Sequel to 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, Horizon Forbidden West dropped 18 February 2022, finally reuniting us with its much-loved protagonist, Aloy. This time, to take on the Forbidden West – ‘a majestic but dangerous frontier that conceals mysterious new threats’.
Not only are we introduced to a new world, but also to several new ways of interacting with it, such as free climbing, high vaulting, and swimming underwater.
Ashly Burch, Lance Reddick, and John Hopkins returned to reprise their roles as Aloy, Sylens, and Erend, respectively. New additions to the cast include Angela Bassett (Rainbow Six: Siege) as Regalla and Carrie-Anne Moss (Mass Effect 3) as Tilda.
Here we speak to Bryan Larkin (Blood & Truth) about his experience rejoining Burch, Reddick, and Hopkins for the sequel, voicing Lirokkeh (Scalding Spear Melee Pit Master) and various others in the popular action title.
Horizon: Forbidden West
Tahlia Norrish – PowerUp!: How did you first get involved in the Horizon series?
Bryan Larkin: I got involved after auditioning for Horizon Zero Dawn back in 2017. I remember I was given a scene to prepare that wasn’t related to the game (for confidentiality reasons).
The role was for the first character to appear (‘Rost’) who was Aloy’s mentor and father figure. As it was a motion capture role, they were focused on acting and movement. I got offered the role from there, and later shot performance capture for Rost and voiced several other supporting characters.
PowerUp!: Do you remember what originally excited you about this universe?
Larkin: The first thing I remember was the artwork for the setting and how detailed it was. I’d never seen anything so advanced or detailed in a video game before. Added to that the story was so rich, and Aloy stood out as a strong character because you felt for her even though she was troubled.
You could identify with her humanity. Not many games have that.
PowerUp!: Did returning for Forbidden West present any new challenges to you as a voice actor?
Larkin: Every character presents a challenge. Tone, pitch, pattern, speed, inflection etc. These are relevant to finding the voice for each role. A lot of the decisions are based on their appearance, personality, and overall objective in the larger context of the game.
Fortunately, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Horizon‘s Lead Voice Director, Jochen, a few times now, and he is one of the best in the business. His direction provides you with so much latitude and context that it makes it easy to perform at your best. But more than that, he understands an actor’s process and always strives for naturalism.
PowerUp!: You frequently voice multiple characters. What does your preparation look like to make this possible?
Larkin: Due to the confidentiality of working in video games and NDAs [non-disclosure agreements], you’re rarely ever given a script or character before you record. In many ways, [this] means there’s no preparation beforehand. You rely almost entirely on your strengths and the versatility of your vocal range.
Accents are one of my strengths, but I have quite a large natural vocal range too, so I can change the tone and pitch from deep to high or in-between [which] helps enormously with multi-character work.
PowerUp!: How does your work in TV and film inform your work in voice over and performance capture?
Larkin: The disciplines of craft are the same. But performance capture requires you to slightly heighten or enhance your movement more than you would do in real life because gaming is such a visually driven medium. You often have to physicalise the thoughts so that the gamer can identify with the characters with no second-guessing. [That’s] similar in some regards to theatre, but vocally it’s closer to TV and film. It has to sound natural and conversational.
PowerUp!: What’s it like working with the developers at Guerrilla Games?
Larkin: I’ve worked on three Guerrilla titles now: Killzone and both Horizon titles. Killzone was actually my first ever video game voice job. I think anybody who has worked with Guerrilla will tell you that they are right up there with the best of them. Their passion and talent are infectious, but they are also very humble and down to earth, and that’s the kind of people I love to work with. You can’t beat it.
PowerUp!: Were video games part of your life growing up? Were there any that were particularly formative?
Larkin: Oh, I could go on for hours, but at the risk of losing your readers I’ll keep it short!
My father bought a ZX Spectrum, so I grew up playing Jetpac and Manic Miner. Later, when we could afford it, I owned a Commodore 64 and played The Way of the Exploding Fist. Any time I would holiday with my family when I was young, I’d try to seek out the amusement arcades.
My favourite games were Donkey Kong, Kung-Fu Master, and Track & Field. Games have come such a long way since then, for sure!
PowerUp!: When asked for advice by others wanting to work in the gaming space, what wisdom do you tend to share?
Larkin: The world of gaming is one of the most exciting and creative industries anybody can be a part of. And everybody I’ve ever met who works in games loves their job! There’s an infinite number of departments: animation, design, development, directing, production, character modelling, voice directing, motion capture, and voice acting.
My advice would be to let your passion guide you and see what’s accessible to you. Write to the gaming companies and maybe even get an internship.0
Horizon Forbidden West is now available exclusively on Playstation 4 and Playstation 5 from Guerilla Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Special thanks to Bryan Larkin for his time. You can follow Bryan and his upcoming projects over on Instagram and Twitter.