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Video Game / Horizon Forbidden West

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Due to its nature as a sequel, spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn and The Frozen Wilds DLC will be unmarked. You have been warned.
"There's nothing I wouldn't do to save this world; no depth I won't explore, no secret I won't unlock, no barrier I won't cross. This mission is mine alone. If I falter, if I fail, there won't be anyone left to stop what's coming."

Announced during the PlayStation 5 reveal event on June 11, 2020, Horizon Forbidden West is the sequel to 2017's Horizon Zero Dawn. The game sees the return of its original protagonist, Aloy, as she strikes out into the Forbidden West, the mysterious land far beyond the world she knows, from which none have returned before.

In the six months following the events of Zero Dawn, the Derangement has continued, freak storms are appearing with greater frequency, and a mysterious blight is spreading across the land, killing flora and fauna alike. Aloy continues to scour the world for a backup of GAIA to fix the terraforming system and save the world, but with no success.

When confronted with the betrayal of a former ally, Aloy realises that to find the answers she needs, she must journey into the Forbidden West: a harsh and lawless land, ruled by the violent Tenakth tribes and new, more dangerous machines. Her journey uncovers new secrets, new technologies and new enemies, and will challenge everything Aloy believes about her mission — and herself.


Initially set to come out in 2021, the game was delayed and instead came out on February 18, 2022. The announcement trailer can be seen here, and a developer message - here. The State of Play Gameplay Reveal can be found here. The Story Trailer can be found here

Provides examples of:

  • 20 Bear Asses: Like the first game, you can create a job in your quest list to retrieve parts for armor and weapon upgrades. If you want to get the most out of your equipment, you will be doing a LOT of fetch quests. And yes, this includes harvesting the game's giant mechanical bears. One notable change with this game is that when you override a Cauldron, there will be a few corrupted files for some of the machines, so you need to hunt them in the wild and recover their parts to complete the override.
  • Absurdly Low Level Cap: The maximum level is 50, which can be reached 70% of the way through the game. (Maxing out all skill trees, however, will take a lot longer.) Especially strong machines like the Apex Fireclaw will always be higher-leveled than the player.
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  • Abusive Precursors: The main antagonists are revealed to be the members of Far Zenith, who were mentioned in the previous game as a group of the world's wealthiest individuals who fled an increasingly unstable 21st century Earth in an interstellar spaceship prior to the outbreak of the Faro Plague. Having perfected the immortality technology that was already in development at the time, they are over a thousand years old and essentially the last living Old Ones, with the Sufficiently Advanced Alien technology to match. Being a group of immortal megalomaniacs, they also slaughter the new Earth's indigenous people without a second thought in pursuit of their goals.
  • A.I. Breaker: Aloy getting into a location where a highly aggressive machine like an Apex Thunderjaw or Tremortusk can't reach her (such as a high cliff) seems to confuse them. Whereas most machines will retreat if they can't get to Aloy, these two tend to mostly flail randomly, firing their weapons in random directions in apparent frustration.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Played straight, and very handy for exploring ancient bunkers and other ruins.
  • Alien Kudzu: A strange plant called the Red Blight is infesting the terrain Aloy travels. It's choking and starving out the more ordinary wildlife; Aloy sees a dead fox surrounded by it, and an unnamed tribeswoman pulls a half-rotten carrot out of its tangle. The Red Blight is caused by DEMETER, one of GAIA's former subordinate functions now acting as an independent AI.
  • An Aesop: Even if you’re invincible, clever, and feel like you can do everything, that doesn’t mean that you can do it by yourself. Your friends will always be there for you to get the job done.
  • And Your Reward Is Interior Decorating: After reclaiming the Base, it will be increasingly furnished and inhabited in between main quests. Some additions are functional (a workbench, a stash box, etc), but most are cosmetic decorations that unlock flavor text and hint at characterization.
  • Anti-Frustration Feature: A new addition to the game is the ability to customize difficulty. One option this unlocks is Easy Looting, which lets you loot parts that normally have to be shot off machines from the machine's corpse instead, provided that part is still intact when the machine dies. Given how many high-level upgrades require you to bring in a lot of hard-to-get parts that are normally destroyed when a machine dies if they weren't broken off, this is extremely helpful.
  • Armor Is Useless: Played straight in multiple cutscenes. When the rebel Tanakth ambush the peace delegation, for example, rebel arrows are shown punching through the breastplates of Tanakth and Carja warriors. Averted in gameplay, as Aloy's armor can have substantial protective value (particularly if she's wearing a fully-upgraded Legendary armor) and enemy armor will substantually reduce the amount of damage Aloy's weapons deal until she knocks the piece off.
  • Artistic License – Physics: GAIA's logical deduction of the extinction signal's origin. She notes the curiously long duration of the signal's transmission, and interprets that duration as an expression of the lightyears of distance that the signal would have needed to travel. GAIA states that the signal was received for 8.611 years, and makes the logical conclusion that it came from Far Zenith given their prior goal to establish a colony on a star at that precise distance. She even mentions that it would have taken another 8.611 years for Zenith to confirm that the signal had been received and enacted successfully, which accounts for the twenty-year gap between the initial transmission and the Zenith's arrival. However, this doesn't actually add up. The game acts as though the moment the off-switch gets flipped, any residual transmission would be erased from the vacuum of space instantaneously. In the scenario that GAIA posits, Earth would have received the transmission for 19.222 years.
    • Additionally, GAIA starts out by saying how the signal was 8.611 years old by the time it reached Earth. She states this as though it was a known fact, rather than an inferrence from the signal's duration. Unless the signal included some sort of timestamp in its contents, there would be no way to directly measure how old the signal was.
  • As You Know: Uttered literally by Avad if you ask him about the Red Raids. Subverted in that he's only referring to the Carja raiding neighboring tribes, with their exact relationship to the Tenakth being new information to Aloy as well as the player.
  • Audible Gleam: Greenshine crystals make a constant crystalline chime sound.
  • Augmented Reality: The Focus once again is an instrumental tool in Aloy's equipment. She has acquired several of them from ELEUTHIA-9, which she hands out to trustworthy allies she meets so they too can have the "Second Sight".
  • Bag of Spilling:
    • At the beginning of the game, Aloy mentions that she had lost all of her stuff between the six months from Zero Dawn to the beginning of Forbidden West due to a mix of harrowing life-or-death situations and just bad luck. Special mention goes to the Shield-Weaver outfit, the starter outfit in Forbidden West having been repurposed from the Shield-Weaver's parts after its battery ran out.
    • While Aloy retains several of the moves and abilities she could unlock in the first game, such as calling a mount, or taking control of machines from the first game, when Varl catches up to Aloy in the game's beginning, he notes that she's 'traveling light' and she states that she ran into some trouble along the way having lost most of her gear and high-quality weapons, using only a common-rarity bow, as well as also apparently having banged up enough that she only has about 200 Health points after she fixes some scrapes and bruises she got. She also didn't bother removing Sylens' spear from HADES' shell, and when she does so it ends up crumbling to dust, but in the interim she fashioned herself a new spear in Nora tribe fashioned after said spear, and upon returning to Meridian she's gifted the Champion's spear for her role in the battle of the Alight.
    • Aloy is initially unable to override any of the machines that return from the previous game (except for Chargers). This is explained as the machines in the West having been constructed in different Cauldrons from the ones in the previous game, so she needs new override codes to take control of them.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The Stinger of Zero Dawn had Sylens ominously approaching the inert husk of a Metal Devil with a captured HADES after his lance transmitted the Rogue AI to him, implying bad things were in store. It turns out that he only wanted to use the larger processing components from the Horus to download HADES into a container that he could communicate through, after first removing it from the machine entirely to render HADES still helpless and incapable of further harm.
    • For much of the game, it's assumed that Far Zenith are the ones that sent the extinction signal that self-actualised HADES and the rest of the GAIA sub functions and caused the gradual collapse of the biosphere, and they're coming to Earth to finish the job personally now that that's failed out of a selfish desire to rebuild the planet in their image. However, right after killing off every member of the group bar Tilda, it's revealed that Far Zenith were actually planning escape vectors away from Earth and were planning to leave once they'd gained a copy of the full GAIA terraforming AI. Far Zenith don't care about rebuilding Earth: the planet was merely a waypoint on their attempts to flee from the real threat- Nemesis, a Malevolent AI bent on their destruction, which sent the signal to destroy the planet before Far Zenith could arrive to deny them a safe haven, and is relentlessly following them to finish the job. Earth and the devastation that's been wrought from the derangement of the machines is merely collateral damage in the feud between these two forces.
    • When interrogating the captive and damaged AI HADES shortly before deleting him for good, Aloy questions him about the mysterious signal that self-actualised him and he states it was sent to him by his 'Masters'. Initially this leads into the belief that Far Zenith are the ones that sent the signal, but upon the reveal of Nemesis' true identity, it becomes clear that HADES was referring to the fact that the insane AI is a Hive Mind achieved through Brain Uploading.
    • When Aloy is exploring the abandoned Thebes bunker that Ted retreated to after killing the Alphas and deleting APOLLO, she discovered evidence and logs that he brought along a doctor who conducted experimental gene treatments on him to halt his ageing, desiring to live long enough to meet the Zero Dawn humans who would emerge eventually and guide them as to the follies of their ancestors. Does this mean Aloy is about to meet a still-living Ted faro and give him some long-overdue comeuppance? Nope, because it turns out Ted's gene experiments were incomplete, and ended up mutating him into a Genetic Abomination trapped in the bunker's power room for centuries. Does this mean we're about to have a boss fight with the Meat Moss that Ted's devolved into? Nope, because the Ceo, leader of the Quen and who fancies himself Ted's Reincarnation, does not take it well discovering what became of his 'past self' and orders his followers to burn the whole bunker down along with any witnesses, starting with Ted's twisted body. This triggers the Dead Man's Switch Ted installed in the Thebes bunker to prevent any of his fellow survivors turning on him for his role in destroying the world, leading to Aloy having to battle her way out of the collapsing ruin and the Ceo's soldiers instead.
    • The first game (and the beginnings of the second) may lead one to believe that Aloy would be wading through a whole land full of hostile warlike Tenakth tribals, but it turns out that they respect martial prowess (which Aloy has plenty of), she got an early reprieve by being granted passage from one of their Marshals, and her deeds done for the good of their tribe end up ingratiating her to everyone in the tribe short of Regalla's Rebels. First, she blunts Regalla's Embassy massacre by winning in a Trial By Champion, then she ensures the Kulrut trial to replenish Chief Hekarro's cadre of Marshals (and saves Hekarro's butt from a one-on-one fight with Regalla going bad), does a litany of minor quests for locals across the territory, and then she Flies upon the Wings of the Ten to finally thwart Regalla's rebellion for good.
  • The Beastmaster: The Tenakth rebels have found a way to tame the animal-like machines and ride them into battle, particularly the Clawstrider and Tremortusks. They were taught by Sylens, much like the Shadow Carja.
  • BFG: Like the first game, Aloy can lug around considerably cumbersome but powerful weapons, often pried off of a machine. A number of old standbys (like the Ravager cannon or the Thunderjaw Disk Launcher) return, and a whole slew of new ones are introduced as well. Aloy can also lug around a smaller semi-BFG that she can holster and reload: the Boltblaster, a rapid-fire multi-armed crossbow that fires simplified metal shards as its bolts. It encumbers Aloy while unholstered, but not to the degree of the true heavy weapons. Perk tiers also now exist to boost (true) heavy weapons' damage and movement speed while carried.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: While the first game had a singular Big Bad in HADES, the Shadow Carja its Unwitting Pawns, this game's main story campagn has four villainous factions acting autonomously with one another; Regalla and the Rebel Tenakth, Ceo and the Quen, Far Zenith, and HEPHAESTUS. Unlike the first game, each faction work independent of one another; Regalla wanting to wage a war with the Carja, the Quen a colonial empire mining data to help mitigate problems caused by GAIA's runaway subroutines, HEPHAESTUS creating Mechanical Monsters to make them more dangerous for humans and Far Zenith wanting to recreate GAIA to remake the Earth in their own image.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: The Focus states that Shellsnapper machines are level 27. The Focus lies. Shellsnappers are big enough to crush Aloy, (somehow) agile enough to jump on her, have very thick and extensive armor, a lot of health, and can shoot ice projectiles that either damage Aloy or create permanent spires of ice obstacles, in a game where mobility is paramount. There is a strong argument to be made that Thunderjaws (level 30) are less dangerous than Shellsnappers.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: Fully upgrading a legendary weapon or suit of armor requires that Aloy track down dozens of Apex machines and harvest their parts, some of which do not always drop or can be destroyed during the fight. And that's just for one legendary item, trying to fully upgrade all of them requires killing so many Apex machines that you're left without anything worth using the weapons on- the final boss is tough but if you've already killed multiple Apex Fireclaws and Apex Slaughterspines they won't be a serious challenge.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece:
    • You do this a few times in the game pulling out resources and datafiles, and the Quen use an earlier model of Focus that takes up more of the side of the head compared to the most recent models.
    • Far Zenith aren't only the same people who departed earth a thousand years ago, they arrive in the same ship they left in. Even parked in space all that time, micrometeorite impacts and solar radiation would have been incredibly damaging to it. This is acknowledged in-story and part of their stop on Earth is refitting it for the long haul.
  • Broken Pedestal: Downplayed with Alva. The Quen are a culture of Precursor Worshippers that acknowledge their ancestors as humans with advanced technology, yet they still revere them as though they were prophets and saints. When Aloy invites her to the Base, she learns from their data about the truth behind Ted Faro and Far Zenith and realizes how inaccurate their culture was on the matter.
  • Build Like an Egyptian: Reflecting both his namesake and his ego, Ted Faro's apocalypse bunker Thebes was designed like an Ancient Egyptian temple (built underneath the Transamerica Pyramid, no less), complete with a giant statue of himself and a pair of Corruptors as a security system.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp":
    • Due to the history of this world, a lot of things we have in present day are given new names. Metalbite is acid, Blaze is biofuel, etc.
    • The description of some of the foods available for purchase from the various settlements indicates that they're real-world foods with new names. For example, Salted Haunch is pastrami while Meat-In-The-Middle is a hamburger.
  • Canned Orders over Loudspeaker: The leader of the Eclipse remnant, Vezreh, blasts a continuous loop of talking about how they will rise again, destroy Meridian, how he's transcended death, he's the greatest ruler of all time, etc inside his fortress. Aloy comments that he's obviously in love with the sound of his own voice.
  • Central Theme:
    • You can't do everything alone. This game hammers home that Aloy needs people around her to get things done as she is dealing with much higher stakes than in Zero Dawn.
    • Legacy is key to the main plot. Aloy is still struggling to live up to Elisabet's legacy (and it's even worse for Beta), the Tenakth are trying to follow a legacy of soldiers that they aren't even sure they learned correctly, a trio of Oseram delvers are unknowingly following in the legacy of Las Vegas and the dream to entertain, and of course the Quen literally call recovered data "the Legacy." Meanwhile, the villains have no legacy because they are immortals who never bothered making children or any other society, meaning they're the exact same selfish assholes who left Earth a thousand years ago.
    • Family. Many, many sidequests are about families. Family members reconciling from estrangement, family members asking Aloy to help them look out for each other, and carrying on your family's legacy. Aloy slowly builds up her own family, people she trusts and always comes back to, where before she only ever had Rost (who is brought up several times, and not forgotten). It turns out that she actually has biological family as well - Beta, another clone of Elisabet Sobeck, who was raised in complete isolation and sharply contrasts with Aloy, who was at least raised by a loving father figure. They, too, fight, struggle to understand each other, and eventually reconcile.
    • Originals and Forgeries. Aloy and Beta are both clones of Elisabet Sobeck and they both struggle with Cloning Blues in regards to living up to her legacy. When Aloy's allies discover the truth behind her birth, they briefly marvel at their similarities, but otherwise acknowledge that they are their own individual people regardless of genetics. Far Zenith on the other hand sees them as nothing more than xerox copies of Elisabet, with Tilda seeing Beta as an "inferior copy" and Aloy a better replacement. At the end, it's revealed that the true threat to Earth is Nemesis, a digitized copy of Far Zenith's collective minds as a Digital Abomination who turned against its creators. This theme is best illustrated in two of the paintings in Tilda's art collection; Woman Reading a Letter by Johannes Vermeer and Woman Reading Music by Han van Meegeren. The latter was made as a forgery to Vermeer that gained acclaim in the artists's lifetime, while the original was not acknowledged until after Vermeer died in obscurity. Tilda claims that its deception inspired her to create software that helped identify forgeries.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Aloy mentions to Varl about the prudence about keeping a spare Focus and maintaining backups in its data stores, considering how fragile the little things are. After learning that Sylens was spying on her, Aloy destroyed her focus and started using a new one. it's revealed later in the plot that Tilda found and repaired the original, using it to view Aloy's life experiences and leads to Tilda developing an obsession with her.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the prologue, Aloy explains to the newly Focus-equipped Varl that he can back up his data to spare Foci. Later on, after a moment of being fed up with Sylens' machinations and his spying through her Focus, she tosses the Spyware-infested Focus on the ground, stomps it, and puts on a new Focus.
  • Cherry Tapping: Throwing rocks is usually used to distract enemies who aren't aware of Aloy's presense, but hitting an enemy with a rock will deal 1 point of damage to them. It's actually possible to kill enemies this way.
  • Civil War:
    • When Aloy ventures into the Forbidden West, she finds that the Tenakth tribe is in the midst of a civil war between the main tribe led by Hekarro and a rebel faction led by Regalla, as both sides disagree over whether to open peaceful relations with the Carja.
    • Aloy comes across numerous historical references to the "Hot Zone Crisis", which was an event in the 2030s where the American southwest experienced a massive heatwave. The government attempted to force a regionwide evacuation of the area, sparking an armed conflict where residents of California, Nevada, and Arizona resisted relocation. The crisis apparently ended once methods of lowering the extreme temperatures in the area were discovered.
  • Cloning Blues: Aloy does experience some angst from having to 'live up to' Elisabet's high bar example as the woman who saved the world and her own lack of success on the front ever since the scope of the task was made apparent to her. She's also shocked by the appearance of another clone of Elizabet Sobeck, under the control of Far Zenith, who turns out to have an even more severe case of this for being deemed not close enough to Elisabet in character and personality by one of the Zeniths who knew her.
  • Color Motif: Red. The Blight is red, the falling stars Sylens sees at one point are red, the overridden robots are red, the ominous storm is crackling with red lightning, and Aloy is, of course, a Red-Headed Hero.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Aloy has to escape from a bunker after its geothermal power core melts down and starts flooding it with magma. She only takes damage from the magma when touching it.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: What kind of torture does Sylens subject an AI bent on world destruction like HADES to? Forcing it to watch holographic imagery of plants and animals thriving, the more vivid, the better. According to his notes, a loop depicting rabbits hopping through a field of flowers "produced paroxysms of agony." It's enough to corrupt the AI's internal data structures and render it an almost mindless husk.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: Even moreso than the first game, given the focus on a "cavemen" (Aloy and crew) vs. astronauts battle.
  • Crate Expectations: Crates can float, stack on each other, be climbed, and be pulled by the Pullcaster. All of these traits are important in the relic puzzles incorporating them.
  • Cruel Elephant: The mammoth-esque Tremortusks are extremely dangerous even in the wild, being both heavily armed and heavily armored.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Far Zenith gets on the receiving end of this once Beta unleashes HEPHAESTUS into the Zenith base systems on Aloy's direction. Upon accessing the machine printer, it cranks out an army of Slaughterspines and Thunderjaws, each being built in seconds, that make short work of their army of Specters.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Regalla's attack at the Embassy results in all but one Marshall killed, including Fashav, who was returning home to Carja territory to become an intermediary between the Carja and the Tenakth. Several high-ranked Carja civilian and military members are also slaughtered. However, Aloy has become sterner stuff in the face of the Dynamic Entry of the enemy tribal faction since Eclipse attacked the Nora Proving, and kills Regalla's overconfident Champion in a duel. Aloy still has plenty of fight left in her when Regalla retreats, her job done.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: The last we see any of Tilda herself is her limp hand dropping out of a breach in the wreckage of the Specter Prime mecha-suit after Aloy defeats her in the final boss fight.
  • Denser and Wackier: A more subdued example than most, but it's there. In comparison to the first game's relatively grounded tone (err, as grounded as a game about fighting robot dinosaurs with bows and arrows could be anyways), some of the main plot beats of Forbidden West can come across as a bit out there. The antagonists are 1000-year-old, immortal, invulnerable humans from outer space with a clone of Elisabet Sobeck in their possession. The most common tribe in the game, the Tenakth, take Future Imperfect to the extreme, with their society being based on a limited understanding of the culture and methods of the United States Armed Forces, behaving in ways and using vocabulary that is almost comical. But nothing takes the cake quite like Ted Faro's fate, akin to something out of a pulp sci-fi novel: in his bid to achieve immortality, he attached his body to Thebes' reactor to hasten cellular regeneration and halt his aging, only to mutate into a mass of flesh that is so horrifying it prompts the Quen to instantly decide to Kill It with Fire.
  • Destructive Saviour: Aloy Lampshades her tendency to wreak ancient ruins in the process of navigating them when tearing down multiple walls with her Pullcaster in order to climb an ancient and derelict Carja signal tower to scavenge the valuable lenses located at the top on a side quest.
    Aloy: I am really busting up this place.
  • Determinator: Aloy claims the title once again with her mission statement.
    Aloy: There's nothing I wouldn't do to save this world; no depth I won't explore, no secret I won't unlock, no barrier I won't cross.
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • The new Shredder Gauntlet class of weapons qualifies. It acts like a high-tech boomerang that you launch with a jai alai mitt, which only returns if you hit your target. Each time you catch a returning shredder, its damage increases on the next throw, and if you manage to catch it three times in a row it explodes on the fourth throw, doing massive damage. That said, it resets if you miss either the throw or the catch, and the return trajectory is unpredictable, so you need a keen eye and quick reflexes to get the most out of it. Especially since you're dodging enemy attacks while simultaneously trying to get in the path of the returning shredder.
    • As far as elemental damage, you have the new Plasma type. After you build up enough to trigger the elemental state, you then need to do enough damage to fill up the detonation bar before the timer runs out. The resulting explosion can do a ton of damage if done right, but it takes a very specific playstyle with a somewhat niche application.
  • Distressed Dude: One mission has Aloy saving Erend from Tenakth rebels. Another has her recuing Morlund from a Stormbird after his "Elevating Orb" test flight goes awry.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Quen are a thriving Empire who send an expedition to the North American continent — the people sent there suffering from sickness, starvation and their pompous, aristocratic benefactor — on a religious mission under the assumption that they themselves are The Chosen People destined to colonize the land and claim its resources for their own, believing the native inhabitants to be nothing but mindless savages. The only meaningful difference between this and the colonization of America in the 16th century (aside from the obvious) is that while the Spanish and the British went West on the Atlantic Ocean, the Quen went East on the Pacific Ocean.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Invoked. While examples done In-Universe are all Internal Reveals since both Aloy and the player would already know the origins of their strictly technological world, Aloy's various allies who become familiar with the Base, GAIA and given Focuses are given a hefty plate of this trope.
    • It starts with Varl, who compares GAIA to the Goddess the Nora worship and humor the idea that they are the same, eventually growing out of this mindset the more familiar he becomes with the concept of AI and the Old One's ways.
    • Zo in turn gets a bitter dose of it when she, Aloy, and Varl end up having to kill one of the Plowhorns that the Utaru revere as "Land-Gods" after HEPHAESTUS perverted it into the prototype Grimhorn. She eventually gets a grip on it, and hatches a plan with GAIA to manually reprogram the remaining Land-Gods without needing the utility of HEPHAESTUS, stopping them from sowing Red Blight in Plainsong's fields and go back to sowing crops.
  • Domesticated Dinosaurs: Dinosaur machines, to be exact but it counts.
    • The Tenakth rebels have the ability to ride the raptor-esque Clawstriders.
    • The Utaru have their "Land Gods": non-hostile Plowhorns (mechanical Triceratops) who till the soil and plant seeds behind them.
  • Dungeon Bypass: New Game Plus starts Aloy off with all the special tools she acquired over the course of the game, letting her bypass some of the early puzzle and exploration sequences by using the Shieldwing, Igniter, Diving Mask, or Vine Cutter.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: A shot in the reveal trailer recreates the iconic Tunnel View of the Yosemite Valley with Aloy climbing on a rock formation that doesn't exist in real life.
    • Literally with the ruins of the Paris Las Vegas Casino Hotel.
  • The Elites Jump Ship: Despite Project Far Zenith being billed as the first step into humanity's future, it was hijacked so that the rich and powerful could escape what they saw as a dying world. Even though they caused most of those problems they were running from.
  • Elite Mook: Apex machines are more powerful versions of standard machines: stronger, tougher, have altered elemental strengths and weaknesses, different elemental canisters, and are immune to Aloy's override ability. They spawn randomly in place of standard versions of machines, with higher chances of spawning based on how many of the regular ones Aloy has destroyed. These are analogous to the Daemonic machines in the first game's Frozen Wilds DLC, as machines with purple highlights that HEPHAESTUS has augmented to combat human predation.
  • Embarrassing Statue: When Aloy returns to Meridian in the first part of the game, she finds the Sun King there with gifts in honor of her service, a War Memorial to those who fell in the Final Battle of Horizon Zero Dawn, and a statue of herself. A downplayed example, possibly because Sun King Avad manages to mollify her by talking the sculptor out of embellishing it with gold and jewels, but she's still clearly embarrassed by the thing.
  • Evil Versus Evil:
    • It's eventually revealed that Sylens taught Regalla how to hack machines and build her army (albeit through an Oseram proxy) to use them as cannon-fodder against Far Zenith.
    • While HEPHAESTUS and Far Zenith do cross paths, it's under entirely antagonistic terms. Far Zenith hope to merge HEPHAESTUS with their version of GAIA to gain control of the Mechanical Lifeforms populating the planet, while Aloy unleashes HEPHAESTUS onto Far Zenith to cripple their technological advantage not unlike a Computer Virus.
  • Exact Words:
    • When Aloy confront Sylens over his deception of her regarding his rigged lance after deleting HADES for good, he states that he's been spending the intervening months since the battle of the Alight devoted to researching the information he gained from HADES, claiming it's critical to 'the fate of this planet'. Aloy sarcastically quips that he just wants to save the world like her and Elisabet. Sylens notably looks aside whilst saying she's correct, and it turns out in the conclusion that he was actually trying to find a way off-planet so he could preserve Earth's existing culture and use the GAIA terraforming system to create a new Earth on a different planet, once Nemesis had arrived and scoured the old one bare in its twisted pursuit of Far Zenith. Sylens was trying to find an option that allowed him to preserve Earth's history without actually saving the planet itself, as he considers it a lost cause against something like Nemesis.
    • Tekotteh says that the Sky Clan will not aid Hekarro so long as they, personally, are safe behind the Bulwark. So Aloy blows it up.
  • Feed the Mole: Far Zenith's stolen copy of GAIA is a fake. Their mole in Project Zero Dawn got found out, and HADES team Alpha Travis Tate fed them a logic bomb instead, wrapped in his own juvenile tell-off message, topped off with a vulgar salute.
  • Fertile Feet: Plowhorns are essentially walking tractors; tilling the soil and planting fast-growing seeds behind them. There's even a common Utaru blessing: "May the land bloom in your steps."
  • Flawed Prototype: Sylens's prototype anti-Zenith shield disruptor exploded shortly after use, killing its operators, though it did succeed in nullifying Verbena Sutter's shield and rendering her vulnerable to a Tenakth Rebel's machete into the gut.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When doing the recap of Zero Dawn when playing the game for the first time, Sylens says that he's made a new discovery, that 'heralds both destruction and opportunity'. He reveals at the end of the game that through HADES, he learned about Nemesis, the crazed AI that transmitted the extinction signal that started the Derangement, and is heading to Earth in pursuit of its creators, Far Zenith, the remnants of the Old Ones who accidentally twisted it into insanity. Sylens considers the machine intelligence that devastated a highly-advanced colony world in a matter of hours to be a Hopeless War with Earth's current technological levels, but is aware that Far Zenith are heading to Earth to secure the GAIA terraforming system to enable them to terraform other worlds far away from the doomed planet. Thus his overarching goal throughout the game is to secure their ship to flee Earth before they find what they need and leave.
    • The Announcement trailer has Sylens looking contemplatively at some Flaming Meteors burning in the atmosphere as they approach Earth before turning his attention to some Tenakth rebels successfully overriding a machine under his supervision. This foreshadows Sylens' goals and motivations for his actions throughout Forbidden West. He's aware that a threat from the stars is coming to Earth—First Far Zenith, then the crazed AI Nemesis that's chasing them, looking to destroy its masters regardless of the collateral damage it inflicts along its way. To that end, Sylens hopes to flee what he believes is a doomed planet, aware that Far Zenith's ship is his only option with earth's current technology, and they won't be willing to offer him a spot on board. Therefore, he's arming and bolstering the forces of the rebels to make an army capable of killing or distracting Far Zenith long enough for for him to steal their ship, the working copy of the GAIA terraforming system they've been assembling, and basically hijacking their plan to flee the planet before Nemesis arrives.
    • Though it won't be obvious on a first look, The game's main menu has the silhouette of the Far Zenith base in the background, hinting at the arrival of beings with greater technology than can be created on Earth.
    • When finding Slyens' workshop underneath the Horus Titan where he interrogated HADES, Aloy can find a Datapoint where he catalogs his gradual torturing of his captive over the course of several days, seeking the answers to what caused HADES to go rogue and who his masters are. Upon finally getting the answers, Sylens noted that they were 'terrifying' even for somebody as detached as him. Learning that there's a Digital Abomination on its way to earth and prepared to scour it barren just to catch up to its few remaining targets is a sobering prospect to consider, even for Sylens. Sylens considers fighting Nemesis to be such a non-option his ultimate goal throughout the game is simply fleeing the planet outright, as difficult as that would be to the inhabitant of a world made up of primitive tribal structures, because he sincerely believes that it's the only option Earth's history and culture has to survive at all.
    • When she confronts Sylens over his deception of her with his rigged lance after deleting HADES for good, he reveals the location he lured her to is a HADES testing facility that perfected his extinction protocols using backups of GAIA, sealed away from outside remote contact so there's no chance that Ted Faro could have damaged the data held within. When Aloy shows reluctance to venture inside in case she exposes the GAIA backup to the extinction signal that started the derangement and the A.I.s self-actualisation, Sylens confidently states that the signal stopped transmitting years ago and there's no chance of it starting up again, only reluctantly admitting that the details are 'complicated' beyond the fact that the Signal needed HADES to work properly. Sylens knows that Nemesis is on its way to the planet to finish the job it started personally and has no reason to send another signal, but he cannot afford to inform Aloy of this before she reassembles the GAIA terraforming system.
    • The game's main visual shown above has a Sunstrider flying above Aloy. A significant plot point is Aloy being gifted the override codes for the machine line by Beta, giving her the ability to control them, and through them, the power of Flight, enabling her to thwart Regalla's final assault on the Tenakth.
    • When Aloy first meets Tilda, Tilda mentions how she and Elisabet broke up because Tilda wanted a closer relationship, and Elisabet didn't. This is, ultimately, what starts the final battle between Tilda and Aloy - Tilda wants to flee Earth with Aloy by her side, Aloy wants to save the planet.
    • Kotallo's commentary as he grouses about Sky Clan Commander Tekkoteh's conniving stubbornness foreshadows how the commander's arm will be figuratively twisted into compliance. Kotallo mentions how the Bulwark gives many in the Sky Clan a false sense of security, and how he'd sooner be able to move mountains than break Tekkoteh's prideful stubbornness. In the end, Aloy breaks the Bulwark, a pile of boulders on the side of a mountain, breaking the Bulwark's air of invincibility.
  • Flaming Meteor: Downplayed; at one point of the announcement trailer, Sylens watches a group of burning red meteors fall towards the Earth in the distance. This is actually Foreshadowing about the threat that comes from the stars that he's preparing for— first Far Zenith, then Nemesis.
  • Flight Is the Final Power: Gaining the Sunwing override is near the end of the game, and is instrumental in the penultimate main story mission where Aloy decisively thwarts Regalla's final assault on the Memorial Grove by air-bombing them with a Horus EMP bomb dropped via Sunwing. The Tenakth have an impossible spiritual aspiration to "Fly on the Wings of the Ten", and Aloy's achievement of this cements her place in Tenakth legend much as her defeating the Buried Shadow (aka HADES) has for the Carja, or becoming Anointed has for the Nora.
  • From Bad to Worse: This game somehow makes Ted Faro even worse. Exploring the Thebes base crushes any doubt that killing the Alphas and deleting APOLLO was done more to protect his image than protecting the newly minted humanity from the mistakes of the past.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: When Aloy first meets Hekarro, she responds to his request for assistance against Regalla that she isn't here to fight his civil war for him. By the time Aloy gets to the Memorial Grove to meet Hekarro, the typical player is likely to have found several of Regalla's bases and destroyed them for the sidequest rewards. Though, that could be the reason why Hekarro wants Aloy's assistance against her and Aloy wants to clarify that robbing those bases of their supplies for was her own purposes, not his.
  • The Great Flood: The description of blue dye flowers notes that Utaru tell stories of an ancient flood, after which the flowers grew where the waters had reached their highest.
  • Godzilla Threshold: In order to defeat Far Zenith's small army of Specters without the massive casualties that Sylens' plan would have caused, Aloy attacks the base with a handful of allies and instructs Beta to install the captured HEPHAESTUS into the base's printing technology from within (instead of reintegrating into GAIA for which they have no time to do) to have it instantly create an army of machines to overwhelm Far Zenith's superior technology with numbers. Aloy is aware that the crazed AI will escape again into the digital network after they finally succeeded in containing it, needing its functions particularly to permanently halt the gradual destruction of Earth and repeating the feat might not be possible in the remaining time they have left before Earth's biosphere crosses the point of no return, not to mention the derangement of the machines will continue worse than ever before. However, she has no other way to defeat Far Zenith that wouldn't require mass sacrifices from the tribes and no time to stop Far Zenith from leaving the planet.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Early on Aloy finds that the last surviving backup of GAIA doesn't have clean copies of the subordinate AIs, so she goes on a quest to track down the rogue copies in the hopes that she can rebuild GAIA from the pieces. It's also Subverted, as moments before she found said copy, she found and permanently deleted HADES from the container Sylens trapped him inside, meaning she can't assemble all the sub-functions anymore. That said, since the biosphere is functioning perfectly well for human life, with the ecological collapse being more due to the lack of oversight from GAIA's governing intelligence, HADES' purpose to reset the failed biosphere had become obsolete, and since he's been heavily altered by the Extinction signal that caused the whole mess, plugging HADES back into a 'clean' copy of GAIA was arguably too great a risk to take.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: When investigating the Far Zenith facility in the prologue, Aloy comes across a group of scavenging Oseram that were attacked and killed by a new breed of machine called the Slitherfang. Scavenging parts from their devastated camp, Aloy is able to build a prototype creation called the Pullcaster, a wrist-mounted grappling device that allows her to pull objects towards her or vice-versa, cross gaps and climb upwards more easily.
  • The Great Serpent: A machine called a Slitherfang, a giant mechanical cobra so big it can wrap around the ruins.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Aloy's plan to defeat Far Zenith when her allies invade their base is to have Beta upload HEPHAESTUS to FZ's servers/machine printers. This creates an army of machines that kills most of the Far Zenith crew.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Regalla's rebel army, the game's secondary antagonists who serve as The Usual Adversaries for most of the game similar to Eclipse, turn out to be yet another violent uprising movement secretly created by Sylens, just like Eclipse, for his own purposes; in this case to take over the Tenakth tribe in order to form an army large enough to defeat Far Zenith.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: In-Universe. The Quen believe that Ted Faro was the one responsible for Project Zero Dawn (Elizabeth downgrading to someone who "helped" him achieve this) and Far Zenith were a group of exceptional people who singlehandedly founded all areas of Quen culture, unaware that Ted Faro was the one who destroyed the Earth and nearly destroyed Zero Dawn out of pride and despair, and Far Zenith were all self-serving cowards who fled from a mess they helped create.
  • History Repeats: We find out late in the game that Far Zenith is running from NEMESIS, a failed experimental A.I of their own creation that destroyed their colony and wants them dead for how it was treated by them. Far Zenith ran from Earth to avoid a rogue A.I that was destroying the planet (the Faro Plague), and ended up losing their home to another rogue A.I that destroyed their planet. Also, both the Plague and NEMESIS could have been stopped with just a lick of common sense, in the form of a master override for the Plague and hitting the delete button on NEMESIS.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Aloy has handled machines the size of small hills, insane cultists out for her blood, and destroyed hundreds of mechanical and organic enemies in her way throughout her adventures thus far, but she finds herself hopelessly outmatched against Erik Visser, The Brute of Far Zenith: the mysterious masters that apparently sent the signal that caused GAIA's sub-functions to become self-aware and caused the derangement. Not only is he clad in a full-body forcefield that she can't even scratch, his strength and speed is enhanced by technology that is so advanced it borders on magic. Erik can leap around the arena in a single bound, use Spontaneous Weapon Creation as well as levitate and generate electric explosions. Aloy ultimately has to find a way to collapse the arena to flee rather than beat him, and she's only able to do so because Erik is clearly not taking their 'fight' seriously in the slightest, childishly taunting her to focus on hitting him rather than their surroundings.
  • Hostile Weather: Per the developer message, the Earth's AI-controlled weather system is spinning out of control, creating massive supercell storms and causing destructive floods. An enormous whirlwind of brown clouds and red lightning seen in the announcement trailer is one example of what results from that. The cause of it is later revealed to be AETHER, one of GAIA's subordinate functions, who is now a completely sentient AI.
  • I Did What I Had to Do:
    • Sylens unapologetically states this almost verbatim when Aloy confronts him over his ruse with his lance to download HADES into a container under Sylens' control rather than destroying the genocidal AI outright, noting that Aloy would never have agreed to it if she'd known he still wanted to preserve the AI and he couldn't let the valuable and, by the current timeframe, irreplaceable data about the GAIA system it held be destroyed, even with the threat of HADES continuing its extinction protocols. Compounding this, one of the first things he does once Aloy enters the Forbidden West is lead her to where HADES is stored, inert and helpless, so she can finally destroy it and its genocidal threat for good. Sylen had no problem with destroying HADES— he just wanted to do so after they'd gotten everything they could from it, and Aloy wasn't in a mood to comply with that wish beforehand. Despite her anger towards him, it's clear that Aloy's aware that Sylens does make a good point.
    • This also turns out to be the reason for his apparent betrayal of Aloy in the HADES proving ground and actions behind arming and encouraging the Tenakth Civil War. Sylens is aware of Far Zenith's existence, their arrival on Earth and, more importantly, the fact that the Nemesis AI they created is the cause of the current environmental collapse and HADES's attempts to reboot the biosphere, all in an attempt to destroy the Earth before its creators can take refuge on it. The AI is so powerful, and single-minded in its pursuit of Far Zenith, that attempting to fight it off with Earth's technological levels is a fool's errand. Sylens therefore aims to hijack Far Zenith's plans to rebuild the GAIA terraforming system and then flee Earth, first by luring Far Zenith to the proving grounds whilst Aloy's inside, counting on them needing her to access the gene-locked facilities housing the scattered A.I.s, whilst also working on weaponry that can bypass Far Zenith's shields and aiding Regalla in performing a Hostile Takeover of the Tenakth clans, creating an army of machine-riders he can equip with his experimental weaponry and send against Far Zenith once they've assembled GAIA again, which will result in mass casualties. In his ideal scenario, Sylens can successfully rescue Aloy from her captivity, steal the complete GAIA system and then flee Earth on Far Zenith's ship to a distant planet that can be used to re-create humanity. It's a fairly selfish plan, all things considered, but as Sylens sees it, there's no hope of successfully fighting off Nemesis even if the world unites, and if he stays then Earth and all its people will be wiped out, so he's acting in favor of trying to preserve human existence, even going out of his way to manipulate Aloy into a position where she'd have a chance to escape the oncoming destruction as well, despite her survival ultimately being optional for his end-goal. Aloy doesn't even ultimately hold it against him when she finds out the truth and just bids him farewell, accepting that Sylens' decisions were brutally pragmatic, but ultimately have humanity's best interests at heart overall.
  • Idiot Ball: The creation of Nemesis. The Far Zenith crew digitized their own mind, giving it their memories - including that of their own access codes. They then seal the project when it fails, but don't turn it off or delete it. Despite their Earth having been wiped out by AI going rogue. None of them consider that a digital construct made from the literal minds of several humans (who hate each other) might do the same thing and turn Sentient and hostile. When it inevitably does and it breaks free, Nemesis handily uses the access codes they never bothered to change to take over their fabrication facility to build machines to wipe out their colony in record time.
  • Immediate Sequel: Downplayed. The game starts six months after the final battle at Meridian, now known as the battle of the Alight, but various comments from Aloy's friends and allies make it clear that she disappeared the same night they were holding a celebration party in her honor after defeating HADES, running from ruin to ruin in hopes of finding a back-up copy of GAIA she could use to restore the broken terraforming system, pushing herself so relentlessly that Varl, who left shortly after she did, hasn't even had time to shave in order to pick up her trail long enough to catch up to her. Sylens even notes that he's surprised it took Aloy so long to find out about his ruse with the lance, because Aloy left immediately and didn't return to Meridian until all her other options had been exhausted.
  • Inexplicably Preserved Dungeon Meat: In Ted Faro's bunker you can find stocks of Rich Meat and Medicinal Berries for making healing potions, despite it having explicitly been sealed tight for the last 1000 years.
  • In Medias Res: As the game begins, Aloy is already on the hunt to find GAIA’s back up and stop the blight that’s choking the land.
  • Irony:
    • As Aloy observes, it's strange that POSEIDON, whose purpose was to purify the ocean, is located in the ruins of Las Vegas, in the middle of a desert.
    • For much of the game, it's assumed that Far Zenith are the ones that sent the extinction signal that Self-actualised HADES and the rest of the subordinate functions of GAIA. At the end, it's revealed that this is Metaphorically True— they didn't send the signal themselves, but the insane AI made up on digital copies of their minds amalgamated into a Hive Mind did.
  • Insurmountable Waist-High Fence: Some of the collectable Embers (read: holoprojector modules) are behind such barriers. The one on the Isle of Spires, for instance, is behind a wall framework with staggered gaps that Aloy could fit through without too much contortive effort.
  • I Was Just Passing Through: Aloy's most common response to request that she encounters on her way to a main quest marker. The quest giver will ask if she was sent by one of the tribe leaders to help with their problem. She'll reply that she was just passing through but she'll see what she can do.
  • I Work Alone: Aloy repeatedly finds ways to dodge her own allies; at the start of the game we find that she's been alone for six months after running away from the party after the first game, when Varl catches up to her she leaves him behind in Meridian again, and even when she does have gameplay companions she finds every excuse to scout out ahead without them. It comes across as her Fatal Flaw; even Sylens comes off as having better social skills than her most of the time.
    Fashav: Word of advice? Everybody needs help sometimes. You're going to need allies.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • He might be a highly condescending bastard about it, but Sylens defends himself eloquently when Aloy discovers his ruse with the lance he gave her, rigged to transmit HADES to him, noting that despite the risk that the rogue AI poses to humanity, Aloy destroying HADES would have erased knowledge about the GAIA system and the location of potential backups to it, as well as information about the mysterious signal that caused the whole mess that they need to fix the problem, and fast. The combination of Ted Faro having destroyed the APOLLO archives and Zero Dawn being such a tightly-guarded secret means that HADES, as a piece of the system, is simply the best remaining source of information left by the present time. Aloy having spent six months fruitlessly searching for that exact information elsewhere in other forgotten ruins of the Old Ones and finding nothing only underscores the point.
      Sylens: I've been having problems of my own these past six months Aloy. The difference is, I've made progress.
    • He does it again when he leads Aloy to an old Ones facility that HADES indicated once held GAIA backups for testing. Still pissed over his earlier deception Aloy starts threatening Sylens that if he was leading her into a trap she'd make him regret it, only for Sylens to somewhat bemusedly point out that the facility has a Gene-locked door coded to open 'only' for Aloy— he can't have gotten inside to lay any traps for her. Turns out he is sending Aloy into a trap - but one he honestly thought would be nonlethal and stop a war with Abusive Precursors, he just underestimated how egomanical Far Zenith was, or that they made their own clone of Sobeck.
  • Jump Scare: Numerous hand-hold rails will partially or fully break when Aloy grabs ahold of them, triggering one's acrophobia since all the hand holds are high up or over other lethally hazardous surfaces.
  • Justified Tutorial: The game reminds players of mechanics such as gathering medicinal plants by Aloy teaching Varl how to use his new Focus. It's however very Downplayed, as the game only covers a few basic mechanics needed to handle combat, stealth and exploration, since Varl and Aloy already know how to do the majority of them from their brave training, and the majority of the game's mechanics—including skills Aloy unlocked in the prior game— are covered more in-depth in the tutorials section of the pause menu to anybody who wants a larger explanation of what she can do.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: Mostly present in the game's beginning and amongst the Oseram and Carja characters Aloy interacts with in the Daunt. Aloy's feats of overcoming and defeating Dervahl, killing Helis in single combat and thwarting HADES' assault on Meridian and near-extinction of humanity have earned her the reputation both as the 'Anointed of the Nora' and the 'Saviour of Meridian', and many people in the Daunt offer her side-quests upon recognising her on sight, trusting in her skills and capabilities to resolve the problems that otherwise stymie them. Aloy even has a heroic statue of herself posing in the area where she had the Final Boss fight against HADES' death bringer and small army of corrupted machines, which Avad teasingly notes the original sculptor wanted decorated in gold and jewels before he talked him down. Aloy doesn't really like the titles, even if they do aid her with progressing through the Forbidden West, and once she actually makes it past Barren Light, wherein Carja territory ends and the Tenakth lands begin, her reputation as such isn't brought up amongst the frontier tribes at all. That said, Aloy quickly begins building her reputation with them anew in the process of resolving the Region's crises and finding the pieces necessary to rebuild GAIA, starting with killing Regalla's champion in a Duel to the Death during her attack on the Embassy peace talks.
  • Leitmotif: The second half of the trailer music is an slightly slower, more orchestral variation of Aloy's Theme from the first game.
  • Lensman Arms Race:
    • After GAIA is (partially) restored, she reassures Aloy about the problem of the Far Zenith members' personal Deflector Shields that render them effectively invulnerable by discussing the nature of this trope; that every defensive measure eventually prompts an offensive measure that overcomes it,/ even if it is just a brute-force Zerg Rush with GAIA back in command of HEPHAESTUS.
    • NEMESIS was the victor of such a race against Far Zenith; with security override codes, it gained access to their printer facilities and destroyed their hyper-advanced colony in a matter of hours. At the end of the game, Earth has APOLLO again, so they'll have to advance very quickly in order to stand a chance.
  • Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: Ted Faro's seemingly abandoned Thebes bunker fits this to a tee. Even after several centuries, it remains largely intact, whether it's the luxurious living quarters or imposing, Egyptian-esque aesthetics. On the other hand, its structural integrity has decayed considerably, with parts having caved in, and much of its grandeur having faded into a decrepit husk of its former glory. Ultimately, like Faro himself, it's destroyed, leaving little trace of its existence.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: Erend, Varl, Zo, and the rest of Aloy's crew have their own Focuses, granting the ability of "second sight" (as he called it in Zero Dawn) and data exchange capabilities with Aloy and her Focus.
  • Mini-Game: Machine Strike, a strategic wargame played with machine figurines on grid boards. It's optional, but winning can reward Aloy with shards or skill points.
  • Monumental Damage:
    • Over the course of the announcement trailer Aloy visits the remnants of San Francisco's Ferry Building, Palace of Fine Arts, Transamerica Pyramid, City Hall, and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge, all of which are in ruins after a thousand years of being exposed to the elements. She's also seen exploring the ruins of what seems to be a Chinese-themed Las Vegas casino.
    • The remnants of the Far Zenith Launch Facility is also in complete shambles, with a scene of a decommissioned, rusted-out ancient space shuttle later breaking apart. One of the shuttle's rocket boosters is seen falling down towards the platform where Aloy is, causing the worn-out platform to break apart in an instant, with Aloy jumping out of it.
  • Mook Horror Show: When the Far Zeniths lose their shields in the climactic battle they start getting their asses handed to them. A Dreadwing drops down and starts to tear into them.
  • Motif: Floods recur in the game's theme song, the Bleeding Mark and Hidden Ember sidequests, and Alva and Tilda's backstories. Utaru lore also speaks of a great flood, with the Azure Bloom dye flowers marking the high point in the story.
  • Multinational Team: After Aloy sets up shop at The Base, she begins to gather allies from various tribes and even another planet: Aloy herself and Varl (Nora), Zo (Utaru), Erend (Oseram), Kotallo and potentially Regalla (Tenakth), Alva (Quen), Sylens (Banuk), Tilda and Beta (Far Zenith).
  • Mysterious Stranger: The game's main antagonists are outright referred to as the mysterious strangers until Aloy learns the real name of their organization.
  • Nerf: Heavy weapons that are broken off machines are substantially less powerful than they were in Horizon Zero Dawn, both in terms of how much damage they deal and how many shots they get before they're expended. In the first game, grabbing a Ravager Cannon could let you take down an entire pack of machines. In this one, you might not even kill the Ravager you shot it off before running out of ammo. And even with maxed out heavy weapon damage from skills and armor, the Thunderjaw's Disk Launcher isn't able to one-shot a relatively weak machine like a Fanghorn.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Snapmaws return.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The tropical scenery highlighted in the trailers and poster cannot be reached until well into the middle of the game.
  • New Game+: Initially not available, but update 1.015 added the option. By interacting with an item in the Base after beating the final boss, Aloy can restart the game (skipping the tutorial if you desire) at her current level with all weapons, armor, and even the special tools she had available from the get-go. It also adds new Legendary weapons and new armor dyes and facepaints only available in New Game Plus mode as well as a new difficulty level, Ultra Hard that's available in both new game and new game plus modes.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Shortly after the game was released, a Spanish streamer uploaded a video showing that in Photo mode, when Aloy wore the Tenakth Scout armor, she had fully modeled nipples and areolas. Sony quickly issued a copyright claim and had the video taken down from most major hosting sites, and Guerilla later issued a game update which removed the textures from her model.
  • Nominal Importance: Aloy helps a tribe member earn their adult name in one side quest, The fact that Beta is just named after a Greek letter shows how "highly" her "benefactors" hold her.
  • Nonstandard Character Design: Non-cartoon example. Far Zenith have high-tech Space Clothes, contrasting from the primitive technology and outfits of the tribes.
  • Not Quite Flight: Aloy can use the Shieldwing, a Hard Light glider, to slow down her falls and sneak up on enemies.
  • Oh, Crap!: Aloy has a quite noticeable one in the seemingly-abandoned Thebes bunker where Ted Faro spent his final days. Finding Ted's last data log, she listens to his final message wherein he bemoans how everybody else in the bunker has perished, the last few from taking poison rather than spend the rest of their lives trapped with him. As Aloy bemoans Ted's never-changing attitude she hears banging coming from the sealed power door at the back, as Ted's voice-over states that the only thing left to do now is waiting the time out so he can 'meet Liz's kids'. He reveals the experimental gene surgery he had performed on himself did manage to stop his aging, but his body has been undergoing severe side-effects, reasoning that he just needs time and energy from the bunker's reactor to stabilize his condition. As Aloy holo-scans the room, she sees a giant red growth covering the reactor room... and then realizes to her disgust that not only is Ted Faro still alive, he's mutated over the years into a cancerous Meat Moss and he's in the next room. Notably, Aloy actually backs away in absolute horror upon making the connection. She's handled machine monstrosities, insane cultists and small armies all on her own, but something like that is almost too much for her.
  • One-Woman Wail: The music used in marketing so far features it prominently, in line with the Zero Dawn soundtrack - the unnamed track playing during the gameplay reveal stream opens with a solid half-minute of just a one-woman wail before introducing any other instruments.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: When Aloy peruses Tilda's art collection, she sarcastically asks if the various nudes in the paintings were "cold", having outlived a culture that used nudity in works of art.
  • Permanently Missable Content: While all other machines can be fought again in respawning sites and arenas just in case the player did not get the opportunity to scan them during their fight, the Final Boss is the only machine of its type encountered in the game and unlike the first game, you cannot replay the final mission after it is done so if you did not scan it during the battle, the machine catalogue and subsequently the trophy will be permanently locked out of the game. This can also apply to the regular Spectres themselves as they never spawn outside of their respective quest if the player did not scan the machine at any point during the game. A patch fixed this, making the final boss no longer necessary for the trophy and putting a lone Spectre that spawns in a distant corner of the map for you to scan.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Despite being nothing but an annoying ass most of the time, Sylens is surprisingly compassionate when Aloy finds only a limited, and seemingly useless, GAIA backup.
      Sylens: Aloy, you did everything you could.
    • And then at the end of the game, he offers to let Aloy escape Earth with him (explicitly not forcing her like Tilda tried to), and when she declines but lets him leave, he stays behind anyway.
      Sylens: You people are going to need all the help you can get.
  • The Power of Friendship: A strong, strong theme of the story is that despite all her skills and experience, Aloy can only truly succeed by embracing the people in her life that care about her and accepting their help.
    Aloy: What lies ahead will be harder than anything we’ve faced before. But I know I can put the fear aside, because for the first time in my life... I feel like I’m not alone.
  • Power Up Letdown: The new Plasma elemental effect. Once triggered, hitting the target with Impact attacks builds up a meter. Once the Elemental Status timer runs out, there will be a Plasma explosion on the target, dealing damage based on how full the meter is. Unfortunately, it takes a very long time to run out (meaning that you'll have to be dodging the angry machine's attacks the whole time), and the explosion is fairly weak even if it's been fully charged. It's just not nearly as good as any of the other status effects you could be inflicting on the target instead, even if the target is vulnerable to Plasma damage.
  • Ptero Soarer: One of the new robots are Sunwings, pterodactyl-esque machines that, as the name suggests, appear to have solar panels as wings.
  • Pre-Final Boss: The final battle against Erik is just before the real final boss fight against Tilda and her Specter Prime.
  • Properly Paranoid: Even after Tilda betrays Far Zenith and saves Aloy after they kill Varl and take Beta/GAIA, Aloy is suspicious of her. She doesn't let Tilda in on the plan she whispers to Beta in the private channel Tilda establishes. Even while Tilda's helping to wreck the Far Zenith base, Aloy tells Alva to look through their data to find out whatever Tilda's not telling them. Turns out Tilda planned on leaving Earth with Aloy and with GAIA fully intact to avoid Nemesis, and as such would have objected to the secret plan to plug HEPHAESTUS into FZ's machine printer.
  • Raptor Attack: One of the new machines, known as Clawstriders, closely resemble dromaeosaurs, even more so than the established Watchers. They can be ridden by Aloy, as well as by the Raiders.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • The game's main antagonists, the mysterious strangers, are members of Far Zenith, who fled Earth to establish an interstellar colony shortly before the outbreak of the Faro Plague a thousand years ago. In that time they developed the technology to achieve physical immortality and are essentially the last living Old Ones, who have had the time to advance their technology to a level beyond even what the Old Ones had.
    • Ted Faro is revealed to still be alive, having used gene-alteration technology similar to that used by Far Zenith to achieve immortality. Unfortunately for him, his version of the tech is considerably flawed and results in him mutating into a horrific flesh pile stuck in his bunker for a thousand years.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Once again, enemy machines that appear to have been corrupted have red eyes even when not in combat.
  • Regional Redecoration: Aloy and Erend inspect a map near the end of the State of Play trailer that shows coastlines have been dramatically altered since the early 21st century. Most obviously, the Florida peninsula and much of the Antilles are gone, the Gulf of Mexico extends up the lower Mississippi, and the California Central Valley is flooded. These alterations are a more-or-less accurate reflection of various predictions made about the effect that a complete melting of the world's polar ice caps would have on the world's coastlines. It does seem to be the current state of the world, as the map appears to be pulling satellite weather data in real-time.
  • The Remnant: There are a small band of Shadow Carja zealots that are in a bad way and have fled into the Daunt, and Petra eventually takes them under her care in Chainscrape. Additionally, there are leftover Eclipse cultists that Aloy can encounter while they try to flee into No Man's Land and take point on cleaning up.
  • The Reveal: Far Zenith's escape from the Sirius System wasn't caused by a natural geological cataclysm, but because an isolated failed AI, composed of copies from the minds of all their members, breached its containment and has been hunting them down since it gained access to machine printers, following them even to space and now approaching Earth, having sent the signal that made Hades sentient in an attempt to eliminate them, and thus causing the events of both Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West.
  • Rule of Pool: The final boss battle takes place in a courtyard on the Zeniths' island, which has a very shallow pool for presumably aesthetic reasons. It makes the battle look very cool, and arguably symbolizes that Tilda never got over her trauma.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: The Oseram Artificer armor, a top-tier endgame-level armor, looks like this. It is the combination of four different Oseram-made armors that were rejected all as losers (with no winner) from an armoring contest. At Aloy's suggestion, the good parts of all were distilled into one superior amalgamation, with no effort made to make the aesthetics of the four cohere into one. The effect is downplayed as the armor still follows the general Oseram style of leather with inserted metal rings and plates and has a single color-scheme for the whole armor.
  • Schmuck Bait: Metal Flowers and Firegleam normally are opened to reveal hidden resources and loot. But there are several that have Apex Ravagers inside that will immediately attack you once you open them.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • While GAIA is nearly fully functional, and the Far Zenith threat seems to have ended, the reason why the latter returned to Earth in the first place, the Nemesis AI, is approaching the planet, and now Aloy and her friends must gather allies to face the danger it poses. In addition, Beta released HEPHAESTUS as part of the assault on Far Zenith's base, which means HEPHAESTUS must be recaptured or the biosphere will still collapse in a matter of months.
  • In conversation about the Old World, GAIA reports that Elysium, the final residence of all Zero Dawn support personnel who opted to live out their days after Zero Day, was severed from the Zero Dawn network far short of its 100-year supply duration. Whatever happened to the residents may be fodder for a DLC or the next Horizon game.
  • Sylens already has turned up the beginnings of a lead on a means to combat Nemesis as he researches at the Base post-endgame: a "thread that leads to a greater tapestry" as he words it. It's too early to tell, so he's keeping mum about details for now.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The entire prologue segment turns out to be one. Aloy has spent the intervening six months since the end of the first game looking for another copy of GAIA to save the world with. At the start of Forbidden West, she is down to her very last lead at a Far Zenith facility. Throughout the opening hour or two, she gains confirmation that the facility does in fact have a copy of GAIA, even if it was stolen from Zero Dawn, but for Aloy's purposes that works just fine...until it turns out that Zero Dawn was aware of Far Zenith's plan to steal GAIA, and snuck them a virus instead, making Aloy's (and the player's) efforts up to this point completely a waste. Then it turns out that Sylens had a lead on a GAIA copy all along, and that Aloy's 6 month trek was completely pointless to begin with. Then the game proper begins.
  • Shop Fodder: Every item you pick up will helpfully tell you in its description what its purpose is. For many items, mostly Old World artifacts, the only purpose is "Selling to vendors for shards".
  • Shout-Out:
    • When talking about Far Zenith, Erend asks what will be next: "wizards, from the moon?"
    • When exploring one of the southwestern corners of the map, Aloy can come across a fox sitting under a tree on the side of the road. Said fox won't run away, and moves off in a certain direction if Aloy approaches on foot. Following the fox will leads to a crude shrine fashioned in the shape of a fox deity. If Aloy scans said fox, the focus designates it as 'Inari', and a similar musical sting plays when she finds the shrine as when Jin locates a Fox Shrine.
    • You have the chance to find statuettes of Atreus, Brok, Sindri and of course Kratos scattered throughout the map. Finding all of them unlocks the option for Aloy to wear Kratos's distinctive facepaint.
    • While it's not functional Aloy can find a sword in a stone. What's more, she recognizes it from a story.
    • The Utaru have a peaceful culture that incorporates agriculturally-helpful "dinosaurs".
    • After completing The Seas Of Stands main quest, Morlund, Stemmer, and Abadund will talk about what they should do with the ruins of Las Vegas. Morlund's ideas are... basically recreating famous Las Vegas landmarks like Circus Circus and the MGM Grand.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Aloy and HADES of all people have this in their final conversation before Aloy executes it. at least to the degree that an AI like HADES can snark.
    HADES: You are... unhappy. Good.
    Aloy: Anyone ever tell you you've got a great personality HADES?
    HADES: Sarcasm Detected.
    Aloy: Yeah, didn't think so.
  • Somebody Else's Problem: The Chorus, leaders of the Utaru tribe, have essentially left all its settlements outside the capital city for dead. An Utaru villager outright begs the foreigner Aloy to protect her home, because she knows her own people will not.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: At Varl's grave, Zo reveals to Aloy that she's pregnant with his child.
  • Space Clothes: Far Zenith members are dressed in a shiny, form-fitting silver suit with intricate designs on it.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: Aloy can't fight while swimming, so stealth is her only option when investigating underwater areas.
  • Sticky Bomb: While sticky bombs were a distinct ammo type for Blastslings in the previous game, in this game they're a weapon skill that can be unlocked and used for any type of ammo. In addition, the new Spike Thrower class weapon comes in varieties that can fire Explosive and Advanced Explosive spikes that will stick to a target before detonating if fully drawn.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Aloy's plan for dealing with Far Zenith's army of Specter drones is to have Beta download HEPHAESTUS into their network. This results in an army of Thunderjaws and Slaughterspines being generated by Far Zenith's Grey Goo machine generator. While it doesn't preoccupy all of the Specters, it certainly evens the odds.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: With the Diving Mask, Aloy can stay underwater indefinitely.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Clawstriders constantly chase Aloy once they've caught sight of her in the trailer and this carries over to the main game where they are one of the few machines that follow you outside encounter area.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Even with all the money in the world, there was a very slim chance Ted Faro's plan to achieve immortality with one scientist cut off from his lab would turn out good. As expected, it didn't.
    • In a smaller, less serious instance, Aloy can come across the bodies of some Oseram who had an encounter with Brin, a Banuk shaman from the first game who drinks machine oil to get visions. They tried following his example and ended up poisoning themselves instead.
    • Tenakth culture demands that leadership challenges be to the death, and the Desert Clan aren't going to change that for one foreigner, however helpful she's been. There's no Golden Ending, no third option- either Yarra or Drakka must die. The surviving combatant does agree to end the bloodshed there in the interests of the clan's survival, though, much to Aloy's and Chaplain Jetakka's relief.
  • Tempting Fate: You can sort of see where the Carja/Tenakth peace talks are going, because everyone you've met until that point has been talking about how important they are and how awful it will be if things go wrong. The diplomats do their job. Unfortunately, the talks get crashed by terrorists several minutes in.
  • Thirsty Desert: The West includes deserts around what was once Nevada. Weirdly, they are where you find a Underwater City, contained within a dome.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Aloy considers Sylens to have crossed a line when he sets her up to be cornered and killed by the Zeniths. She vows to hunt him down and kill him before cutting off all contact with him and smashing her spyware-infected Focus.
  • This Means Warpaint: In the trigger animations for several Valor Surges, Aloy will don warpaint. Additionally, the general appearance of the Tenakth shows them to be all about the warpaint.
  • Too Clever by Half: Sylens lures Aloy into an Old Ones facility that houses a backup copy of GAIA, then sends out an anonymous signal that summons the mysterious masters who sent that signal that self-actualised GAIA's sub functions to the same location. Sylens later admits that he intended Aloy to become their captive, removing her interference from his plans whilst he prepared an army of fanatics to assault the Zenith base with weapons designed to bypass their technological superiority— an undertaking that would have required mass casualties, and thus not one Aloy would have allowed to happen. He assumed that they would spare Aloy, her genetic code being the proverbial key to accessing the terraforming system, but he clearly never anticipated that the masters would have the ability to create their own clone of Elizabet. Upon discovering Aloy, their leader considers having one clone of the deceased scientist to be 'enough trouble' and orders Erik to kill her on the spot.
  • Trans Nature: In the quest A Soldier's March you meet Wekkata, a Tenakth soldier who asks you find missing Penttoh, a Tenakth who went on a Coming of Age quest to become a soldier, despite being looked down upon by his fellow tribeman. Once Penttoh is rescued, Wekkata tells Aloy that they admire Penttoh's determination, noting that many Tenakth questioned Wekkata when she chose to begin wearing women's armor.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The announcement trailer shows Sylens looking on as a group of Tenakth raiders subdue and override a Bristleback, foreshadowing that he's behind yet another militant faction standing in Aloy's path with the ability to control machines. What it doesn't spoil, but actually implies, is his motivation for doing so.
  • Turtle Island: At one point, Aloy comes face-to-face with a Shellsnapper, a robot turtle easily twice her height, masquerading as a small island in a bog.
  • Tutorial Failure: The Melee Pits tell you what buttons to press, but not for how long, or what the player did wrong if they fail. They're also timed, for no reason at all.
  • Underwater Ruins: The gameplay reveal showcases parts of San Francisco that have apparently sunk beneath the surface of the ocean, and have since overgrown with coral. The same video also shows Aloy's upgraded swimming skills, allowing the player to explore the waters more thoroughly.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: The main antagonists, Far Zenith, turn out to be this when finally confronted in the final battle. With their shields, they're functionally Invincible Villains. After Sylens disables their shields, they get slaughtered effortlessly despite retaining their other advanced combat capabilities such as flight, energy weaponry, and enhanced strength; they're billionaires, not survivors like Aloy and her friends. In fact only Tilda and Erik seem to have any combat skill without their shields, and Tilda still needs to summon a mech suit when she's fought as the Final Boss.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Aloy's whispered plan to have Beta upload HEPHAESTUS to Far Zenith's machine printers to create a helpful army for their fight goes better than it likely would have if she let Tilda in on it.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: The trailer has this tone, Aloy says that she's the only one who can "stop what's coming", and the only clearly antagonistic forces seen are the Red Blight and the storm. Later underplayed by the developer message, which clarifies that "what's coming" is an ecological collapse, though the cause of it is left up to speculation. Subverted, when it is later revealed that the Red Blight and the Supercell Storms are caused by AETHER, DEMETER, and POSEIDON being self-aware AIs, thus procuring the three of them and sending them back to GAIA, respectively, is the main goal.
  • Villainous Rescue: In the final battle, Aloy has Beta release HEPHAESTUS back into the Cauldron network; HEPHAESTUS immediately starts churning out an army of animal robots who turn the tide against Far Zenith's horde of Specters and even end up slaughtering all the Zeniths themselves save for Gerard, Erik, and Tilda. This does mean that HEPHAESTUS is once again free to potentially keep causing trouble, but he's comparatively a much lesser concern than the Zeniths.
  • War Elephants: The rebels have tamed Tremortusks, enormous robot mammoths, and ride them to battle. Every encounter with one is a Boss Battle.
  • Wham Shot: Once Aloy finally succeeds in finding a backup copy of GAIA, albeit lacking the governing intelligence needed to control the terraforming systems and end the derangement, she's interrupted by the mysterious masters that sent the signal that caused the whole mess in the first place, having being summoned to the location by Sylens in hopes of brokering an alliance with them over GAIA, rather than making needless enemies. Said master's appearances clearly showcase that they're far more technologically advanced than the machines GAIA created, and whilst Aloy thinks the gene-locked doors will keep them out, they able to enter with ease thanks to their trump card: A second clone of Elisabet Sobeck called 'Beta'.
  • The Worf Effect: Despite all of Aloy's skills and equipment every engagement before the finale with the Far Zenith shows them being completely untouchable. What really seals the deal is that in spite of their extraordinary power they are actually running from something else. And it's on the way.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • In the prologue, text logs indicate that the Far Zenith team was planning to quietly kill off a few of their less useful members before leaving, despite promising them a berth on the ship. These include their own public spokesman and their mole in Zero Dawn.
    • An Anti-Villain variant. One of the first things Sylens does when Aloy finally enters the Forbidden West is to lead her to the location where he'd stashed HADES, immobile and incapable of causing trouble again, having extracted all the knowledge and information he needed from it and leaving it behind to finally be destroyed for good at Aloy's hands as a peace offering for his earlier deception, and to finally end its threat for good. By doing this, he hoped to find common ground with Aloy again to further investigate the Old Ones' ruins and find the necessary backup copy of GAIA they both sought.


Video Example(s):



Slitherfangs are a gargantuan, acid-spitting species of Machine created from Project Zero Dawn.

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Main / TheGreatSerpent

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