Open-world robot dinosaur hunting – what's not to like about Horizon Zero Dawn? The PS4 exclusive blew us away during our review – especially on the PS4 Pro where it's 4K HDR visuals make or one of the best-looking games of all time.
But those heavy metal beasts take some beating. Want to get ahead of the robot-Rex pack before tackling Horizon Zero Dawn? Read on for our insider tips and tricks for the PlayStation's latest must-play game.
Never stop foraging for herbs
Invoking the herb carrying days of the old Resident Evils, Horizon uses a health system that requires either health potions (which are expensive and only found via merchants or looted from corpses) or freely available herbs growing all across Horizon’s open-world.
The blue bar beneath your health, located at the top-left of the screen, is your medicine pouch and can be accessed by pressing up on the D-pad (this will then refill your health until it’s completely restored or until you run dry of medicine). This bar can be refilled up to three times at once (represented by a blue cross for each full bar), so be sure to constantly pick up fresh herbs on your travels (most have red flows, although some the icier regions will have white).
Use long grass to flank and lose enemies
Horizon’s stealth mechanics function a lot like those found in the most recent Far Cry games - where your enemies can only track you if they have direct line of sight. With this in mind, use patches of long grass (these are usually found with red or light tips) to approach herds of robo wildlife or human foes.
Keep in mind that the robotic monsters of Horizon are also very sensitive to sound, so remember to press Square to crouch. This will conceal you in the grass and reduce the sound of your footsteps. You can now start planning and hunting your chosen targets without being in the open (it’s also great to sneak past larger threats you’re not ready to face yet).
Level up the right skills early on
Like most action-RPGs worth their salt, Horizon uses a skill tree system that unlocks special moves and actions that can make all the difference between one bonfire and another. These skills are defined by three types: Prowler (hunting), Brave (combat) and Forager (resource collection and crafting).
On the Prowler side, invest in Silent Strike (a quiet stealth attack), Low Profile (reduced visibility to enemies) and Dodge Prowess (which gives you two types of roll). On the Forager front, choose Gatherer (which increases the amount of herbs you pick when foraging) and Healer (which speeds up healing). Finally, use Brave to get Concentration (slow time by pressing R3) and Precision (for high chances of getting a critical hit).
Use Focus before engaging a new robo monster
Aloy’s head-mounted device isn’t just a plot point - it’s also an incredibly useful tool in the game. Apart from providing the ability to follow trails, the Focus can also be used to study enemies and identify weaknesses and body parts susceptible to critical hits (these will appear as yellow when Focus is engaged by clicking L3).
You move much slower and can’t aim in Focus mode, so if you spot a new, intimidating enemy simply slip into a nearby clump of long grass and use the Focus to scope it out. The Focus can also see enemies through walls and can even be used to highlight patrol paths, so make the most of it before attempting to clear out a camp of bandits or a corrupted zone.
Buy specific arrow types from merchants to unlock them
While some arrows are locked to specific bows - the precision bow will only fire precision arrows, for instance - your standard hunters bow (and its variants) can fire up to three different types of arrow. You can only fire and craft standard arrows from the start, which cause basic damage, but you’ll need to buy fire arrows and hardpoint arrows from vendors to be able to craft them from your crafting radial wheel.
Hold down R1 to bring it up and you’ll see the three types on the far left of the wheel - simply select which one you need to craft, hold X and you’ll be able to craft up to 10 of these vastly different arrows in mere seconds. As an extra bit of advice, collect loads of wood in your first few hours (you can carry as much as you like as wood only takes up one slot in your inventory) - you’ll need it.
Study a monster’s weakness then use fire, ice and shock traps/ammo
Each of the robotic monsters roaming the wilds of Horizon usually have a specific strength and a specific weakness (for instance, a Snapmaw draws strength from ice, but it can be significantly weakened by fire). Always use your Focus to learn what you’re up against before engaging the enemy (especially if it’s a new one).
If a foe is weak to a certain element, a circle will begin to fill above them - once it's filled they’ll begin sustaining damage until the meter runs out. This will usually slow them down, so use this time to destroy armor plates and weapons.
Use hardpoint arrows for critical hit damage
Another great tip is to use hardpoint arrows to remove those areas colored yellow by your Focus. Striking these areas will cause the monster to suffer a critical hit (you’ll know this because the component you strike will fizzle blue for a moment) via a special damage known as ‘tear’.
Use your Concentration skill (press R3 while aiming) to zoom in and unload when you have a clear shot. This tactic is vital for fighting larger foes such as the Thunderjaw, Trampler, Snapmaw and Stormbird. Another top tip is destroy weapons before armor - once these weapons are gone, you have one less threat to evade. You can even pick some of them up and use them!
Fast travel for free with the hidden Golden Fast Travel Pack
Horizon is littered with campfires that enable you to save your progress in seconds. These homely stick piles also serve as fast travel points. The thing is, fast travel isn’t free and you’ll need to spend a Fast Travel Pack to use one.
Here’s a quick, pre-tip tip: only fast travel if you really have to - you’ll level up faster by exploring more and engaging in natural, systemic battles and hunts. However, if you really want to fast travel you can buy a Golden Fast Travel Pack from a handful of merchants with the crosshair symbol (we got ours from the one just outside Meridian’s long bridge).
Don’t rely on a single bow in combat
One of the main games Horizon draws from with its combat is the brilliant The Witcher 3, so just like when you’re playing as the White Wolf, you’ll need to utilise more than one weapon in each kind of monster battle. Most weapons are available from vendors with a crosshair symbol above their heads.
For instance, if you’re fighting a Thunderjaw, you’ll need a ropecaster to tie it to the ground from multiple angles (enabling you to target key components with your hunters bow or sharpshooter bow). Also, try using your sling to fire powerful bombs with fire damage. Experimentation is key, so don’t be afraid to mess around following a quick save at a campfire.
Use cauldrons, corrupted zones and big dinos to level up fast
When it comes to any game with an XP system (in other words, every game), it’s great to know how to speed up the process if you’re looking to incrementally increase your health and acquire skill points. For us, consistent exploration and the robotic battles that occur therein (especially with the big ones) is a surefire way to gobble up XP.
Clearing corrupted zones (marked on your map with an ‘X’) and cauldrons (Horizon’s take on dungeons) are also big XP treasure troves. If you’re struggling to find these, overloading Tallnecks (found via tracking their signal via your Focus) will reveal them on the map.