Horizon Zero Dawn: Liberation is a brand new graphic novel set in the extensive world created for the 2017 videogame by Guerrilla Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment. Taking place during the events of the first game, Horizon Zero Dawn: Liberation is the story of Erend and Aloy hunting the killer of an important member of the Oseram tribe. GateCrashers’s writer Rook Geary sits down with writer Anne Toole to deep-dive into the creation of the novel.
GC: What part of Liberation’s narrative are you proudest of?
Anne: I enjoy the actual finale battle – great fun seeing how it all came about.
GC: What was the most difficult thing about writing Liberation? How about the prior volume, The Sunhawk?
Anne: We definitely had to make sure Liberation mapped to the in-game world of Meridian and included accurate depictions of the characters that are referenced. Most of the Sunhawk took place in uncharted territory, so we had more leeway there.
GC: What have you enjoyed the most about collaborating with Ann Maulina on this series?
Anne: Ann Maulina turned in amazing artwork. Very pleased with everything she did.
GC: What were your favorite parts about getting to dig into Ersa’s character?
Anne: I liked how tough she is, and what she’s willing to do. It was fun digging into that aspect of her personality, but also getting a chance to show what Erend loved about her, too.
GC: How much of Sun-King Jiran and his reign was defined by backstory for the previous game, and how much was defined in the process of writing this comic?
Anne: I believe it was all defined by the games.
GC: What surprised you about the process this time, after writing volume one of the comic?
Anne: We did have a new artist on Liberation, Elmer Damaso, who did a great job.
GC: What were some challenges in transforming a game narrative into comic form, especially given that this comic takes place during the events of the game?
Anne: The comic allows you to take the reader places that a player may not want to go. Ersa makes some difficult choices that a player playing Aloy likely wouldn’t make. We also got to show what a bunch of different actors were doing during Liberation, without feeling like we’re robbing the player of some fun gameplay moments. The reader gets to experience it all.
GC: In a game with dialogue choices, how were you able to provide genuine player choice while keeping Aloy’s unique personality so strong?
Anne: If you have a nuanced character, multiple choices can easily all be in character for them.
GC: What was your favorite NPC to write?
Anne: Writing Talanah was the most fun, because I had the opportunity to write her entire arc in HZD and the comics.
GC: Which element of Horizon’s worldbuilding was the most inspiring to you?
Anne: Definitely the tales from the before times 😉 I liked reading about what people did moments before the end.
GC: Is your favorite part of writing a comic the same as your favorite part of writing a game?
Anne: I do enjoy writing the action and fight sequences in the comics, which are ultimately up to the designers and the player in the games.
GC: What parts of your creative process change in writing a comic, as opposed to working on an interactive narrative?
Anne: The biggest difference for me is making sure that the story fits within the page count allotted. It can’t be too long or too short, not even by a panel. Edits can sometimes push splash pages or two-page spreads in the wrong direction as well, so it can be a balancing act.