couple of seconds. If you keep this in mind, they’re easily corralled and directed, letting you guide a particular raccoon far and wide.
Take, for example, my pal Jerry.
I found Jerry chilling in a rock quarry near the early town of Chainscrape. He was surrounded by Chargers, who seemed to pay little attention to him, and he to them. The Chargers didn’t care for me much, though, so I had to dismantle them before meeting my new best friend.
Man, we went everywhere together. All over that quarry. And a bit outside the quarry, too! At one point, I decided that Jerry would maybe like to take an aquatic journey, so I shepherded him over to a nearby raft along the riverbanks. Here, we posed for photos and took in the day. Just me and Jerry.
After 30 minutes or so, I decided it was time to wrap things up with Jerry. We’d had our fun, but I had a long quest ahead of me, and he was destined for raccoon things. There was no way he could ever join me for my long journey into the Forbidden West, replete with its various perils.
But then it occurred to me: He could join me on my journey … in a way.
So I made Jerry into an arrow quiver.