Horizon: Zero Dawn is a sprawling open-world, full of sights to see, items to craft, and robots to hunt, but it's also very much an RPG, complete with experience points and levels, quests to complete, and skills to unlock. If you have a lot of experience with action games but haven't dipped your toes into a big RPG like this one, it's easy to get overwhelmed by how many activities Horizon wants you to keep track of - but that's why we're here to help. We've assembled a guide of valuable tips to keep in mind while you explore this beautiful and haunting vision of the future so you can maximize your XP growth and conquer every challenge it throws your way.
Now, this seems like a no-brainer, but with so much stuff going on in Horizon, it's easy to forget: Completing quests is the single easiest way to gain boatloads of experience points. You'll gain quests in a number of ways; the main story will constantly feed you a stream of them, you'll find them at green exclamation marks on your map, and you'll often stumble onto them as you find items or defeat enemies. Even climbing Tallnecks and finishing hunting lodge tasks counts as quests.
Grab as many quests as you can get your hands on, and keep track of them in your log. Your journal will tell you the exact rewards you'll earn from completing each one, and many of them will award skill points along with tens of thousands of XP. Prioritize how you like in order to optimize your character's growth.
Grab a Golden Fast Travel Pack ASAP
Once you get to Meridian, you'll find a half-dozen merchants you won't find anywhere else, each one offering a unique set of wares and rewards for turning in the various collectibles you can find. Right next to the special vendor who deals in those ancient "vessels" you'll pick up is a merchant who looks like he simply sells the same handful of weapons and resources you'll find from merchants elsewhere in the game.
But if you dig into the resources tab, you'll spot a Golden Fast Travel Pack, and it's absolutely invaluable for zipping around the map without expending resources. Typically, you have to either find or craft Fast Travel Packs, which is just one more thing to keep track of while you're out in the wild. Buying the Golden Pack (which requires 50 metal shards, a fox skin, and 10 fatty meat) will allow you fast travel as many times as you like without using any resources. It's absolutely vital if you want to bypass a lot of the back and forth many of Horizon's quests require.
Buy every weapon you find and complete Tutorial Quests
One set of quests is a bit different from the rest. Whenever you purchase a new item, you'll unlock a new tutorial quest in your journal. These missions don't just teach you how to use your new gear; they'll reward you with a few thousand XP for simply doing what you're already doing - destroying robots. You have to activate each quest individually in your journal for your actions to count toward completing them, but if you stay on top of them, you'll be rewarded handsomely for your efforts.
Seek out bandit camps and corrupted zones
As you explore Aloy's world and reveal more and more of the map, you'll likely come across a handful of dangerous zones populated by corrupted robots or bandits. These areas are perfect places to get a substantial boost in XP. Once you discover bandit camps and corrupted zones, they'll show up on your mini-map accompanied by the character level the game recommends you should have in order to complete them. Keep track of these zones and take a few minutes to clear them out if you're able - not only do you get the XP from individual kills, you'll also get a nice chunk for clearing them out completely.
Kill with style
Killing bandits and destroying robots nets you XP, which is nice, but if you put a little effort into how you take them out, you'll reap even more rewards. Each kill offers rewards based not only on the difficulty of the enemy (low level Watchers will net you only a few hundred XP while the nefarious Stormbird can get you 3680 for surviving it), but you'll also gain bonuses based on whether you were stealthy, knocked off components, or used various status effects to take it out.
Sneak up on an enemy guard and take it out quietly? That's an extra 25-100 XP on top of what you normally get. Aim for bits of armor plating or attached weaponry and you can score yourself up to 300 XP. Headshots, burning or frozen kills, defeating enemies with heavy weapons - nearly any skillful action you take on top of simply killing something will get you a nice bonus. It's hard to predict exactly how much you'll get for your kills - XP rewards and bonuses seem scaled to the individual level of each enemy in addition to its type - but as long as you make your kills interesting, you'll watch the XP pour in.
These skills will help you rack up bonuses in combat
To the point above, make sure you choose the right skills to help you maximize your gains. Skills like Silent Strike and Critical Hit will help you get instant kills on smaller enemies and often give you an XP bonus for pulling them off. Strike From Above, Strike From Below, and Leader Strike will give you even more opportunities for stealth kills based on your position in the environment and the size of the enemy. And Precision and Precision+ will make knocking off components easier with melee attacks, which will give you a nice XP bonus each time you pull it off.
Looking for more help? Check out our essential Horizon: Zero Dawn tips, how to find all the Horizon: Zero Dawn power cells to unlock Aloy's secret armour, and where to find all of the Horizon Zero Dawn vantage points.