I can be pretty fussy about open-world games since I need a main story to focus on, but this game had a brilliant balance. Even I found myself doing most of the side quests because it was all so interesting and relevant. More than that, the side missions actually made the main story itself a lot easier, adding a lot of context that I just wouldn’t have had otherwise.
10. Acquire The Shield Weaver Armor
The combat in this game can get pretty difficult. As you move through the game, the machines get tougher, and you’ll require both good weapons and tactics to take down your opposition. Something that makes this exponentially easier is by collecting the Power Cells needed to be given the Shield Weaver armor.
This armor is the best in the game. It makes Aloy near invisible, and most games don’t even offer something of this power. It’s especially useful if you choose to play the game on a harder difficulty (although worth noting that, in this game, you might as well play it on an easier one. There are no difficulty based trophies until you reach New Game+).
9. Solve The Cauldrons
The Cauldrons are optional missions, too. There are a few of them dotted around the map, and they’re almost like Tomb Raider-style puzzles (though maybe a bit easier — except for Rho, which is a pain, but you’ll see when you get there).
When you reach the core of each Cauldron and override it, you’re then given the ability to override more types of machines, which, as you can imagine, makes fighting machines easier. If you override a machine, you can either mount it or it can fight for you, and it’s worth picking up as many of these skills as possible. Don’t just rely on being able to take down machines by sheer force.
8. Climb The Tallnecks
Something else that's optional, dotted around the map: Tallnecks!
Okay, these machines have a slightly unoriginal name, but they’re exactly what you might imagine. They’re giraffe shaped, and if you jump on their neck and climb their back, you can get to their head and override them. This is worth doing because the area around the Tallneck then becomes visible on the map. This allows you to see if there are any points of interest around you. The quickest way to get the whole map visible—aside from running around—is to override all of the Tallnecks (and there’s a trophy for doing it too!).
7. The Hunting Grounds
There are Hunting Grounds dotted around the map. They’re not at all essential for the main quest and don’t even really help except for leveling up, to be honest. But they’re actually worth it for that alone. And like most of the other stuff, there are trophies.
Each Hunting Ground has three trials to do with the machines there and can involve fighting them, sneaking around stealthily, or overriding them. You earn marks based on how well you compete in the trial and you can have as many attempts as you like. You can work your way up the ranks as a hunter, plus there’s a reward at the end of it all!
6. Find The Datapoints
The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is a complex one. It’s deeply rooted in science, and there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to the story. Something that might help you and Aloy better understand what’s going on is by using your Focus to zoom in on optional datapoints. Audio will play and you’ll hear a conversation or meeting from the past, relating to what’s going on in the present. There are scientists discussing the machines, the lead up to what’s happening now, and about Zero Dawn itself. You can get a basic idea of the story from just doing the main quests, but the world is so rich that it’s really worth zooming in on those focus points.
5. Get Allies For The Defense
You know those random side quests marked by green exclamation points that seem to have nothing to do with the main quest? Yeah, they aren’t a waste of time.
It’s worth doing this because eventually, you’re going to need to form a defense, and those willing to help you will be those you’ve assisted in the past. They all come from the side quests that you might have thought it wasn’t worth doing, so it’s a good idea to spend a few hours completing these before you get to that point near the end of the game. It’ll give you the most complete ending (and, yes, there’s a trophy for getting all allies!).
4. Clear The Corrupted Zones
Another few points marked on the map will be Corrupted Zones. There are areas where the machines have been infected with something evil, marked by red lights surrounding them instead of the usual blue. If you take down all the machines, you can clear the area, which is worth doing not just for the trophy at the end, but for the leveling. You’ll earn a lot of experience points for clearing these zones. It’s also good practice, since the corrupted machines can be more difficult to take down.
Free tip: Fire Arrows are your best bet for killing these machines!
3. Take Out The Bandit Camps
Another few areas you may want to clear on the map are Bandit Camps, especially if you’re going for that platinum trophy since there’s a bronze trophy for taking out one camp and a silver for defeating them all!
You can rush into Bandit Camps and start slaughtering or you can take them out stealthily. The latter is supposed to make things easier, but as I’m impatient and I kind of like the combat, I’m happy to just barrel in and start hitting the bandits with my spear. Either way, they aren’t too hard if you pay attention to the recommended levels. Freeing the hostages they take will also make you feel like a hero.
2. Attack The Settlements
All over the map, the thing you’ll see most commonly are settlements of machines. They pop up as a notification whenever you get close to one. Although these aren’t necessarily noted as missions, they’re one of the quickest ways to level up; by taking them out whenever you see them.
There’s another reason to do this though. You’re going to get tired of repeatedly going back through areas where you have to sneak around carefully. Take out the machines the first time, and the map will be clearer on your path back. Let 'past you' do 'future you' a favor.
1. Get The Golden Fast Travel Pack
From merchants, you can buy Fast Packs — and you’re gonna need them as the game goes on and the map expands. Sometimes a main quest will end and the next one will be four-thousand steps away. That's not a journey you want to make on foot.
Some merchants also offer a Golden Fast Travel Pack. Buy this as soon as possible. The only hard part of the payment to get is the fox coat, since foxes rarely drop these when they die. However, just keep hunting those foxes until you get one. It took me around three hours of sheer sadness, since foxes are my favorite animal, but it was worth it to jump between campfires.