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Horizon Forbidden West beginner’s guide

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There is no shortage of things to do in Horizon Forbidden West — to the point where it can feel overwhelming. There’s a vast open world, weapons and outfits to find, and a couple dozen types of machines to hunt. There are resources to collect, side quests to complete, cauldrons to override, gladiatorial Melee Pits to compete in, and, oh yeah, a world to save.

In this Horizon Forbidden West beginner’s guide, we’ll give you the tips, tricks, and advice from more than 100 combined hours with the game — the things that we wish we knew back when we were starting starting out. We’ve got tips on climbing and navigation, resource management, machine combat, weaponry, and more.

Turn on climbing markers

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Climbing in Horizon Forbidden West is, frankly, a little awkward. It only works in certain locations and on certain rocks. Thankfully, you can ping your Focus to temporarily highlight climbable rocks with yellow markers. Even better, you can (and should) turn on the Climbing Annotations Always On setting in the Settings > Visual menu. It just makes the game easier. And it looks cool, like it’s Aloy’s bluetooth Focus overlaying something on the world.

(While you’re at it, turn on the subtitles in Settings > Audio menu because there’s a lot going on, and half the characters sound like they deliver their lines through gritted teeth.)

Remember the useful, yet confusing, Pullcaster

In Horizon Forbidden West’s first mission, you’ll craft a new tool called the Pullcaster. It’s a grappling hook that you’ll in specific situations like pulling covers off of vents or moving crates.

The problem is, there’s no clear on-screen reminder about how to equip it and, since you use it pretty rarely, it’s easy to forget how to use it (or that it exists). While aiming by holding down L2, hit Triangle. This switches over to the Pullcaster. Hit Triangle again to switch back to your ranged weapon.

Pick up lots of everything, all the time

There’s no shortage of stuff to pick up in Horizon Forbidden West. There’re healing berries, dye flowers, rocks, sticks, and supply boxes. And that’s not the mention all the machine corpses you’ll be looting.

Just pick up everything. Once your pack is filled, the overflow gets sent to your stash — a chest you can access in every village or shelter. This matters because there are a few things you’ll burn through quickly just by playing — especially medicinal berries for healing and ridge-wood for crafting arrows.

Medicinal berries are an interesting case because you actually have three containers for them: Your pouch where you’ll pull for immediate healing, your pack that you’ll use to refill your pouch, and your stash where the overflow goes to refill both your Pouch and your pack.

Refill your supplies at your stash

Horizon Forbidden West Aloy’s stash

Image: Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

When you gather more than you can carry, those supplies go to your stash automatically, but that’s a one-way automatic trip. They won’t get drawn back automatically from your stash.

Whenever you see a stash — it kind of looks like a large, ornate treasure chest — open it and choose to Restock All Categories. This refills the things you use most like resources, potions, and traps. And since you’re picking up everything like we said above, your stash should always have plenty to refill your pack.

Machines are a puzzle to solve

Whenever you encounter a new machine, scan it with your Focus. You’ll get a new entry in your notebook with a ton of information on things like a machine’s strengths, weaknesses, and weaponry. All of this information gives you the solution to the puzzle of how to kill the machine — and, just as importantly, how to survive the encounter.

Horizon Forbidden West beginner’s guide, tips, and tricks

An example of the information in your Notebook > Machine Catalogue.
Image: Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

The first thing to note is the Weak Vs. elemental damage types — this just tells you what elemental damage deals the most, well, damage.

As you tab through the various components, look for other two phrases: Detachable and Attack Removal.

  • Detaching parts from machines with tear damage does a few things: takes off a big chunk of health, gets you valuable upgrade materials, and sometimes gets you a heavy weapon to turn against the machine you’re fighting. A lot of the time, the resources you gain from a detached component will disappear if the machine dies without detaching them first.
  • Attack Removal does what it says on the tin — it removes one of the machine’s attacks and fewer attacks means you’re more likely to survive.

Elemental damage depends on the weapon

There are a lot of weapons in Horizon Forbidden West spread across nine categories (like short-range high rate-of-fire warrior bows or long-range sniping sharpshot bows). Each weapon within a category, though, deals different types of damage. For example, you might find a warrior bow that deals regular impact damage and a shock warrior bow that deals shock damage.

This is why there are so many slots on your weapon wheel — you’ll want multiple ways of dealing elemental damage (see above) to quickly take down machines. You’ll probably end up with multiples of the same category in your weapon wheel at the same time just so you have options for multiple types of elemental damage.

Upgrade everything at a workbench, but just enough to get by

Upgrading your weapons at a workbench increases their damage, unlocks coil slots, and might even add a second (or third) type of elemental damage. Similarly, upgrading your outfits improves their stats, adds mesh slots, and unlocks additional skill buffs.

But upgrading your gear is a time-intensive and expensive process. As we mentioned above, you’ll also be finding a ton of other weapons beyond what you pick up early. Upgrading weapons a little is rarely a waste of time, but spending all the time and shards to upgrade early weapons and outfits fully probably is wasteful, since you’ll find something better soon.

Save all that upgrading effort for later in the game when you’ve got very rare (purple) gear.

Explore, but assume it gets easier

Horizon Forbidden West’s vast open world is more than just beautiful landscapes. It’s filled with things to do. It’s also packed with things that you can’t do yet. Part of the art of playing Horizon Forbidden West is balancing your desire to explore every cloud-shrouded corner of The Daunt and beyond with your desire to move the story forward. Good news: These things reinforce each other. By all means, check it all out. But give yourself permission to return later and figure it out, too.

It’s entirely possible to find things that you won’t be able to complete for a dozen hours or more. Telling you which things those are would be spoiling the fun. For now, take our general advice: If you can’t wrap your head around something in a few minutes, then let it go. Come back to it later, maybe after you’ve met a certain character who’ll reveal all or received an upgrade that’s just what you need.

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