Post-apocalyptic futures are ten a penny in gaming. The world’s ended so many times that it’s become difficult to get excited about every new charred wasteland we have to scavenge for scraps of assorted metal.
And yet Horizon: Zero Dawn, from developer Guerilla Games, found such an original take on the doomsday scenario and gave us such a strikingly original and layered world that it immediately became many gamers’ highlight of 2017, despite being released at the start of the year. In the world of Horizon, the development of combat-capable robots led to the downfall of human civilization. Now, centuries later, tribes of humans have sprung up in the ruins of the world that was, and share Earth with these machines – not always peacefully.
There’s a massive world for gamers to explore via the character of Aloy, an outcast of the Nora tribe; outside of the main story, you have seemingly endless side quests to complete, collectibles to collect, and nooks and crannies to explore.
This means that it’s easy to end up spending way too many hours seeking out every last thing. But even when you think you’ve found it all, there may still be hidden secrets you’re unaware of. Our guide should help you tick those off your list...
15 Armor of Invincibility
Found any Power Cells in your travels and don’t know what to do with them? These aren’t just useless bits of tat destined to waste space in your inventory; they’re in fact the key to the best armor in the game – the Shield Weaver.
Produced by the ancient civilization, the Shield Weaver armor renders Aloy practically invincible by projecting a shield around her. This protects you from any and all machine attacks; its only weakness is that it occasionally needs to be charged.
So how do you get it? You need to collect the five Power Cells dotted around the world. One can be found in the ancient ruins Aloy fell into as a child, and the other four are hidden in bunkers which the main story quests take you to – All-Mother, Maker’s End, the Grave Hoard, and GAIA Prime.
Picking up any single Power Cell activates the Ancient Armory quest, which will direct you to the bunker where the Shield Weaver is hidden. Go here once you have all the cells, solve a couple of easy lock puzzles, and Thunderjaw attacks will be bouncing off you in no time.
14 Death Stranding Collectibles
One of the most anticipated upcoming games is Kojima Productions’ mysterious Death Stranding. It’s a game we know little about outside of two strange trailers featuring Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, and Guillermo Del Toro. But we do know that Kojima Productions have made use of the Decima game engine developed by Guerilla for Horizon.
This partnership between the two studios is referenced via some hidden items Aloy can collect, all of which take the form of things from those trailers. There’s the Stranded Necklace, aka Reedus’s dog tags; the Stranded Shackles, the handcuffs worn by Reedus and Del Toro; and the Stranded Figure, that creepy ruined doll.
It’ll take some searching to find all three. If you're struggling, here are some hints: the Necklace is in the opening room of the Grave Hoard bunker, before you descend the guide rail. The Shackles are in the Project Zero Dawn facility, in a hidden room shortly after the second holographic briefing, and the Figure is beneath the stairs shortly after entering the All-Mother bunker.
Once you’ve collected them all, you can either admire them in your inventory or trade them in with one of Meridian’s merchants for a Very Rare modification and, erm, some wet socks. We’re not sure why.
13 A Secret Weapon – The Tearblaster
Most of the weapons in Horizon: Zero Dawn can be bought at merchants, but there’s one particularly useful bit of machine-fighting kit that you have to work to unlock – the Tearblaster.
The Tearblaster is a kind of compressed air shotgun, and for an air weapon, it’s pretty damn useful. It tears components and armor off machines, which is very effective when fighting enemies carrying heavy weapons such as Thunderjaws – knock off the big guns, then nab them for yourself and give the machines a taste of their own medicine. It can also detonate explosive fluid canisters carried by machines, and even knock flying enemies out of the air, stunning them.
So, how do you get it? It actually comes in a reward box given after completing a certain side quest. First, make sure you’ve completed the ‘Hunting for the Lodge’ errand, triggered by visiting any Hunting Ground. This will allow you to play the side quest ‘Hunter’s Blind’, for which you’ll receive the Tearblaster Reward Box.
Open this up and you’ll have a brand new toy to play with. Those machines had better hold onto their armored hats!
12 Real Life Locations
One of the joys of Horizon is exploring the vast and varied post-apocalyptic world, which takes place in dense forests, snowy peaks, hazardous deserts, and even ruins of cities from the long-dead human civilization.
But what you might not realize at first is just how much of the terrain is based on real life locations. It’s largely set in Colorado, and you can visit locations such as Hallett Peak in the Rocky Mountains, the Cheyenne Mountain Nuclear Bunker, and Pikes Peak Range Riders Memorial in Colorado Springs. The ruined city which Aloy’s tribe call Devil’s Grief is in fact Denver, as you might notice when one story quest takes you to what used to be the stadium of the Denver Broncos.
Aloy’s journeys also take her to the wastelands formerly known as Utah and Arizona, taking in Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and more. This does mean that the geography is skewed, as it would take way longer to travel between these locations in real life than it does in game, but that’s a wise decision to keep exploration exciting.
If you can’t afford a vacation to these beautiful states, explore them in Zero Dawn instead!
11 Jackrabbit and Jazzrabbit
Hunting the area’s fauna is a skill you’ll get used to as you play through Horizon; even if you’re the strictest of vegans in real life, you’ll soon get used to indiscriminately lobbing arrows into the flesh of every bunny you see. Gotta collect that Fatty Meat.
But if you look carefully, there are in fact two rabbits in the game you might not want to kill. Near the mining camp that you attack after meeting War Chief Sona, there’s a Metal Flower to be found. And near here are two rabbits, just standing around rather than hopping like the others. Scanning them will reveal they have names – Jack and Jazz.
This is in fact a reference to Arjan Brusse, co-founder of Horizon’s developer Guerilla Games, who was a lead coder on the Jazz Jackrabbit series back in the ‘90s. They weren’t exactly gaming classics, so not everyone will figure out the reference, but it’s a neat Easter Egg nonetheless.
10 Have All Your Allies In The Final Battle
Maybe the real collectibles were the friends we made along the way...
It’s important, at least, for Aloy to have friends by her side in the final battle. The number of allies accompanying you for this last story quest, as well as the dialogue you can have with them during it, will vary depending on your previous actions. To build up these allies, you need to have helped them out in the game’s many side quests. It’s generally a good idea, in terms of building Aloy’s reputation among the various tribes, to complete all the side quests in an area around the time the main story takes you there.
But to be specific, before you begin main quest ‘The Looming Shadow’, the side quests you should have completed are ‘Sunstone Rock’, ‘Traitor’s Bounty’, ‘A Moment’s Peace’, ‘A Queen’s Gambit’, ‘A Daughter’s Vengeance’, ‘Honor the Fallen’, ‘Sun and Shadow’, and ‘Redmaw’.
You may be wondering if your dialogue choices affect whether characters want to help you out later in the game. In fact, they don’t at all, so let loose with the rude answers if you want. With these quests completed, you’ll have more allies by your side in the final battle, and you'll even get a trophy for being so popular.
9 Unlimited Fast Travel
Though the world of Zero Dawn is undoubtedly a lot of fun to explore, it can get a little tedious when you have to retrace the same paths over and over again. This is where Fast Travel Packs come in useful – with the use of these, anywhere you’ve already visited is just a loading screen away.
But unlike, for example, Fallout 4, fast travel is limited. You use up a pack each time, and more packs must be scavenged, crafted, or bought. This doesn’t always have to be the case, however. If you’re planning on being a frequent traveller, you can upgrade to Fast Travel Gold!
In Meridian, one of the merchants in the central market square can sell you a Golden Fast Travel Pack. It’s easily missed, as it’s at the bottom of the trader’s resources list. This magical season ticket will set you back 50 metal shards, 10 fatty meat, and a fox skin, but will be worth it in the long run. Once it’s in your inventory, you can fast travel as much as you want, to your heart’s desire.
8 The Mysterious Whirlpool
Explore the islands off the map's Eastern coastline, a little south east of the ruined football stadium, and when you look out to sea, you’ll see a whirlpool. It’s not that difficult to spot, given that all the water around it is contrastingly calm.
But what does this whirlpool do? Well, it’s impossible to find out, given that it’s outside the playable area of the map and the game will give you a stern telling off if you try to swim towards it, forcing you to turn around or be sent back to your last save. You can try firing arrows into it, but it still refuses to give the courtesy of any response.
Some have speculated that the whirlpool is linked to an upcoming piece of DLC; perhaps Aloy will get sucked in by it and travel through a portal to another world. Or perhaps it was the result of a programmer spending a lazy afternoon messing around with water dynamics and sticking the result in the game for the hell of it.
7 Golden Versions of Weapons
The Tearblaster isn’t the only weapon that has to be acquired through side quests. There are three more that can be collected by completing hunter’s lodge challenges, though these are only marginally better versions of weapons that you can buy.
The weapons in question are the Blast Sling, the Ropecaster, and the War Bow. If you’re getting your weapons solely from merchants, you can get these in standard, Carja, and Shadow varieties, with the latter being the best. But the Lodge versions of these weapons are in fact even stronger. They also look very cool, with some flashy golden decoration for Aloy to show off her swag.
You need to earn blazing suns – i.e. the highest possible score – in the fifteen hunting grounds trials found across the world. This isn’t always easy, and you’ll need quick reflexes to beat all the required machines (in the required ways!). But after you’ve collected your suns, you can then trade them in for the Lodge weapons; just go speak to Aidaba inside the Hunter’s Lodge in Meridian.
6 The Killzone Mug
One of the many sets of collectibles in Zero Dawn is the ‘ancient vessels’; the trader collecting these in Meridian’s market has many convoluted theories about just what they were used for, but we players recognize them immediately as coffee mugs.
Most of them contain logos of fictional companies that existed in Horizon’s world before the apocalypse, but another, the ‘KZ’ vessel, shows what the in-game description describes as a “threatening red-eyed visage”. This is, in fact, a Helghast soldier from the Killzone games, another series from Horizon developer Guerilla.
It’s surprising that Guerilla resisted the urge to put references on all the mugs, though it is nice to imagine Aloy settling down at the end of a hard day’s machine hunting to drink a nice brew from her Helghast mug. Gaming merchandise will live on a thousand years from now!
5 Get Platinum, Win A PS4 Theme
With such a variety of side quests to complete and collectibles to collect, only the most devoted of players will manage to 100% complete Zero Dawn and nab that sparkly, shiny Platinum trophy. And yet there’s a special bonus prize for those who manage it.
Shortly after unlocking the Platinum, you’ll get an email from Sony allowing you to download a Horizon-themed redesign for the PlayStation 4’s menu screens. It’s a colorful theme that looks great on TV screens and will stand as a proud reminder of your time-consuming success.
Make sure, though, that in your PSN account, on the [Account] > [Notification Preferences] menu, the box to receive emails from Sony is ticked, otherwise, you might not get sent the message you need. Wouldn’t want to miss out on your prize because of that – even if it does mean they’ll send you a load of other spam.
You’ll find a variety of tribal symbols dotted around the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn, but one which may seem a little out of place is the Triforce symbol. Yes, the one from Legend of Zelda.
It actually appears more than once – there’s a cliff face you can clamber around which has the three yellow triangles painted on, and in the side quest ‘Death from the Skies’, one of the lures near where you fight the Stormbird is next to a barrel with something very similar to the Triforce painted on it. It also appears in the cutscene shown in the launch trailer, as part of a wall painting of Aloy made by the Banuk.
What can Guerilla be saying with this recurring reference? Is it a loving homage to the Zelda series, which has also brought out an open world installment recently with Breath of the Wild? Or is there a surprise crossover coming in future? Given the unlikelihood of a collaboration between Sony and Nintendo, probably the homage.
3 Hidden Skeleton Couple
A weird little Easter Egg in a very hard to reach corner of the map, this one... decide for yourself whether it’s worth the effort. You’ll need to climb atop the Tallneck in the south western corner of the world, then jump from that onto the cliff face. Then you have to climb up the cliff, until finally you reach a campsite.
And in this campsite are the skeletons of two long-dead people, holding hands. No one has really worked out what the meaning of this is, or indeed if there is any, though some have speculated that it may be a reference to Silent Hill, with a creepy shift in music backing up that theory.
It’s also possible, of course, that it's just a neat little detail in the world. These two people must have tried to get as far away as possible from the chaos as the apocalypse erupted around them, so they could spend their final days together in as peaceful a manner as possible. It's sweet, but it didn’t save them.
2 RIGS Logo
We’ve found references to Zelda, Death Stranding, and Killzone... if Horizon is set in some insane shared video game universe, it’s about to get even weirder.
Climb to the top of the vantage point in Devil’s Grief and activate your Focus scan. You’ll see, as you do with all vantage points, an image of what this area looked like before the apocalypse. Specifically, you’ll be looking at the ‘Denver Stadium’, which as we’ve already discovered, is the Sports Authority Field, home of the real life Denver Broncos.
Yet instead of any Broncos logo, the stadium is decorated with the logo of RIGS, from another Guerilla game, RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, in which players took part in a near-future sport consisting of robot deathmatches. Which fits weirdly well into the timeline of Horizon; between killer robots being invented and killer robots overthrowing humanity, they overthrew football as Denver’s favorite sport.
1 The Complete History Of Aloy's World
Yeah, we know. Collecting audio logs can be one of the most tedious parts of games, particularly when you’re so obsessive that you make your character stand around listening to them all.
But we thought this aspect of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s world is worth at least a shout-out, as Guerilla clearly put a lot of effort into plotting out the entire timeline of what caused the apocalypse and the rise of the machines.
There are 120 text datapoints to collect, found both in dungeons and scattered around the world, plus 63 audio ones and 22 holograms. Oh, and 16 glyphs to scan and 10 more text datapoints obtained after overriding tallnecks or exploring cauldrons.
We don’t have space to detail where they all are, but put the time into it, and you’ll gain an appreciation of just how well Guerilla has worked out the timeline of the Horizon world.
Found any cool secrets that even we've missed while exploring the lands of Horizon? Let us know in the comments!