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Horizon Forbidden West doesn’t have ray tracing, here’s why

The decisions to not include ray traced effects in Horizon Forbidden West on PC are both artistic and technical as its developers explain.

Aloy (left), protagonist of Horizon Forbidden West, readies her bow against a machine (right)

The Horizon Forbidden West PC port is practically bursting at the seams with PC graphical goodies, including resolution upscalers and frame generation tech, as well as more mundane but welcome bonuses over the original PlayStation 5 version, such as unlocked frame rates and ultrawide monitor support. However, there isn’t a hint of ray tracing, and that’s all down to a variety of artistic and technical challenges, according to its developers.

Early reports following the launch of Horizon Forbidden West on PC suggest you won’t need the best graphics card to play it, but those with powerful pixel pushers will naturally find themselves more comfortable. Meanwhile, the game is proving a feast for the eyes, even without ray tracing, and that’s partly the reason for its omission.

Speaking with Digital Foundry, Michiel Roza, principal optimization programmer at Nixxes Software, reveals that ray tracing was “considered” for Horizon Forbidden West on PC. However, adding it to the game would be no simple task, with a process that’s fraught with difficulties.

“For this project, with the hours of cinematics and the scope… we decided that the game already looks really good, there’s a strong direction here and we really didn’t want to mess with it,” Roza explains. Nixxes are to be commended for wanting to respect artistic intent, given how easily ray tracing can spoil a game’s visuals if it’s improperly implemented, as demonstrated by early-stage RTX Remix mods.

Making matters worse, adding ray tracing to Horizon Forbidden West creates massive technical challenges according to Jeroen Krebbers, lead tech programmer at Guerilla Games. They explain that most of Forbidden West “is really hard to ray trace against, even for shadows”, owing to the properties of much of the game’s materials, such as trees.

Combine this with an estimated “100 square kilometers of content” according to Krebbers, and it’s hard not to be intimidated by the scope of the work that would be required to add ray tracing to the game.

However, Krebbers does clarify that Guerilla Games “really likes the tech”, following up with an intriguing statement of “watch this space.” Fingers crossed, we could see ray tracing make its way to Horizon Forbidden West as part of a future update or sequel.

You can read the full interview over on Eurogamer, and I highly recommend doing so as there’s some fascinating behind-the-scenes talk about the Horizon Forbidden West PC port.

Before joining Aloy on her newly ported adventure, be sure to check out the Horizon Forbidden West system requirements to make sure your PC is up to running the game. We’ve also got the latest word on Horizon Forbidden West Steam Deck compatibility, for those of you hoping to play on the go.