While Playground Games’ forthcoming Forza Horizon 5 is a driving game set in the present, the series’ virtual, open-world renderings of real locations means it can respond to the same virtual tourism impulses as Assassin’s Creed.
During a developer video showcasing the new biomes in Forza Horizon 5’s version of Mexico, they confirmed the presence of Maya sites in the game including Ek Balam. Ek Balam was once the seat of a Maya kingdom in the Yucatan Peninsula and is currently partly covered by jungle.
A place to explore
It’s now one of the landmarks that studs Forza Horizon 5’s traversable world. “This incredible temple site is based on the real-life location of Ek Balam, which looks kinda like this,” says Creative Director Mike Brown. “It is just this ancient temple site jutting out of the Mexican jungle. It’s so full of mystery and intrigue and history and culture. An incredible place to go and explore.”
“It does allow you to get really up close to the ancient architecture,” says Brown, “and really soak it up and really feel like you’re [there]. A nice bit of virtual tourism.”
Hurtling through ruins
Drive far enough in the right direction through the game’s jungle, and you’ll turn up at Playground Games’ version of Ek Balam. The game features its structures with impressive scale, if it incorporates a rather loose understanding of heritage conservation practices. (The video shows a rally car hurtling through it.)
“The team did a really good job of recreating all those materials and stonework that went into all those temples that are, you know, they’re really old!” adds Conar Cross, Associate Art Director.
The developers say they will discuss more about the temples in the game at a later date, but they confirmed that there will be more spread across the game’s map, which is larger than Forza Horizon 4’s. As with its prequel, which was set in the British countryside, it rotates through four seasons. This brings changes to weather and terrain.
The pictures released of the biomes in Forza Horizon 5 demonstrate the diverse range of the game’s geography. It covers beaches and arid hills, swamps and deserts, and cities; both modern and ancient. Forza Horizon 5 is set to release on 9 November 2021 on Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, and PC.