Horizon: Zero Dawn, one of 2017’s most anticipated games, is finally out and has already established itself as one of the best games available on the PlayStation 4. Developed by Guerrilla Games, best known for their work on the Killzone series, Horizon is a third-person action/RPG set in a beautiful open world and featuring a charismatic female protagonist named Aloy.
While Horizon is much more accessible than a game like The Witcher 3, of which it’s been frequently compared to (and I firmly believe it’s a game that every PS4 needs to play), it’s still a large, sprawling open world game with a bunch of different gameplay systems to learn and master. As such, it can all be a bit overwhelming at first, especially since the game doesn’t tell you some pretty important things about how some of its systems work, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be hunting robot dinosaurs like a pro in no time.
You Can Adjust The HUD
Open-world games tend not to have the most elegant heads-up displays, as they have to deliver quite a bit of information to the player. Horizon is no exception in this regard but thankfully, it actually gives you the option to adjust the HUD if you’d play with less screen clutter. In fact, you can edit each and every component of the HUD and choose whether or not it shows up on screen. To do this, just go into the options, select “HUD” and choose the “Custom” option. There’s also an option for a dynamic HUD and personally, it’s the one I prefer since it gets rid of everything but you can immediately display it all by simply pressing the DualShock 4’s touchpad. Basically, it lets you be more immersed in the game world without having to sacrifice the HUD and I wish more games would offer this sort of feature.
Some Skills Are More Essential Than Others
Horizon isn’t the deepest RPG out there, but it does have a pretty large skill tree with a whole bunch of perks to spend valuable skill points on. Like any RPG, you’re going to find that some perks are more useful than others depending on your play style, but a few that you should definitely invest in early are “Concentration” and “Concentration+”, as these allow you to slow down time while aiming, making it easier to hit specific targets on enemies, such as armor components. Other perks that are definitely worth prioritizing include Critical Hit, Fast Reload, Precision, Dodge Prowess, and Silent Strike, just to name a few.
On the other hand, a few that you should probably avoid, at least until you acquire the more useful skills first, are Strike From Below and Balanced Aim, as you’ll probably rarely make use of either, as well as any skill that increases the items you scavenge from enemies, as your inventory is sure to be overloaded with stuff before long anyway. Regardless, if you do enough of the side missions along the way, you should have enough skill points to unlock everything before the end of the game, but it definitely makes sense to acquire the skills that are actually going to give you an edge in combat first.
Start Upgrading Your Inventory ASAP
Much like in the recent Far Cry games, you can upgrade your carrying capacity for weapons, outfits, ammo etc. by crafting larger bags but for some reason, the game doesn’t really make this clear. The system itself is buried in the Crafting menu and there’s no tutorial telling you to hunt such and such creature to craft a bigger quiver. Considering the sheer amount of stuff you’re going to be picking up in Horizon, it’s absolutely essential that you spend some time early on increasing your inventory space.
I actually found that I was able to do quite a few upgrades early on without having to track down specific resources because I had just naturally accumulated that stuff through looting but later upgrades will require you to seek out specific items and animal parts in order to craft bigger bags. It’s worth it though, as it’s no fun having to do constant inventory management because you’re constantly running up against your carrying capacity.
You Can Find An Unlimited Fast Travel Backpack
Strangely, Horizon ties its fast travel system into a finite resource, requiring you to expend a Fast Travel Backpack every time you want to transport yourself to a campfire or other waypoint. While I actually haven’t found myself using fast travel enough for this to become an issue, some players may become frustrated by not being able to have unlimited fast travels at their disposal. Fortunately, you can purchase a tool that allows for unlimited fast travel. The merchants in the town of Meridian sell these, but it’s easy to miss because it’s a purple item buried at the bottom of the items menu. Fast travel becomes more important later on in the game, so this should be the first item you seek out once you arrive in Meridian.
When In Doubt, Use Fire
Horizon includes a number of elemental effects to use in combat, including fire, ice, corruption, and shock. While each one has their uses and are better than others in certain situations, fire is the one that you’ll want to return to again and again. The reason for this is that, on average, most of the enemies you encounter in the game have a weakness to fire. It’s super effective against corrupted machines, which you’ll battle regularly in the story missions, and all human enemies are vulnerable to flames. Fire also does better active damage that freezing, shock, or corruption, so even if an enemy doesn’t have a specific weakness to fire, it’s still a good idea to light them up in order to inflict damage over time. In short, when in doubt, use fire.
Reload To Instantly Gain Full Health
Horizon has no auto-healing, meaning that you’ll have to make use of herbs and health potions in order to regain health. Unfortunately, while you would assume that saving your progress at a campfire would restore Aloy back to full health, this isn’t actually the case. Health items are quite plentiful in the game, so this isn’t really that big a deal, but if you find yourself at low health and don’t want to waste items restoring yourself back to full, there is a trick you can do to instantly regain all your health.
If you save your progress at a campfire and then hit “restart from save” in the menu, you’ll spawn in the same spot with a full health bar, no matter what. It’s pretty silly that simply saving your progress doesn’t have the same effect, but this is still useful if you’re about to jump into a big battle and don’t want to blow through your health resources before you even get there.
Get The Tinker Perk
I’ve already mentioned some perks that are worth purchasing early on in the game, but one you should definitely prioritize later on is the Tinker skill, which is arguably the best one in the game. Tinker lets you swap out weapon and armor modifications, rather than losing them completely if you decide to replace an existing mod. What this means in practical terms is that you can adjust your character build before every battle by slotting in the mods you know will give you the best edge against whatever enemy you’re fighting.
For example, if you know you’re going to fight a powerful enemy like the Thunderjaw, you can put your best Resist Shock mods on your armor and put some Freeze mods on your weapons, which the Thunderjaw is weak too. This becomes even more important later in the game when you start finding ultra rare mods with significant stat buffs. The only problem is that Tinker is a high tier skill, meaning you’ll have to put some points into some skills you probably don’t even want in order to unlock it, but it’s definitely worth the investment.
There’s a huge variety of ways to earn additional XP in Horizon, but one source that the game doesn’t really advertise is that when you buy a new weapon, you can do a tutorial for that weapon that will net you a few thousand XP after finishing it. It’s easy to miss these quests because they disappear if you don’t select it as your active quest immediately after purchasing the weapon, but you can actually find all of the tutorials in the menu. The tasks themselves are pretty easy, but if you do all of them, you should gain at least a couple of levels, so they’re definitely worth doing if you’re looking to gain some bonus XP.
Unlock New Weapons As Quickly As Possible
Building off the previous point a bit, it not only makes sense to acquire new weapons in order to gain a new weapon quest, but gaining new, more powerful weapons is a must. That may seem obvious, but acquiring new weapons provides more than just higher damage output. Weapons in Horizon: Zero Dawn are divided into three categories: Nora gear (green, uncommon), Carja gear (blue, rare) and Shadow gear (purple, very rare). Eventually you’ll want to have all Shadow gear, but these weapons provide more than just stat boosts; they actually give you more options in combat.
Starting gear can only fire one type of elemental ammo at a time, but Carja equipment can do two, while Shadow is capable of firing three different types of projectile, which allows for more on-the-fly tactics. Doing the Hunting Lodge quest line is a good way to acquire some of these, but you can also get them from vendors.
Make Use Of The Job System To Find Specific Items
Horizon differs from most RPGs in that its merchants actually sell things you’ll want to buy; in fact, they provide the only way to get new gear outside of specific quests. The best weapons and armor are going to cost the most shards (the game’s currency) but you’ll also be required to hand over specific items, some of which are quite rare. Fortunately, Horizon does something that very few games of its ilk do by actually letting you highlight an item you need and make an active quest to help track it down.
Doing so will put a waypoint on the map where you can find the machine you’ll need to take down to get the part, which helps take a lot of the frustration of not knowing what item you need out of the game. Horizon actually does a pretty good job across the board of letting you know how much of a thing you need in order to purchase something, but the “create a job” feature specifically is one that should be in every RPG going forward.
Pay Very Close Attention To Your Map
Like other open world games, Horizon’s map is littered with all sorts of different icons highlighting points of interest, but the problem is that some of the most important ones aren’t very noticeable. For instance, Cauldrons provide some of the most interesting moments in the game, but unless you go looking for their faded blue symbols on the map for yourself, it’s easy to miss these completely. This extends to many side quests as well, as some villages are essentially hidden on the map and you’ll have to actually physically go to them in order to reveal additional side activities. This is definitely not an open world that will hold your hand and it’s up to you to dig into it a bit in order to get the most out of it.
Remember To Hunt Animals Too
In addition to the many different machines roaming the game’s world, Horizon also features a variety of wildlife that can be hunted for resources. Early on in the game, it’s easy to not know what the point of hunting a boar or fox is but before long, you’ll find that hunting as many different animals as possible is an essential component of the game. This is because animal parts are tied specifically to the game’s crafting system and you’ll need a variety of them in order to craft bigger pouches. Additionally, animal drops can be sold to merchants or used to craft health potions. It’s a good idea to hunt animals as you go to minimize having to farm later on.
Visit The Cauldrons
Horizon: Zero Dawn features an interesting post-apocalyptic world and if you find yourself wanting to know more about the world and what it was like pre-apocalypse, you’ll definitely want to seek out the Cauldrons. These are essentially dungeons not unlike the tombs found in Assassin’s Creed or the more recent Tomb Raider games that not only unlock some of the best abilities in the game, but also fill in portions of the game’s backstory. Like I said before, the Cauldrons are basically hidden on the map, but contain some of the game’s best moments, so you’ll definitely want to discover and complete them all.