Horizon Zero Dawn Beginner’s Guide: 7 Tips for Getting Started

Before you enter the dangerous world of Horizon Zero Dawn, check out these beginner's tips and tricks to make sure you can survive the wild.

Before you enter the dangerous world of Horizon Zero Dawn, check out these beginner's tips and tricks to make sure you can survive the wild.

The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is really something else. It’s beautifully rendered, and perfectly combines nature with technology. But for all its wonder, there’s an equal amount of danger. From ferocious machines to bloodthirsty cultists, you’re going to be facing unimaginable threats. 

So you’ll need all the help you can get. Luckily for you, there are tons of resources and tricks at your disposal. If you want to survive in this post-technological dystopia, you’re going to need to take your hunter game to a whole new level. 

For those of you just starting out with Horizon Zero Dawn, here are some tips that will keep you alive in the wilds and have you taking kill trophies in no time. 

Collect Everything

Hoarding may be a problem in Skyrim, but it’s a good habit to have in Horizon. In this surreal world, there are resources scattered all over the place. You’ll know them by their little white diamond markers. Make an effort to pick up as much stuff as you can during your travels. 

Horizon Zero Dawn is heavily based around crafting and (to a lesser degree) trading — both of which require items found in the world. You’ll need to harvest them often so you can make ammo, create traps, mix potions, upgrade your storage space, and more. You’ll also need to loot every enemy you kill, as they drop metal shards and other components that are vital to upgrading your gear and trading with merchants. 

But the most important thing to stock up on is medicinal plants. Horizon Zero Dawn uses a streamlined healing system that relies primarily on having a stockpile of medicinal herbs. Whenever you take damage, you can pop your heal button and it’ll drain your supply until your health is topped off. So it’s essential that you always have a full supply of medicinal herbs — and that you restock after every fight.

Use the Environment to Your Advantage

One thing the game doesn’t do a great job of showing you is how agile Aloy really is. The tutorial would make it seem like you’re intended to stick to the trails or sneaking through the wilds, but you have a lot more freedom than that. You can climb, crouch, and jump your way to all sorts of vantage points and hiding places.

As you’re exploring the world, take the time to gauge your environment. Not only will you probably find lots of extra resources that you’ll need later on, but you’ll have a much better sense of the positioning options available to you before an engagement. Then you can lay traps more effectively, plan out your assault on a group of enemies, and be better prepared for the ensuing fight. 

Be Patient in the Wilds of Horizon Zero Dawn

As far as I can tell, Horizon rewards the precise hunter more than the bold hunter. While you definitely can just run up to an enemy and start swinging, the way that aggro works seems to discourage doing so. It’s made clear early on that these machines are able to communicate with each other almost instantaneously — so pissing one of them off usually attracts several more. 

This may not be an issue if you attract the attention of, say, multiple Grazers. But if you disturb a whole pack of Watchers… you’re gonna have a bad time. 

This game wants you to take your time. It gives you lots of resources and information to let you lay out the best plan of attack. Going in with bows blazing is one way to do it — but ultimately, you’ll find yourself frantically smashing your melee buttons, dodge rolling, and maybe getting in a few good arrows. 

Stealth killing, exploiting weaknesses, luring, trapping, and other creative takedowns will reward extra you with experience, so take a little extra time to plan and use that to your advantage. 

Make Sure You’re Upgrading Skills & Items

You’ll notice pretty quickly that Horizon doesn’t make a big hubbub about things like skill points or weapon upgrades. The game might gently remind you from time to time, but generally speaking, it’s pretty easy to forget that stuff exists at all.

Frankly, I don’t want to admit how long it took me to realize I had skill points to spend. 

In between hunts, take some time to check out your crafting and skill menus. If you’re collecting everything like we’ve advised you to, then you’ll probably have a lot of modifications that you don’t recall picking up. And unless you’ve been paying very close attention to the negligible level-up screen, you’ve probably racked up a few skill points, too.

Read Your Notebook

Your notebook is another one of those in-game mechanics that Horizon Zero Dawn doesn’t make a big deal about. More than just the usual repository for background information and bits of data, the Notebook is key to good machine hunting. 

Each time you encounter and scan a machine, it’ll get logged in your Notebook with a full rundown of what it’s made of, where its weak points are, what it’s resistant to, and what weapon mods you can use to bring it down faster. While your Focus will do this to some degree in real time, the Notebook provides much more precise information.

The Notebook also tells you exactly what sort of loot each machine can drop, so it’s really helpful if you’re trying to farm up specific resources.  

And Use It to Make Modification Decisions

When you’re considering what modifications you want to add to your weapons, don’t default to what seems to be the most powerful mod you have. Lots of extra fire damage might be cool and all, but putting it on all your weapons is a missed opportunity for more strategic (read: more effective) play. 

Consider what enemies you’ve been facing, what you’ll likely encounter in upcoming missions, and what enemies you’re having the most trouble with before you make a weapon mod. And then try to spread out different types of mods across different types of weapons to maximize their usefulness and give you more options in terms of strategy and weakness exploitation. 

My current loadout, for example, has a fire damage mod and a tear mod on my main bow. Since most of the enemies I’m facing right now are weak to fire and tear damage, putting those two mods on my primary weapon means I can get a lot more out of my shots in most cases. Then on my secondary weapon, I’ve got some shock modifications to help me deal with things like Scrappers and aggroed Watchers. 

This sort of planning might be a little too meticulous for the casual player, but the game rewards you for it. 

Follow the Voices

Usually, heeding disembodied voices isn’t good advice. But in the case of Horizon, following them can lead to side quests and other neat things. I’ve stumbled across multiple mini-missions purely by virtue of eavesdropping and tracking down NPCs.

Even when voices don’t lead to quests, they do often lead to important contextual information or entertaining scenes. On my first venture into Mother’s Heart, for example, sticking around to listen to an old woman yell at her drunken husband resulted in a hilarious exchange that involved him perching like a gargoyle on a village roof. 

You know to keep your eyes open as you wander, but be sure to keep your ears open, too.

That wraps up my beginner’s tips for Horizon Zero Dawn. Have you gotten started with the game yet? What lessons have you learned on your first few hunts? Let me know down in the comments!

About the author

Auverin Morrow

Resident SMITE fangirl.