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6 things to know before you start Horizon Zero Dawn

Here's what you need to know about Aloy's grand quest.


AJ Moser

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 27, 2017   Updated on May 24, 2021, 10:30 pm CDT

Horizon Zero Dawn is available this week for PlayStation 4 owners, and it should absolutely be on your radar. This futuristic action-adventure puts you in control of Aloy, a fierce warrior who goes up against bandits, warlords, and giant machines on her quest for answers. Traversing the post-apocalyptic landscape can be a grueling endeavor, especially when you have to scrape together all the necessary resources needed for combat and survival. 

Before you set out on the epic adventures to be found in Horizon Zero Dawn, review these tips to get the most out of your experience. And don’t worry, we won’t spoil any of the surprises that await you on your journey.


1) Upgrade to 4K with the PS4 Pro 

This first bit of advice has nothing to do with game itself but might greatly affect how you experience Aloy’s adventure. If you happen to own a PlayStation 4 Pro, the recently released beefed-up Sony console, you can take advantage of the 4K output to see the world in a new light. A day-one patch is included when you first start up Horizon Zero Dawn, and will smooth out the game’s framerate as well as boost visual fidelity. 

But you won’t need an expensive 4K television to take in the benefits of playing Horizon on a PS4 Pro. Even the 1080p output will feature a higher performance mode to make the game look and run better. If you’ve been on the fence about embracing 4K and the PS4 Pro, Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the first major releases that capitalizes on the more powerful console to make an argument for picking one up. The vibrant colors of this title’s varied landscapes already look magnificent on a standard PS4, and will certainly improve with the added hardware.


2) Fast travel and campfires

Like in many open-world games, Aloy can miraculously jump around the map and complete side quests or check in with other characters thanks to the presence of a fast travel system. However, Horizon puts a small twist on this formula that RPG fans may be well acquainted with by limiting the manner in which the player can traverse the map. Each time you want to move around, you’ll need to consume one fast travel pack, which you can buy from merchants or craft using wood and other resources from the wilderness. 

The only waypoints Aloy can jump to are previously visited campfires, scattered around the world acting as save points. Each time you see one of these icons pop up on your radar, be sure to go out of your way to visit and light the flames, acting as a quick save. The enemies you will encounter can deploy surprising strategies that might get the better of you in battle, so making sure you have several suspended save points to fall back on is a great way to assure you won’t get frustrated by an untimely death and lose your best gear.


3) Always be scanning 

Early in the story, Alloy will discover the Focus, a handy little chip she keeps tucked behind her ear. This piece of technology has some important context within the story and hierarchy of the world, but it is most important in the context of how the player can use it. Holding down the right stick on your Dualshock 4 controller will bring up an investigative field bubble, highlighting important objects in the environment. Using this can help you find collectibles and see enemies in your vicinity. 

As you make your approach, you’ll be able to tag one specific target and prepare a plan of attack. The Focus allows you to view the enemy’s uninterrupted path of movement, as long as you remain undetected. It will also point out each of the various components on hostile machines, which you can individually target and remove. Placing traps in an enemy’s path and destroying key components can be the decisive key to victory, especially when going up against multiple foes. Adding a new machine to your data log will allow you to reference its weaknesses and combat prowess, so be sure to record every new enemy you cross paths with.


4) Tallneck towers 

Anyone who has ever played an open-world game is familiar with the concept of outpost towers that serve to reveal the locations of hidden items and areas on the world map. Horizon changes up this formula in a big way, as the towers you need to climb are gigantic walking machines that roam certain areas. You’ve likely seen these beasts featured heavily in the game’s marketing: huge four-legged monsters with a circular dish for a head.

There are four Tallnecks to conquer, one roughly near each corner of the map. Luckily, they have conveniently placed footholds running down their spines, so all Aloy needs to do is get high enough to jump on. Doing this is easier said than done though, as each machine occupies a dangerous area of the world. You can highlight the Tallneck’s circling pattern and either sneak past or kill all other enemies in the area before attempting to climb. Though your first instinct may be to climb all of the Tallnecks to clear fog off your map, be careful of high-level enemies located nearby. 


5) Smart shopping 

At each new settlement you discover and sometimes roaming the plains themselves, merchants play a big role in Horizon Zero Dawn. You can buy new weapons and outfits from these traveling salesmen, as well as replenishing your stock of health potions and ammunition. However, you can also sell your extra items back to any merchants to clear up space in your bag and earn a few extra metal shards. 

If you come across an item at a shop that you fancy, but don’t have the necessary resources, you can create an errand in your quest log to keep track of the components you need. Doing so will highlight monster nests on your map that might yield the pieces you need. Once you have everything you need, your map will point you back to a merchant selling that high-level weapon or outfit. Some merchants only accept the game’s various collectibles as payment, so be sure to look out for metal flowers and ancient vessels while hunting.


6) Weapon properties 

While exploring the world, you will have the opportunity to customize any weapons and outfits you happen to purchase on your journey. Pay attention to how many modification slots your equipment offers, as well as any natural bonuses. Some items will be more adept at dealing fire or ice damage, and can also protect Aloy from enemy’s elemental attacks. Each modification has a different attribute, and come in various strengths, to think carefully before equipping them onto anything you own. 

It is essential to be mindful of your modifications, as they are permanently attached until you learn the Tinker ability, which probably won’t be until late in the game. Each weapon handles differently, and it is important to consider the added damage a modification can add to the type of ammo you will be using. For example, a Fire Damage Coil will be useless on a bow, unless you plan on using fire arrows with it. A properly buffed weapon can be the key to victory when going up against a new kind of enemy, so be sure keep your loadout diverse and powered up at all times.

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*First Published: Feb 27, 2017, 7:00 am CST