Horizon Zero Dawn tips - 11 things you need to know before starting

Receiving some Horizon Zero Dawn tips to prepare yourself can only be a good thing, before you head out into the world to battle herds of robotic dinosaurs. Once you get started in Horizon Zero Dawn you'll be introduced to the basic controls and scratch the surface of the other systems, but there's plenty of depth to explore in areas such as combat and trading that aren't fully explained. That's where our Horizon Zero Dawn tips come in, to help smoothly pave the way on your journey into the wild, so if you're still finding your feet in the game then follow our (spoiler free) guidance to help you delve deeper.

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1. Tag everything to keep track of threats

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

You'll find your Focus very early on in Horizon, and it's the most invaluable tool in your arsenal. Tapping R3 will bring up a glowing purple sphere around you, and will allow you to tag enemies to keep track of them when you turn off your Focus. Tagging is god-tier in Horizon. Your Focus can see through walls, track the patrols of certain enemies, and has a pretty ridiculous range on it, so whenever you get to an area with a ton of enemies, take a few seconds to turn on your Focus and tag every single purple outline you see. 

Scanning enemies and their various highlighted components with your Focus will also tell you what elements they're weak against (which you can refer to in your notebook once you scan them for the first time). Always be tagging.

2. Prioritize the Lure and Silent Strike skills to get in some easy kills 

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

These two skills are vital in the early going. Silent Strike will let you sneak up on smaller robots like Watchers and Grazers, and let you instantly kill them as long as they're not alerted to your presence. Combined with the Lure skill, you’ll be able to whistle and call the closest machine to wherever you’re hiding, meaning you can pick off a pack of enemies quickly without getting your hands too dirty. 

3. Watch the icons that appear over enemies' heads for crucial info

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

If a robot doesn't have an '?' or '!' above its head, it hasn't seen you. You can still stealth-kill an enemy when they're in yellow alert, but once it turns red, find somewhere to hide. Sometimes, if a few enemies are close together, you can take advantage of their alert states and proximity to string multiple Silent Strikes together before they notice.

4. Pick up everything, hunt animals, and craft pouches ASAP to max out crafting resources

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

Enemies will drop tons of loot when you take them out. While some of it is more valuable or helpful than others, you should always try to grab everything you can and craft it into useful items. Don't forget to shoot boars, foxes, raccoons, rabbits, and turkeys, and gather every herb you find. You'll never have to buy potions or bombs from merchants if you do this, plus you'll be able to use the animal skins and their meat to upgrade your carry capacity, letting you hold more stuff. Eventually, you'll reach a point where you just have too much crap in your pockets, but getting in the habit of picking everything up now will save you later when you inevitably run out of blaze when you need to craft a fire arrow.

5. Use Override to get a temporary friend in battle

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

After completing the Proving and voyaging through your first Cauldron, you'll earn the Override ability, which lets you hack into robots and temporarily turn them into your ally. Sneaking up and Overriding a robot is a great way to do some extra damage on the battlefield as the overridden robots will attack other machines, plus they also pull aggro when you need to make a quick escape. You can also override Chargers or Striders and then mount them to use for some handy transportation. Eventually, you'll find even more Cauldrons - big, high-tech dungeons that will unlock additional Override commands so you can control even bigger creatures. Keep an eye out for these on your map. But be warned: they’re sometimes gruellingly difficult, so prepare yourself before heading in. 

6. Buy maps as soon as you can and turn in the collectibles for loot

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

The first merchant you find after finishing the Proving will let you buy maps which show the general location of the game's collectibles: vessels, metal flowers, Banuk figurines, and vantage points. Finding most of the collectibles is pretty straight forward - simply wander to the area outlined on your map, turn on your Focus, and look for a glowing purple streak which’ll lead you to a pile of ancient debris. Ransacking it will usually bring up whatever you're looking for. Vantage points, however, will have you scanning cliff faces and ruins to find a path to climb up and get to the vantage platform high in the air. Once you get to the large city of Meridian, you can turn in sets of these collectibles for special treasure chests. The maps are cheap and very useful; you'd be silly not to grab them.

7. Check out merchants as soon as you hit a new area for better gear

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

In Horizon, you won't typically find weapons in treasure chests or out in quests - it happens sometimes, but it's rare. Which means, you'll want to buy them from vendors. Vendors within a single region tend to have a lot of the same stuff, but once you head to a new area, be sure to check their wares and pick up some new weapons or armor. It's wise to have at least one type of each weapon (ropecasters to tie robots down, slings to chuck bombs, etc.) and it's also worth upgrading a better weapon ASAP so you can be ready for the higher-level enemies you’ll undoubtedly meet. 

8. Sell anything marked "Selling for Metal Shards" first change you get as they're only good for profit

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

Many of the resources you snag can be used to craft items, and some can even be traded in along with some Metal Shards (Horizon's currency) for more powerful items. However, there are some items in your inventory (often ancient relics) that are solely marked "Selling for Metal Shards". If that's the only listing they have in the "Used For" column, you can sell these without worrying that you might need them later. Everything else can be combined to craft items, traps, or sold to vendors, so think twice before you sell these bits off.

9. Don't rush into battle if you can help it - take your time to set traps and get ready to roll

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

Traps are your friend: use them during boss fights or fighting a high-level creature and plan ahead accordingly. You won't be able to take on a Sawtooth (have fun encountering that one!) or Bellowback with your bow alone, especially in the opening hours of Horizon. Keep moving during the aforementioned boss battles, and use your roll liberally - a lot of them have charging attacks so you'll have to git gud at dodging and then shooting. 

10. Fill out the status meter when attacking enemies to max the damage

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

Many enemies are susceptible to fire, ice, shock, and other status effects, but it's not enough to just hit enemies once with these abilities. Doing so once will cause a circular meter to appear above their heads with the respective element, but in order to do real damage to them, you have to keep hitting them with the same attack until the meter fills all the way up. You know you've done the trick when the meter gets a white outline, which slowly depletes as the effect wears off. Or you can just fire at the blaze or freeze canister on their body until it blows up. That usually does the job pretty well, too.

11. When you visit a merchant for the first time they’ll give you FREE STUFF

Horizon Zero Dawn tips

This might sound too good to be true, but the first time you stumble upon a merchant don’t be in too much of a rush to buy every resource you’re lacking. Every single vendor you come across will give you a free treasure box, just for taking the time to say hi. Scroll down to the 'Treasure Boxes' tab and you’ll get a completely free (there’s no catch, honestly) box full of resources. The content is randomly generated, but it helps to give you a little boost in terms of the things you’ll need for crafting, selling, or just hoarding. Though occasionally you'll luck into some mods or other goodies. Don’t forget to claim it and open it before actually spending your shards on anything. 

David Roberts
David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.