Horizon Zero Dawn Guide: How to Survive in Ultra Hard Mode

A few tips for surviving the grueling torment of the newest Ultra Hard difficulty for Horizon Zero Dawn.

Horizon Zero Dawn was an instant hit after its release in February. And with DLC expected to come out later this year, Guerrilla Games decided to give the fans a little something to hold them over. A recent update added in New Game+ and Ultra Hard Mode giving players an opportunity to gear up for the upcoming content.  

Both of these additions are only available after you've beaten the game once -- and while New Game+ might just be for fun, the added difficulty in Ultra Hard Mode is not for the faint of heart. But if you think you're up for it, here's a guide packed with tips to help get you through the trials of the hardest difficulty in Horizon Zero Dawn

How to Beat Ultra Hard Mode in Horizon Zero Dawn

Don’t Start From the Beginning 

This is one of the most important things I can tell you. Only the truest of masochists would start an entirely new game on Ultra Hard Mode. (I did, and I regret not packaging the salt that was produced throughout the experience.) 

The first thing you'll want to do will be to play through the game once on a lower difficulty. What difficulty you choose is up to you, but there's no reward for playing a harder difficulty, so I recommend normal to start.  

Get The NG+ Weapons

After beating it your first time through, start New Game+ and play through it again, preferably on a low difficulty again. This is where you'll really want to take your time. The goal here is to get as stacked as possible for your Ultra Hard Mode run. 

New Game+ adds in some new weapons (like the Adept Sharpshot bow below), which can be found on merchants in Meridian and through the Hunting Trails for the Lodge. You'll want to look out for those, since they give you an additional modification slot. They're pretty hardcore -- requiring both some serious shards and the upper tier machine parts (things like Thunderjaw hearts and the like).

Once you're max level and you've got all the weapons and armor that you think you'll need, then it's time to move on to the challenge. 

If you've done as recommended, you'll be starting the game pretty well off. Despite your preparation, you will still probably get the crap kicked out of you a few times -- so be prepared for that. Ultra-Hard mode changes a ton of little things that all add up to making everything way more stressful. 

Pay Much Closer Attention to Health and Damage 

The changes to enemy health and damage aren't exactly inspired or original but they are tried and true for increasing difficulty. Enemies will have considerably more health and they will hit you a lot harder with buffed damage.

Unless you're running some hardcore tank armor, you can expect to be one shot a few times. So it'll be in your best interest not to take too many chances in fights -- utilize shock wire, blast wire, tear arrows, and other tactics to blow off as much of their offensive/defensive parts as possible so they have a significantly lower chance of knocking you out. Going all "leroy jenkins" on these mechanical beasts isn't going to do you any favors. 

Also remember that you won't be able to see how much health an enemy has left, so you have no way of knowing how close you are to the end of a fight. This makes it doubly important to pay attention to your strategy, target an enemies weak points as much as possible, and make sure you have the resources on hand to sustain yourself in a longer combat situation. 

If you took the path recommended above, you should mostly have the weapons and armor that you need to give yourself a chance in this challenging difficulty level. But once you're in Ultra-Hard mode, you'll find that items are really only for the top 1%, with later stage weapons being worth thousands of shards. Farming this much money on Ultra Hard difficulty is almost impossible because of how immensely dangerous every machine is -- so you'll want to try and stock up on as many resources as you can before you enter this new difficulty at all. 

Because resources are more scarce (and more expensive), healing becomes a bit of a problem as well. Stocking up on medicinal plants becomes more of a hassle, since they provide less health than plants in lower difficulties and become harder to find. When enemies aren't absolutely demolishing you, you'll be spamming your healing items -- so keeping a full pouch is almost impossible.

With that in mind, you'll want to try and spend time scrounging up as many resources (especially healing plants) that you can possibly find out in the wilds. Just don't disturb any of the techno-beasts and wind up in a fight you're not prepared for.  

Don't Rely Heavily on Stealth

If you're the sort of Horizon Zero Dawn player who preferred to hide in the bushes and tear off dino parts, you're in for a nasty surprise if you pick up Ultra Hard mode. Stealth at this difficulty level is a major pain. Machines are way more capable when it comes to detecting you. So if you do use stealth, be aware that your enemies may very well see you even if you're wearing maxed-out stealth armor and are crouching in a bush.

Stealth kills will also be more difficult, since all enemies have significantly more health. But you can still override machines and let them duke it out while you hide on the sidelines. Just be careful if you decide to provide assistance during machine duels -- any damage an overriden machine takes from you will force it into being hostile again. (Seriously...any damage at all.

Be as Accurate as Possible

Accuracy is a really important skill to have before stepping into Ultra Hard mode. I thought I was a pretty good shot before stepping into it, and the first group of Watchers that I went up against quickly knocked me down a peg.

I was never able to verify this, but I will swear until my dying days that this mode makes the hit boxes on enemy weak points smaller. I have never seen so many arrows seemingly strike a Watchers eye just to have a small armor piece pop off the side of its head.  

So as you play, you'll want to keep in mind that pinpoint accuracy is essential. Take time to plan out and hone in your shots so that you don't incur a bunch of aggro for a shot that barely does any damage or tears any armor. 


Ultra-Hard mode is not a forgiving experience, so make sure to enter the ordeal fully prepared. And if you need a little refresher on how to play the rest of the game, check out our other Horizon Zero Dawn guides for more information:


Published Jul. 24th 2017

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