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"The Metal World, but not the one I sought! The future is a frightful dream, huntress!"
Brin
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Horizon Zero Dawn is a post-apocalyptic Action RPG from the Netherlands-based developer Guerrilla Games, best known for Killzone, and written by John Gonzalez, the lead writer behind Fallout: New Vegas. Released for the Playstation 4 on February 28, 2017, then later on Steam in the summer of 2020.

In a future where cities have fallen into ruin to be reclaimed by nature, new tribes have risen up, and strange machine creatures now control the land. The story focuses on a young woman named Aloy (Ashly Burch), who hunts these animal-like machines in a post-apocalyptic setting that mixes futuristic enemies and weaponry with beautiful, untamed wilderness. Born into ostracism by superstition and her attachment to the one charged with raising her, her journey sees her climb from lowly beginnings to great heights, aided by a mysterious artifact from the civilization of the past.

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Its DLC expansion pack, The Frozen Wilds, was released on November 7th, 2017.

Steamforged Games Ltd launched a Kickstarter campaign for Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game in 2019 and managed to raise £1,393,260, well exceeding their goal of £155,000.

A limited time events allowed players to unlock Horizon Zero Dawn-based equipment and skins in Monster Hunter: World.


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    Tropes in Horizon Zero Dawn 

  • Achilles' Heel: Machines are generally plated all over with armor which makes it very difficult for your bow and arrow to do anything, and even on the unarmored parts they still resist damage well enough. However, all of them have several points along their body which are far more vulnerable to attack, with effects ranging from doing extra damage, to disabling their attacks, to rupturing and setting them on fire. If you scan them with your Focus you can identify these weakpoints and their effects, and it will cause them to glow bright orange for a time.
  • After the End: A Deconstruction. Humanity somehow lost most of its technology and civilization collapsed. The twist here is that our descendants now have to deal with strangely animal-like machines as well. It turns out the game's setting is about 974 years after the end in what was once parts of Colorado and Utah, after a Robot War not only wipes out human civilization but scours the world clean of all organic life in the year 2066 — putting the events of the game in 3040 A.D. Specifically, the end of the world was not merely a Cozy Catastrophe, "the prologue to another bloody chapter in human history" — humanity along with all life on Earth was only saved from annihilation due to heroic efforts by Sobeck and the rest of Project Zero Dawn. The world after the end is not "an oyster, which the fortunate few survivors with sword will open", it's a monument to what humanity could have been, and the survivors are actually "lost souls, trapped in benighted ignorance" by the egotistical madman Ted Faro, who killed the world by accident, then obliterated millennia of culture on a nihilistic whim.
  • Age Cut: The Training Montage cutscene early in the game includes one: six-year-old Aloy makes an impressive leap while running the brave trail, and eighteen-year-old Aloy sticks the landing.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • The Old Ones had potential AI, but were extremely wary of it, putting heavy legislation around it in reaction to an incident where an AI named "Vast Silver" went rogue in some disastrous fashion.
    • The original Faro robots were designed to be completely autonomous, which became a problem when a glitch caused them to stop taking orders from their creators, or anyone, and they just started attacking and consuming everything in their path.
    • HADES was originally designed as a necessary evil to destroy failed biospheres so GAIA could start over. However, somebody activated HADES prematurely and broke its ties to GAIA (along with those of all the other sub-functions), causing it to start trying to destroy the current biosphere even though it's perfectly habitable.
    • GAIA is a straight aversion to this, as she is designed to be a Friend to All Living Things, and even sacrifices herself to try and stop HADES. In fact, all the worst parts of the world can be traced directly to the fact that a backdoor override was placed in her system, allowing Faro to delete APOLLO. Without it, everything would have gone exactly as planned.
    • From The Frozen Wilds DLC, CYAN (Caldera of Yellowstone Analytic Nexus) is also an aversion. She is a less sophisticated and more restricted AI than GAIA, designed to prevent the eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera into a supervolcano. She succeeded, and survived the machine apocalypse because her creators put her in "sleep" mode, which lasted for several centuries.
  • All for Nothing: The "Claw-back" of the Old Ones turned out to be this. A decade of massive investments in green technologies succeeded in pulling Earth's ravaged climate back from the brink, heralding a new era for mankind as previously flooded land was reclaimed and destroyed ecosystems recovered. And then Ted Faro had this bright idea about a line of war robots that consume biomass as fuel...
  • All Love Is Unrequited: While there are many characters who take the opportunity to flirt with Aloy, both in subtle and not so subtle ways, the player is never given the opportunity to return said feelings and, in one particular case, can only outright refuse such a proposition.
  • All There in the Manual: The major events that shaped Aloy's world into what it is today are told through quest dialogues and cutscenes, but if you want to get to know the Old World beyond this cataclysm, you have to track down and read/listen to the countless Apocalyptic Logs scattered across the map, which can then be accessed at any time in the Notebook menu section.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: One of the first audio logs a young Aloy finds is recorded by a dying Old One, singing the strangely apropos last verse of the hymn.
    "The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, / The sun forbear to shine; / But God, who call'd me here below, / Will be forever mine."
  • Ancient Egypt: There are numerous references to Ancient Egypt and its mythology:
    • Ted Faro's name is phonetically identical to the term "pharaoh", which in turn names "Faro Automated Systems".
    • Elisabet's surname, Sobeck, resembles Sobek, an Egyptian fertility deity.
    • The Peacekeeper robots, like the Deathbringer, are part of the "Chariot line".
    • The Deathbringer, Metal Devil, and Corrupter have actual names — Khopesh, Horus, and Scarab.
    • Ted Faro retreats to a place termed "Thebes" after killing the Alphas.
    • Faro Automated Solutions has a logo resembling a pyramid. The Cauldrons also employ lots of pyramids in their aesthetic.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: On New Game+, by merely playing the game, you can get a full set of weapons and armor with additional modification slots fairly quickly. However, your reward for actually completing the entire main story quest on the hardest New Game+ modes are a few styles of face paint and a maximum of three different designs and colors that display on Aloy's focus when it's activated.
  • Animal Motifs: It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to see how some robots are clearly designed to appear similar to their organic counterparts. The term “Faro Robot” when mentioned in conversation, can easily be heard as “Feral Robot.”
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If you're missing items you need to trade for weapons or armor from a merchant, you can assign them to your quest log as errands to help you remember what items you need.
    • AI-driven companions never break stealth. Even if they're sitting outside tall grass mere inches away from an enemy, the enemy won't see them and violence won't break out.
    • Once you complete the requirements for one of the trials, the timer will stop so you don't have to worry about getting back to the Keeper before going over the required time for that trial.
    • When you rappel down from a Tallneck after overriding it, the giant machine helpfully emits a massive EMP that stuns or outright destroys every machine in the immediate area, preventing you from touching down in the middle of a hostile herd that rips you to shreds before you can react.
    • When a Fetch Quest sends you to a specific location to hunt for resources, the normally random drops are disabled so that all animals or machines in this area are guaranteed to drop what you need.
    • All machines can be identified by the unique sounds they make, but none is more pervasive and obvious than the ominous bass hum that drones from your speakers when a Stalker is nearby. Given how extremely good these bastards are at ambushing you, this auditory warning signal is a very welcome thing indeed.
  • Apocalypse How: It appears that the Earth suffered a Class 2 event, with the advanced human society collapsing and regressing to a primitive tribal lifestyle. However, the Earth had actually suffered a Class 6 event when the Faro Plague devoured all biological life on the planet. Thanks to GAIA, though, the planet was able to recover. The only real loss was human knowledge.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Aloy finds record logs from the ruins of the "Old Ones", with most being holograms.
    • Lampshaded in an audio log, in which a scientist decried the idea of recording everyone's thoughts for posterity sometime before the Faro Plague consumes humanity.
      Connor Chasson: I mean, seriously, "record our thoughts for posterity"? Great idea, Director Evans. Like I haven't done enough for posterity already? Like I wouldn't be...here...like this...if not for posterity? I'm done with posterity. Posterity can go
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted in nearly every appearance, whether worn by Aloy or otherwise.
    • Armor (and dodging) becomes essential on the higher difficulties, where a single attack will squish Aloy if it connects.
    • Attacking the armor worn by machines can knock it off (at the cost of alerting the machine if it wasn't already, and reducing the damage to around one-tenth), or destroyed outright with tearblast ammunition, to allow for successive hits to deal more damage. In most cases it's better to target the weak spots, but sometimes the armor covers those as well.
    • Different tribes' outfits' being tailored for their environments means Aloy gets differing benefits from wearing each:
      • Banuk Ice Hunter and Sickness Eater gear lessens the effects of cold and corruption (poisoning) attacks.
      • Carja Blazon gear protects against varying degrees of fire (somehow, gear can be modified to make Aloy fire-proof yet still show a lot of skin.
      • Oseram Sparkworker gear mitigates shock damage, for the few enemies that use that element.
      • Nora Protector and Oseram Arrowbreaker gear protect from melee and missile attacks, respectively. Credit goes to the Arrowbreaker gear in actually sounding like wearing metal plates stiched to your clothes.
      • Nora Silent Hunter gear enhances stealth, to the point that it is possible to walk up to a group of unsuspecting hostiles and sequentially stealh-kill them (assuming the others weren't looking at it when it happened).
    • Attempting to shoot at Helis causes him to use his bracers for deflection.
    • Some of the few human enemies in the Cut actually wear helmets (or at least some sort of armored masks) that make it impossible to one-shot them via Boom, Headshot!. Good luck trying to wipe out the local bandit camp without triggering an alarm with these guys patrolling the perimeter.
    • Played straight in the case of armor-wearing hostiles susceptible to Silent Strike, where Aloy's spear is shown ignoring the armor altogether.
  • Armor of Invincibility:
    • The Shield Weaver outfit projects a rechargeable force field around Aloy that allows her to tank a lot of damage without losing health. If you try at least to stay in motion during battle, this outfit should keep you safe from just about anything until you tackle the harder difficulties, but even on Ultra Hard its defenses are strong enough to neutralize any one hit that would've instakilled Aloy otherwise.
    • On a more specialized note, there're outfit lines dedicated to protecting Aloy from one specific damage type. Physical resistances can go up to 90%, elemental resistances can reach outright immunity, and most enemies rely heavily on one single damage type. If you're skilled enough to evade any secondary attacks, switching between specialist outfits depending on the enemy you're facing can make Ultra Hard a lot more manageable.
  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • When Aloy startles a herd of "herbivore" machines (including Grazers and Lancehorns), one machine will usually stay behind to attack Aloy and distract her while the rest flee.
    • Machines that are heavily injured may run away from Aloy, only to unexpectedly return later.
    • If Aloy is in stealth, human bandits who hunt machines may still attack her mount.
    • If enemies with ranged weapons see Aloy enter a patch of tall grass and then lose sight of her, they'll often launch a few shots at where they saw her disappear on the off-chance of her still being there.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • The human enemies you fight over the course of the game are far less impressive than the machines. They're prone to charging into traps, react obliviously to their buddies being shot with arrows, and will never attempt to sneak up on or flank Aloy.
    • It is entirely possible to stand slightly outside a machine's aggro range and just hammer away at it with arrows. This can make fighting even the mighty Thunderjaw almost a breeze. Finding indestructible cover also works similarly.
    • All machines have a point where they'll stop following you, even if they can see you. This means that if you can outrun an enemy long enough, you can get to a point where you'll be outside of their melee threat range. This also applies to machines you've overridden, preventing you from getting an army of hacked machines following you around after you unlock the permanent override skill.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Zero Day was the predicted date of no life remaining on Earth. While Storyboarding the Apocalypse a graph shows phylums, bacteria included, dropping to zero. Bacteria are fast-breeding, ludicrously adaptable, tenacious, and the most successful form of life on the planet, living in places and conditions where nothing else can, eking out energy from the most unlikely sources. There are bacteria thriving inside of rocks 1900 feet below seafloor which is itself 8500 feet below the surface of the water. Nuclear radiation and the vacuum of space don't kill all bacteria. When conditions are too much for even the hardiest bacteria, they go dormant in structures called spores which are virtually indestructible and remain viable for at least 40 million years. Even in a world made toxic, even if the Swarm's nanites strip every surface so finely and continuously that bacteria attached to particles in the air can't settle (which they demonstrably have not), some bacteria would survive and thrive, if nowhere else than on and in satellites and in the rocks deep underground, and around Zero Dawn facilities. Of course, that's no comfort to multicellular life, or humanity. It's just catchier to say "no life remaining on Earth" than "only bacteria left alive."
    • In-game documents state that after GAIA shut down the Faro Plague, which took about a century once the Swarm went dormant, Earth's biosphere was sufficiently restored to once again sustain human life merely another century later. Even with ultrahigh-tech like the one we're shown operating at full capacity all around the globe, 200 years is a ridiculously short time frame for such a feat; even more so since only the latter 100 years could've been used for it.
    • Boars. The ones running around are just a few feet long and flee from people, and are part of a balanced starter ecosystem. It's easy to assume they're supposed to be Sus scrofa, the wild version of the domestic pig. The thing is, wild pigs are bastards. Boars in HZD are either heavily modified, or some different type of pig.
      1. Even a small number are capable of shredding entire fields of interwoven plant roots and even uprooting small trees in search of desirable food, causing devastating soil erosion.
      2. They are not solely herbivorous, and will in fact eat anything and everything organic they can get in their mouths such as squirrels and rabbits. They actually prefer meat if given the choice.
      3. They breed fast, grow up fast, and given enough food and an absence of large predators, they can grow to the size of brown bears.
      4. They are vicious. A defining feature of historical spears designed for hunting boar is the crossguard, which prevented the animal from shoving itself right through the spear to savage the spearcarrier. Considering how every human alive is descended from a clone released into the world with the life skills of a kindergartener, they would not have survived if there were standard wild boar out there.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The setting covers much of modern Colorado and Utah, with the DLC expanding into the Wyoming region, yet it compresses everything to a scale that makes the distances easily traversible by foot, and rearranges some of the locations relative to their real-world counterparts:
    • All-Mother Mountain / Pike's Peak / the Eleuthia-9 facility is correctly shown south of Devil's Thirst / Colorado Springs and Devil's Grief / Denver, yet the distance is cut down to a five-minute jog.
    • The Shadow Carja capital Sunfall / Bryce Canyon / the Zero Dawn facility is shown due north of Lake Powell (rather than northwest), and closely west-southwest of the Shattered Kiln Bandit Camp / Provo Utah Temple (rather than hundreds of miles north-south of each other).
  • Artistic License – Military: The Old Ones, even professional soldiers, constantly use the terms "railgun" and "DEW" (Directed Energy Weapon) interchangeably. Railguns do require and apply tremendous amounts of energy, but functionally they're still kinetic weapons that hit the target with a hunk of metal going at high velocity. A true DEW would, as the name implies, project some form of energy like coherent light, focused heat, microwaves, magnetic fields or gamma radiation to deal damage.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • Experiments and simulations have shown that after almost 1,000 years of being exposed to the elements without maintenance, there would be no trace left of human surface structures and machines. In fact, it would take only a fraction of this time to utterly wear down everything contemporary mankind has ever built, with the likely exception of ancient structures like the Giza Pyramids or the Great Wall in China because these are basically just piles of stone located in fairly forgiving climate zones. Relics in permafrost regions also get a pass because decay and erosion progress at a literally glacial pace there. Of course, approaching this topic realistically would take away a large part of the game's incredible Scenery Porn and postapocalyptic atmosphere, so no-one's complaining about this one.
    • Dripstonesnote  take a long time to reach a significant size. It's unlikely that the ones that encrust nearly every Old World bunker would've grown as large as they are in the 950 years that have passed since the Old Ones disappeared.
  • Augmented Reality: As a kid, Aloy finds a "Focus", which lets her scan stuff and read documents from the Old World. The lights (and text) she sees are invisible to everyone else.
  • Automatic Crossbows: A sort of cross between an arbalest and a machine gun is the "Rattler" weapon that launches a stream of bolts into the enemy at once. It's inaccurate, but when you just want to launch a flurry of bolts at an enemy in a hurry rather than a precision strike, it's useful.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The Strike From Above and Strike From Below skills — it's cool to be able to Goomba Stomp a human or Watcher, but the moves are heavily situational and most of the time it's easier just to snipe the target from a distance. The main reason to take them is that they lead to the extremely useful Leader Strike skill, which gives you the ability to make stealth kills on even the toughest humans.
      • The Frozen Wilds added the Dismount Strike skill to this list, mainly because it only works on small machines and humans, forces you off your mount while you could just as well hit the target from horseback, and naturally aggros everything in the area if you ride straight into a group of enemies.
    • The Double Arrow and Triple Arrow skills. They can give you a strong alpha strike from cover, but they really hurt your precise aim and it's too slow to load multiple arrows once you're in combat. In the end, their best use is to boost status effect application with either freeze, burn, shock, or corruption arrows — a few uses of a triple arrow shot nearly guarantees the appropriate effect — and for smaller machines, like Glinthawks, immediate results with only one use (provided all three arrows land).
    • Heavy Weapons are invariably lethal and massively destructive, and can shred anything short of a Thunderjaw before they even know what hits them. However, they're also very difficult to carry and move around with (in a game where most of your survival depends on dodging), they have limited ammo, and you can only acquire them by stealing them from the enemies that carried them, at which point there may not be enough enemies left to really enjoy them for more than a brief period.
  • Awful Truth: In the days of the Old Ones, humanity thought that Project Zero Dawn was a weapon that would fight the Faro Plague. Those recruited (by force) to work on Zero Dawn find out the awful truth that there is no hope for the humanity they know, and that Project Zero Dawn is for rebuilding humanity after the machines have eaten everything. People are given an option for medically-assisted suicide if they can't deal.
  • Back for the Finale: Multiple characters from previous sidequests will appear in Meridian to aid Aloy in the final battle. There's a trophy for finding all the possible allies for this part through completing certain sidequests.
  • Back Stab: Combat heavily focuses on stealth, and one skill line is devoted entirely to allowing you to make various forms of instantly-lethal melee attacks against unaware human and mechanical enemies.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Many of the implements deployed Project Zero Dawn are identical to the Faro Swarms that destroyed all life; automated robot manufacture, networked unit operation, self-refueling from biomass. The difference? While the Faro Swarms were operating according to programming run apocalyptically amok, Project Zero Dawn put a true AI, GAIA, nurtured into having a good soul by Dr. Elisabet Sobeck, in control of the operation after the last of humanity died in order to replace the Earth's biosphere that the Faro Swarms destroyed.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • A multi-layered one at the end of the Proving: the proctor says an outcast could never win the Proving, because Aloy's a Brave now—she clearly did it intentionally because she thought Aloy deserved a big moment... then the plot renders the whole ordeal completely moot.
    • The Final Boss of the game is a more heavily equipped Deathbringer, not the 'Metal Devil' titans that the story devotes a lot of attention to.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Aloy tells Rost that she won't abandon him once she is accepted as a Brave. She will come to see him and she will break tribal law to speak to him, but assures him that he doesn't need to talk back, so "it will be [her] sin, not [his]." This is exactly what happens after the Proving; Aloy can indeed come and speak to Rost, and he in turn will not answer back. Not because he refuses to, but because he's dead.
    • The military contracted Faro to create the Chariot line. They got the Faro Plague;
      1. The military wanted unstoppable Robot Soldiers. Ted Faro sold them the greatest robotic army ever built.
      2. The military wanted Easy Logistics. He made them run on all types of biofuel, including human carrion.
      3. The military wanted as many as he could build. He made them capable of self-replication.
      4. The military wanted them to be immune to Hollywood Hacking. Faro made sure they couldn't be.
    • ...One "glitch" later, the world was annihilated by a line of killer robots that consume biomass as fuel, capable of self-replication, that don't listen when told to stop. They refused to end war, so war ended them.
  • Beef Gate: Played with.
    • Merchants require specific parts from rare machines in order to buy higher level outfits and weapons. This makes higher level equipment closed off to the player until they've progressed far enough to be able to find and kill the required machines, many of which are quite difficult.
    • A few main story missions require you to kill specific enemies, and seeing how all enemies are fixed at specific levels, this can prevent you from progressing if you're underleveled. However, the highest-level enemies sit somewhere around level 30, which you'll normally reach long before you encounter these guys, so it's rarely an issue. It's also not impossible to beat an enemy that seriously outlevels you; just more risky.
  • Beehive Barrier: The Shieldweaver outfit has this as part of both its active and passive appearance. Getting it, on the other hand...
  • Behemoth Battle: Go to the Thunderjaw site where two of the giant robo-T.rexes spawn simultaneously, override one and enjoy the ensuing carnage. If you own The Frozen Wilds, you can do it one better by pitting two Fireclaws against each other.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: A recurring theme amongst the tribes.
    • The Nora's shamanistic religion permeates every aspect of their lives and has made them into societally stagnant, xenophobic isolationists whose technology stalled at the Stone Age level. It leaves them woefully outnumbered and outgunned every time the outside world comes knocking, especially since it prevents them from even knowing about most of the things that exist beyond their borders.
    • The Sun Carja nation fell into darkness under the reign of an insane religious zealot that killed thousands of innocents while turning virtually every neighbor they have into mortal enemies. Only when the lunatic was usurped by his definitively progressive son did the kingdom start to prosper again.
    • The Shadow Carja continued where the Sun Carja left off, and it is stated outright that their mindless religious fanaticism made them easy prey for Sylens and HADES, who recruited most of them for the latter's omnicidal agenda simply by posing as one of their deities, which the high priesthood accepted immediately.
    • The Oseram, notable for being the only tribe that doesn't seem to be religious, just happen to be the most technologically advanced faction on the map, capable of crafting advanced weaponry through their ever-increasing understanding of the machine technology that surrounds them. They have their own societal issues, but none of them are connected to religious dogma.
    • The Banuk, although on roughly the same technological level as the Nora, seem to be making some inroads into manipulating the machines to their own ends, but all of that is still steeped in ritualized mysticism with little hint of understanding what exactly they're doing. They did spawn the most tech-savvy character in the game, but that's mostly because the guy's Banuk in name only.
  • BFG: The game features several "Heavy Weapons" that Aloy can pick up and use (so long as their ammo holds out), but they're so massive they keep her from jumping or dodging while in use, and she has to take an extra perk just to maintain an acceptable walking speed while carrying one. Some of these weapons include rack mounted batteries stolen from the backs of the most dangerous (and gigantic) machines.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sylens saves Aloy from the Sun Ring with his own overridden machines.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A datapoint from the time of the Old Ones is about "Haere Mai", a program meant to attract people back to New Zealand as it was being rebuilt. "Haere Mai" means "Welcome".
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Helis has Aloy at his mercy, but doesn't kill her outright. Instead, he explains his plans in detail, then throws Aloy into the Sun Ring, figuring that his machines will kill her in a suitably dramatic fashion. Instead, Aloy outsmarts and outfights the machines, giving Sylens plenty of time to (literally) ride in and save the day.
  • Bonus Dungeon: None of the Cauldrons in the base game figure into the story in any way. The only practical reason to explore them is to unlock more machines for Aloy to override, which itself is an entertaining but ultimately insconsequential feature that has no impact on anything, not even on Ultra Hard difficulty. That said, Cauldrons provide a great change of pace and scenery and are generally fun to explore, so whether they're important or not doesn't really matter.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The hunting bow is the most basic class of weapon in the game, but it's also the most flexible. Fire and tearing are incredibly common vulnerabilities to exploit, and it covers both nicely with its fire and hardpoint arrows. The latter in particular are also effective at destroying weak points and causing damage in general, and ammo for the bow is very cheap to craft.
    • The Lure Call ability can be unlocked as soon as you take control of Aloy after the prologue. It does nothing but letting Aloy whistle at enemies to lure them to her location, but its usefulness especially against large groups of human enemies (like bandit camps) can't be overstated, and it does quite well against most medium machines, too, if you upgrade the Silent Strike's damage.
    • Throwing stones is mostly superfluous in regular gameplay thanks to the abovementioned Lure Call, but on Ultra Hard difficulty it suddenly becomes very useful due to the severe restrictions this mode places on the Lure Call ability. Luring hostiles with stones is a bit trickier than whistling at them, but unlike the Lure Call it won't alert the entire hostile force if you use it more than once. It also makes the Outlaw Dark Box you can purchase in Meridian much more practical as it multiplies the amount of stones Aloy can carry.
  • Brick Joke: The first audio log Aloy found is a scientist sending a happy birthday message to his son: "Happy birthday, Isaac. Daddy sure does love his little big man." Years later, Sylens says those same exact words to Aloy after giving her a new copy of her Focus.
  • Broken Bridge: You can't leave the Sacred Lands of the Nora until after the Proving, which is the point where the whole game world is opened up for Aloy to explore. Even then there are locations you can approach but not explore until a certain point in the main story, like the GAIA Prime facility in the far north that's lacking a crucial access ladder until the game is nearly over.
  • Bullet Time:
    • Aloy can learn multiple abilities that allow her player to slow down time while aiming any bow. The earliest available example lets her do this briefly while jumping or sliding; the more practical one can be enabled at any time. Upgrades exist to extend the time the effect stays active, and to increase her rate of fire while it lasts.
    • A similar effect triggers on occasion when Aloy performs a particularly long jump. Other games often couple this with Press X to Not Die, but in HZD it's just a graphics effect to make her climbing look even more badass.
  • But What About the Astronauts?:
    • Subverted. General Herres specifically states that, "The destruction of a biosphere is not the sort of apocalypse you can wait out in a fallout shelter or space station. There will be no Earth left to reclaim. Just a lifeless, toxic rock with several million Faro robots on it... hibernating, waiting for something to eat." As far as is known, he's right; no trace of the old world remains save for ruins, and the only life is what was re-created by Project Zero Dawn.
    • Brought up again in the counselor guidelines, that it's unfeasible to maintain life in orbital, lunar, or undersea structures. Lunar mining has been a thing, but this is the only mention of trying to preserve life there. Survival for the short term in underground bunkers is brought up, but the best-planned bunker we know of, Elysium, is able to provide for its two thousand starting inhabitants for only a hundred years. If their population grew at all this time frame would shrink to thirty years, so everyone going in is sterilized. A Zero Dawn scientist also mentions unaffiliated shelters and how some of the people in them believe they'll make it somehow. She doesn't have hope.
  • But Thou Must!: HZD's quests are about as linear as its world is open. Numerous quest objectives can be completed before the quest is given (like neutralizing the outlying Eclipse camps during "Revenge of the Nora"), but any objectives within the quest are fixed with no way to deviate from them, so Taking A Third Option is almost never possible. To stick with the aforementioned example: there's no way to finish "Revenge of the Nora" without a huge battle between the Nora Braves and the Eclipse forces. If you try to clear the enemy base all alone, which isn't all that difficult with a smart approach, the game will keep spawning waves of hostile reinforcements until you blow up the Blaze storage to trigger the battle.
  • Cap:
    • The base game gives Aloy a level cap of 50, which The Frozen Wilds then raised to 60. New Game+ eliminates it entirely with its Ghost Levels feature that allows you to keep leveling more or less indefinitely, although they don't actually do anything - they're merely a Bragging Rights Reward.
    • Most weapon and armor stats can only be improved to a certain point, usually at the accumulated maximum of three maxed-out mods of any given type. Damage boosts for instance are capped at +150%note , stealth maxes out at +45%note , and so on.
  • Cargo Cult: With humanity having virtually no knowledge of advanced technology, everything concerning the machines is very often interpreted religiously. The Old Ones who created them are deeply revered, and the mechanical world is shrouded in mysticism. The Banuk in particular are laboriously gaining some skills as technicians, but they have little understanding of the tech they manipulate and they interpret everything through a shamanistic system. AI personalities are seen as spirits and the benevolent driving force of the universe is the "Blue Light" - essentially the searchlights used by the machines as they move about elevated to a spiritual essence.
  • Charged Attack: The Banuk bows Aloy can acquire in the Cut are their respective weapon class' Infinity +1 Sword for two reasons: unrivaled base stats across the board, and the ability to be overdrawn for seriously increased damage. It takes a few seconds to fully "charge" each attack, but if you combined it with the Triple Shot ability beforehand, the resulting shot packs enough punch to kill most medium machines outright and deal considerable damage to even the largest enemies.
  • Colony Ship:
    • There was an ill-fated attempt made in the 21st century in which the ship, the Odyssey, was rendered into space junk in 2057. One of the Zero Dawn scientists, Ron Felder, initially mistakes Zero Dawn for an attempt to build a colony ship to escape Earth, and points out that it is utterly impossible by reminding the counselor of the Odyssey and the immense difficulty of building one. Nor does he voice in favor of the idea of a generation ship.
    • However, there was a second attempt with a new or repaired Odyssey in the 2060s. Everything was going well until the engines exploded, completely destroying the ship and everything on it.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • All machines have blue eyes under normal circumstances, which turn yellow when they suspect you're around, and red when they're about to start attacking you.
    • All climbable elements are marked with yellow rope, tape, paint, etc,. so you can identify the way forward more easily.
    • The weapons, outfits, tradable and salable items scale from white to green to blue to purple (common to rare), with an extra purple-with-flourish for harder-to-obtain items that are either quest rewards or DLC-added unique items.
    • "Wild" machines have black cables around their heads. These cables turn blue if overridden by Aloy, and red if corrupted by HADES.
  • Color Wash:
    • Entering the vicinity of an active bandit camp heavily desaturates the normally vibrant color palette. The same happens during heavy weather and at certain points in the main story, the latter of which usually coincides with a heavy Eclipse presence.
    • Cauldrons and ancient bunkers tend to have a bluish tint to them that reinforces the perceived coldness of their metallic or at least artificial nature.
  • Commonplace Rare:
    • Upgrading Aloy's carrying capacity requires lots of animal bones and skins. With the legions of boars, foxes and bunnies hopping around the world one would expect this to be an easy task, but bones are uncommon drops and skins are rated rare for reasons unknown. The result? Hundreds of dead animals for a handful of resources that every single one of them should provide in abundance.
    • The rocks you can throw to distract enemies can be surprisingly hard to find for being, y'know, rocks. They only spawn near rivers and roads, and even there they're a rare find.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: The Rattler is a prehistorical shotgun/submachine gun hybrid, which is pretty cool by default. Unfortunately, its spread makes it useless beyond close-quarters combat, and its damage output and elemental severity are subpar even when fully upgraded. It also can't hold much ammo, consumes it at a frightening rate, and crafting more is surprisingly expensive. You're almost always better off with a decent hunter bow and war bow to deal damage and induce elemental states, respectively.
  • Corporate Warfare: One of the many quirks of the ancient world prior the cataclysm. With widespread drone warfare, and little to no loss of human life in these conflicts, corporations would launch armed assaults on each other’s facilities. These types of attacks on each other would then be televised, similar to sporting events.
  • Cow Tools: In-universe, this is how many bits of Old Ones tech is viewed. For example, you can find Vendor Trash labeled "Ancient Chimes" with a picture that's a set of keys on a key ring. Even though we see actual keys used by The Eclipse.
  • Crow's Nest Cartography: The Tallnecks, large robotic dinosaurs with Saucer-shaped heads who gather telemetry from all the other robotic wildlife. They patrol around ruins, and the player has to climb the ruins they circle, then jump onto the passing Tallneck to then scale its titular neck to the saucer section and thus get map information. They are basically a (slightly) mobile version of this trope.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: In the side quest "Acquired Taste", Brin comes across as a loony who's been tripping on the machine fluids he drinks. However, the visions he sees every time he imbibes machine blood paint a frighteningly accurate picture for the state of the machines and the Metal World. It's no wonder Aloy keeps indulging his bizarre obsession even as he asks for fluids from more dangerous enemies.
  • Cyber Punk: The world of the Old Ones. The environment was screwed up, everybody was at war — openly stated to be nothing more than profit-motivated war — technology such as the Focus was widely available and exploited, and Faro's Mega-Corp ticked standard "monetary gain at any cost" tropes on the list like there was no tomorrow (until there wasn't).
  • Crapsack World:
    • The world of the 2060s, despite showing the peak of human technological advancement, is plagued with problems even before it's all destroyed by the Faro Plague. World governments become more tyrannical as their power is eroded away by corporations, severe climate change completely destroys entire nations like New Zealand, unemployment is at an all-time high due to widespread automation of industries, and many nations are embroiled in constant regional wars thanks to easy access to an endless supply of cheap Killer Robots. The efforts of people like Elisabet Sobek and, early on, Ted Faro brought things back from the brink. Though there was much that couldn't be fixed, still much was improving. And then Faro decided he could make more money from war machines.
      CYAN: There were many factors. Forced migrations, food shortages, collapsed economies, refugee crises, conflict over resources. But these all stemmed from one cause: catastrophic climate change that greatly reduced the habitable surface area of the Earth.
    • According to Sylens the current world, post-Zero Dawn, is also this. Full of primitive, fractured, hostile, and superstitious tribes that would rather fight each other or go into forced isolationism rather than work together. It's only very recently that the world gets a little less crappy with the rise of the benevolent King Avad, but his hold over his kingdom is precarious and there are many enemies who would like to see him unseated from the throne. This is because Ted Faro sabotaged the APOLLO educational database — resulting in the first generation of new humans only being educated to kindergarten level — supposedly because he believed humanity would be better off without the super-technologies that led to the creation of the Faro Swarm... but given how every human alive at the time hated his guts, as well as the fact that APOLLO was supposed to teach the new humans not to repeat the mistakes of the old ones, it could just as easily have been because he didn't want to be remembered as the monster who ended the world. Sylens condemns him as a monster twice over — once for destroying the world, again for destroying all the knowledge of that world.
      Sylens: So this is why. This is why we were trapped in benighted ignorance. For an "innocent future". "Blameless men!" He never saw the slaughter in the Sun-Ring. Everything these people achieved, all the knowledge of the Old Ones — evaporated! Turned to dust, scattered to the void. Like the Alphas themselves.
    • Sylens believes this, but Aloy insists that it's A World Half Full, if not even better, and the story — not just her own impact, the efforts of many people she meets striving to make things better and often succeeding — seems to bear that out. It's a troubled world but every culture hurt by the Carja recognizes that it got as bad as it did thanks to one Sun-King and that his successor is pentinent. Only a few years after the Red Raids end even the isolationist Nora allow a Sun-Priest to visit the Sacred Lands and enter the Embrace itself. There are people learning about every element of the world, trying to help the poor refugees at Sunfall, learning and pushing past their prejudices, having compassion for their enemies. There are bad people and bad influences but they're just a part of a broad, complicated future.
  • Dead All Along: It turns out that all life on Earth as we know it has already been dead for centuries. The current life on Earth is in fact the result of a new biosphere artificially terraformed by GAIA to restore the planet.
  • Death World: Earth was this after the Hartz-Timor Swarm / Faro Plague consumed all the life it could find. Even going outside without an environmental suit and breathing apparatus was deadly due to the toxic byproducts of the biomass-converting robot army making more of itself.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Most of the tribes are treated sympathetically, but they have different cultural values that make them far from ideal. The Nora have little disparity between the sexes (though only women who've had specifically girl children who've had children in turn can hold the highest positions of power), but they're also the most rigid and xenophobic. Meanwhile, the Carja and Oseram have a more Stay in the Kitchen attitude towards women, but they're more willing to collaborate with other tribes, the latter is the most scientifically-minded, and the former is in the process of becoming a more egalitarian society. The Banuk show no discrimination based on sex, but are harshly darwinistic about survival, and do not welcome even their own people questioning their roles and authority. Furthermore, every tribe sees itself as the most civilized and the rest as a bunch of savages, and they each have their own, varied draconian punishments for lawbreakers.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Many people who find out the true purpose of Zero Dawn can't cope with the news, which is understandable considering it straight up tells them that the Faro Plague is unstoppable and all life on Earth is doomed. The ZD staff knew this beforehand and had an extensive counseling staff on hand, and even offered medically assisted suicide as an available option.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • There's a few early sidequests and their dialogue changes whether or not Aloy is still an outcast or has proven herself.
    • Similarly, people in Meridian will have different dialog during their quests if you've already saved Avad from the assassination attempt or rescued Prince Itamen and Dowager Queen Nasadi from the Shadow Carja.
    • If you neutralized the outlying Eclipse camps before reporting to Sona and Varl during "Revenge of the Nora", Varl will mention it and express his amazement at Aloy's capabilities. Sona is less impressed, though.
    • Similarly, if you've already cleared out at least two Corruption Zones before talking to Marea at Mother's Crown during "A Seeker at the Gates", she'll also be impressed with Aloy going One-Woman Army on something the entire Nora military couldn't fight.
    • There are a lot of quests where characters want Aloy to bring them a machine part, an animal skin, etc. In almost every instance, if you've already got enough of the resource in your inventory, Aloy will just tell them so.
    • If you have The Frozen Wilds DLC, certain dialogues in the main story missions may change depending on when you play through the DLC missions, and vice-versa.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Both present and future ones;
    • None of the named Braves running the Proving survive, despite the early signs of a rivalry dynamic. The bigoted pricks who similarly get names and development as potential future pains-in-the-rear are either killed or utterly marginalized when Aloy's quest becomes much bigger than them.
    • None of the named Old Ones survive. The Alphas are killed by Ted Faro to prevent the new world from being tainted by the "original sin" of technological knowledge. One bunker of scientists killed themselves before they could be overrun. The biggest bunker, Elysium, was only intended to operate for a hundred years, and everyone in it was sterilized and intended to die there. The final fates of General Herres and Faro are ambiguous, however; especially since Faro is last seen broadcasting his image to the Alphas from his ultra-secure bunker as he kills them.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Preparing a Double/Triple Arrow shot takes a moment during which you're vulnerable in the heat of battle, and charging it on a Banuk bow costs even more time, but if you're a good enough marksman to make the shot count, few enemies will survive more than one or two hits.
  • Disc-One Nuke: The best armor and spear in the game are technically only accessible after completing the third-to-last main quest. However, you can get them in relatively little time (and without completing any sidequests or exploring) if you rush the main missions, which is possible with little or no combat. Since the update that introduced a New Game+ mode, however, this trope is in full effect if you choose to follow that path (although the enemies are also leveled up accordingly).
    • The Shield-Weaver Armor is the best armor, and provides a regenerating shield against damage. With it, Aloy is basically immune to every form of damage so long as the shield has time to regenerate — and if the player's good enough at dodging, that time is freely available.
    • Sylens' Lance is an upgraded form of the spear. It deals much more damage than the regular spear and can inflict shock damage as well.
    • The Blast Sling in all its various incarnations. It does high splash damage, staggers machines out of attack animations (even large machines like Thunderjaws), and can ignite Blaze on machines. The only drawback is the ammo is expensive to craft and you can only hold 3 shots at first and 12 when fully upgraded. Combine it with freeze arrows and you can tear apart everything below Stormbirds and Thunderjaws with ease.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Aloy's last meeting with Nil, where they rendezvous atop a lonely mesa. He asks her a question, and she has the option to either accept it or not. If Aloy considers it, Nil says he wouldn't want to push her into something she really doesn't want to do. If she refuses, she stammers a bit, says she's flattered, but ultimately can't go through with it, which leaves him feeling hurt and rejected. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a duel to the death treated like a marriage proposal.
  • Doomed Hometown: A downplayed example: Seconds after the Proving finishes, a mysterious group of cultists launches an attack, killing many of the new Braves and devastating the valley; the Nora retaliate later, but in doing so strain their surviving war forces to the breaking point. Further downplayed by the fact that this isn't technically Aloy's home until that exact momentshe's declared a Brave right as the proctor takes an arrow to the chest and the attack begins.
    • Played more straight later in the game, when Helis sends an army of Shadow Carja and corrupted machines to devastate the Nora lands.
  • Door to Before: Justified in the Cauldrons, as it's the lift from the forge chamber right to the cauldron's front door to deploy the newly manufactured machines.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The first mission as teenage Aloy is called "The Point of the Spear". On the surface, this has an obvious meaning: The literal point of a spear, which Aloy now uses as a weapon after the Time Skip. However, it also carries a more metaphorical meaning: Rost sent Aloy on the quest so that she would learn that the purpose of being a Brave is to protect the tribe rather than pursuing one's own goals. In other words, he was teaching her the point of carrying a weapon.
  • Dungeon Shop: Most merchants have set up shop in or near settlements, but there're also a handful that can be found in remote corners of the world, far away from any civilized outpost and often surrounded by nothing but aggressive machines and lethal weather conditions. No explanation is ever offered as to why they're standing around there instead of plying their trade somewhere more sensible.
  • Easier Than Easy: The Story difficulty setting quadruples Aloy's damage output while reducing the damage she takes to 10%, making it pretty much impossible to die unless you do it on purpose. If you combine this with the Shield Weaver Armor, only the most devastating attacks can even scratch the shielding, let alone damage her health bar. Fall Damage is still lethal, though.
  • Easter Egg: Guerilla Games' cooperation with Kojima Productions has spawned three Stranded collectibles in HZD that refer to the latter's then-upcoming Death Stranding game. The whole set can be traded in Meridian for a Mysterious Box that contains some goodies as well as a pair of warm socks. That last one doesn't serve a discernible function in this game, but given Hideo Kojima's track record, having a savegame with this item in Aloy's inventory when Death Stranding rolls around might have some effect there.
  • Eating Machine: All Acquisition-class machines are this one way or another, as the name suggests. Some models like Striders, Grazers and Broadheads consume plant matter and process it into raw Blaze in their bodies, which is then further refined into the fuel that keeps all the other machines and installations throughout the world running. Other machines like Tramplers, Lancehorns, Behemoths and even Frostclaws/Fireclaws are basically ore refineries on legs that eat dirt, leach metals and minerals out of it and thus produce the raw materials required to build more machines. Scrappers and Glinthawks cannibalize other fallen machines for recycling purposes as well; if you destroy one in the process of harvesting, you may find amongst its wreckage a compacted cube of recycled metal stock it had formed.
  • Eldritch Location: A scanned glyph found in one of the Carja towns describes the differing, outlandish locations that aren't even featured in the game called "The Forbidden West". The one who penned the entry seemed to be a healer, who recalls his wards' tales about the "Western lands" and their travels —- which incidentally seem to be the cause of their injuries, illnesses, and ultimately, dying or maddened states. The healer continues his recall of the ruined cities his wards mention, as well as even wilder, stranger, and more dangerous machines and the strange tribes of people that roam the land far to the West of the Nora, Carja, Oseram, and Banuk lands. (Though keep in mind, these people are frightened by a description of what's obviously the ocean, and the Carja writers especially have a habit of sensationalising.) Near the end of the entry, the healer recalls how his wards came back with next to nothing, except for small souvenirs from these Western lands, including that of a seashell. Geographically, if the game's map covers Colorado and Utah up to Yosemite, then "The Forbidden West" is presumably the West Coast; California to maybe Oregon.
    • The insides of cauldrons at least look the part, what with the dark, unpleasant atmosphere and constant hum of ancient machinery. They might also fulfill the role of Genius Loci, in the sense that they're run by an incredibly powerful artificial intelligence.
  • Elite Mook:
    • Corrupted specimens are more dangerous than the vanilla versions, and "daemon" versions are stronger still.
    • More particularly, Redeye Watchers are a little stronger than regular Watchers.
    • Ravagers play the role to Sawtooths. Aloy can even lampshade it:
      Aloy: (upon spotting a Ravager) That thing looks like a Sawtooth, but heavily armed. Great.
  • Emergency Weapon: Zig-zagged with your Spear. As a tool that requires no ammo or aiming, it will obviously be always available when you need it. It's also pretty effective against the earlier enemies of the game should you be having trouble with the bow. But as the game goes on you'll find more and more enemies against whom deploying the spear is too risky, and if your ever-expanding arsenal of ranged weaponry is out of ammo or otherwise not up to the task, sticking around with your spear will just get you killed.
  • Empty Levels: A common criticism of the character progression system is that leveling up merely increases Aloy's health by 10 points and gives her an ability point to spend on her Skill Tree. She doesn't gain better aim, increased damage, stronger defenses or the like because all these stats are tied to her equipment instead of her character, and since the top-tier gear can be acquired easily and quickly, the feeling of Aloy getting stronger mostly stops about a third into the game. New Game+' "Ghost Levels" try to avoid this by letting her level past the Cap of 60, but since these levels don't actually do anything, they merely reinforce the issue.
  • Eternal Engine: The Cauldrons (originally called Cradles) are vast, fully automated underground assembly lines that have been churning out legions of robots for centuries without showing signs of slowing down. Their insides are clean, (mostly) intact, heavily defended and usually well-hidden from the outside world, ensuring that they'll continue their allotted tasks until GAIA's terraforming is complete and Earth's biosphere fully restored.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: All of GAIA's subsystems are named after various Greek gods that reflect their purpose. HEPHAESTUS allows GAIA to create robots for whatever purposes she needs. APOLLO was a repository for all human knowledge. HADES' purpose was to wipe out all life on the planet so that GAIA could start over if she had to. Deliberately subverted by the ZD staff, who point out that HADES serves a very necessary function.
  • Everything Sensor: There seems to be no limit to what a Focus can detect and analyze. Many of the things it picks up on in Aloy's time are things that didn't even exist back when the devices were made.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: HADES's voice is a perfect mix of robot and evil overlord; it's as deep as the ocean floor.
  • Excrement Statement: An obscure tradition of the Banuk tribe known as "Banuk farewell mark", involves members of said tribe stealthily pissing on properties or belongings of people they don't like.
  • Exact Words: Rost very strictly adheres to Nora tribal law, which forbids speaking between an outcast and a tribe member. In "The Point of the Spear", he notes: "I never spoke to anyone." All entirely true; he whistles to request that the gate to the true wilds be opened, and only nods to the braves he passes by. The only person he directed any words to was Aloy, also an outcast.
    • Also, "No outcast has ever won the Proving". It's entirely true, because people that complete the Proving stop being outcasts.
  • Failsafe Failure: The Faro Plague. Ted Faro thought that it was a great idea to create autonomous, self-replicating killing machines that use biomatter of all kinds as fuel without any kill codes or backdoor access in case of emergency — with almost perfectly secure software, no less. It took 50 years for a hyper-advanced program with incredible processing power doing literally nothing else to generate shutdown codes from scratch — the military would have been every bit as pissed at him if one of their chosen targets had been able to subvert their war machines. Well, Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: When General Herres describes the true horror of Operation Enduring Victory he admits that it makes him the holder of a body count greater than history's monsters of which the last one is entirely fictional:
    Herres: Over the past sixteen months, Doctor, I have presided over the greatest wholesale slaughter of military personnel and civilians in the history of... history. Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Sorabella — add'em together, they don't even come close.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Between the Nora and Carja. The Nora, being notorious isolationists and generally wary of outsiders, especially disliked the Carja for abducting their tribesmen for slavery and, much later, human sacrifices during the Red Raids. The Carja, along with other tribes, look down on the Nora as backwater savages, xenophobes, and paranoid zealots.
    • The Nora have their own institutionalized version within their own society. Anybody deemed an "outcast" in Nora society is banished into the forest to survive on their own until their sentence is complete (if ever). Regular Nora by law are not allowed to speak to or even acknowledge that outcasts exist, and are generally encouraged to persecute them.
    • The Banuk and Carja aren't friends, also largely due to the Red Raids. One of The Frozen Wilds DLC sidequests highlights this: trying to maintain the relatively peaceful recent relationship, Banuk put one of their own believed to have killed a Carja through a harsh punishment, being left naked and unarmed on a glacier covered in hostile machines, with the view that he'll probably die but if he lives and gets back he's forgiven. The Carja hearing about this are dismayed and want a proper trial for him — that is, having his mouth filled with salt and being staked out in harsh sun for three days, and if he only loses his sight or sanity that is a sign of the Sun's mercy.
    • Also between the Carja and Oseram. The Carja, aside from general snobbery, see the Oseram as uncivilized, with several even believing the Oseram support anti-Carja terrorists. The Oseram view the Carja as too soft for real work.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • The Nora — as hunter-gatherer tribes with fairly small settlements — have a Native American feel to them. They also wear blue face paint, which some Celtic tribes were known to do.
    • The more "civilized" Carja, with their sedentary lifestyle, actual cities, and practices of slavery and gladiatorial combat show a mixture of Aztec, Roman, and Ancient Egyptian. Their naming conventions are more reminiscent of Arabic or Indian cultures.
    • The Oseram are all about forging and war, they love drinking and arguing, and what passes for their government is basically a council of village elders who substitute shouting matches for civil discourse. They also have elements of Proud Warrior Race Guy. Pretty much Vikings. (Or Dwarves.)
    • The Banuk are highly in tune with nature, somewhat insular, very spiritual, make their clothes out of the "skin" and "bones" of machines (animals), practice shamanism, and live comfortably in the frozen north; all clearly reminiscent of the Inuit. (Their name even sounds like "Inuk", the singular form of Inuit.)
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: Used both in the form of ammo used by Aloy and other humans, and by the machines for the same purpose.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: There are several cases of this.
    • The Zero Dawn Project. Since there was no way to stop the Faro Plague from destroying humanity and all life on Earth, the remnants of humanity instead decided to use their remaining resources to build GAIA, an advanced AI that would figure out how to shut down the Faro Plague and subsequently terraform and repopulate the Earth with life centuries after humans went extinct.
    • The Lightkeeper protocol was a variation in which the top members of the Zero Dawn project would clone themselves and raise their own clones to keep maintaining GAIA. That idea was quickly shot down, but some of the infrastructure remained.
    • GAIA created a clone of Elisabet in the vague hope that she would eventually find out the truth, stop HADES, and rebuild GAIA, with the means to do these tasks all being locked behind bunkers accessible only to people with specific DNA.
    • On a more personal level, Christina Hsu-Vey describes art as a necessary part of this in one of the audio logs, and how its survival means the survival of a culture:
      Christina: No, it is not fair, not at all, but for the sake of my family, for the sake of art— Art is alive, it must be able to speak from beyond history, and echo in the future. Not perish into oblivion. This opportunity, I must do this.
    • This as a whole is a major theme of the game: that we have the power to decide what we want our impact on the world to be and that we have to take responsibility for it, whether that means something as huge as saving all life on the planet like Elisabet Sobeck did, dooming it to oblivion like Ted Faro, or even just leaving episodes of your podcast hidden around your old workplace before it's sealed up just in case somebody ever wanders in and finds it.
  • Flunky Boss: All bosses either have backup from the outset or start calling some in soon enough. Unsurprisingly, the Final Boss takes this Up to Eleven.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Sylens states that he wishes to do over his work with HADES but place the AI under more safeguards. Which he ultimately doesin the Stinger.
    • In an early mission done for Odd Grata, some of what she says to Aloy (in the form of "prayers" to All-Mother) seem to indicate she somehow knows Aloy was born of GAIA's ELEUTHIA Cradles, even if she can't express it in such exact terms, for the sake of stopping HADES.
    • Ted Faro killed the Alphas and deleted APOLLO (all the stored knowledge of pre-downfall humanity) so that the new humanity wouldn't make the same mistakes as the old (or so they wouldn't loathe him forever as the cause of the apocalypse). Not five minutes before you discover this, you can scan some audio logs with Ted Faro talking crazy about how the knowledge APOLLO would impart is "poison" and that he has a solution.
  • For the Evulz: One quest tasks Aloy with putting down three escaped convicts — one of which being a Mad Bomber who's proud of the chaos and destruction he'd sown, announcing himself like his own MC at an event when found. Instead of fighting him directly, Aloy has to navigate a Death Course he'd set up and littered with booby traps while he taunts her all the way to the top, and once she reaches him, he decides to blow himself up rather than go peacefully.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During the scene after Aloy is recovering from her fall after Rost sacrificed himself during the Proving Massacre, she finds some information on a woman that looks like her, along with a string of coordinates. Plugging in those coordinates into a map function gives you the location of Pike's Peak, Colorado, where the Nora tribe presumably are.
  • The Fundamentalist:
    • High Matriarch Lansra and Helis are incredibly hostile and dogmatic, each in their own way.
    • Subverted with Rost and High Matriarch Teersa, and some of the more sympathetic Sun Carja priests. Rost sees that the Focus she picked up in the ruins is important to her and allows her to keep it. Teersa is patient and fair-minded and finds ways to accommodate the world and her faith together, and can bend. Although the womb of the mountain is sacred ground and only Matriarchs may enter normally, when the Shadow Carja overrun Nora lands she calls for everyone, including Outcasts, to come into its shelter. Of the Sun-Priests Irid, the envoy sent to apologize to the Nora, plainly finds their beliefs backwards and is convinced that his faith is the truth, but is also patient and willing to explain and tolerate some hostility. Namman meanwhile is completely accommodating, interested in other faiths without being judgmental, and feels that all beliefs can coexist.
  • Future Imperfect: The lack of knowledge about the Old Ones has led to some funny beliefs among the tribes. For instance, there's this guy in Meridian who's convinced that promotional coffee mugs were ceremonial containers used in elaborate shaving rituals. When Aloy suggests that maybe they were simply drinking vessels, he brushes it off as ridiculous. Other examples include the various ancient charms (coins or tokens), chimes (sets of keys), bracelets (wristwatches), toothpicks (corkscrew on a Swiss Army knife), or an ancient sculpture (an artificial heart transplant). Since most of these artifacts are nonfunctional and of no practical use anymore, all you can do is sell them off for shards.
  • Future Primitive: Humanity now lives in tribes, wearing animal skins and crafting tools from what parts they can scavenge, though as the story progresses it's shown that it's really just the Nora and Banuk who are at that level. At their current pinnacle, the Carja tribe relies on agriculture, wears woven cloth, and builds stone fortresses and steam-powered elevators.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: If an NPC ally has a non-generic name, they can be incapacitated but not killed. After about a minute they'll recover on their own and continue the fight, which is very useful for stealth attacks on harder difficulties because enemies prioritize the ally over searching for Aloy, thus giving her more options to sneak around and wreak havoc undisturbed. It also allows her to sit back and snipe the enemy from far away while her allies are drawing aggro.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: One of the biggest cases in gaming. The story says that the combined might of the world's military, including railguns, nukes, and whatever new weapons technology the future has developed, doesn't stand a chance against the machines. Ingame, a single short, skinny teenager can take most machines down with just a spear and a bow.
    • The intro cinematic shows a pair of Tallnecks and a pair of Thunderjaws prowling the Embrace. Neither machine can be found in this area, neither are ever encountered in close proximity to each other, and Tallnecks are entirely solitary creatures.
    • In what is probably a development oversight, Teb describes Sona to Aloy as a tall dark-skinned woman (which is true) with long white hair (which isn't, her hair is black).
    • Aloy will often shiver and cuddle up while exploring particularly cold regions. This doesn't change even if you give her complete immunity to cold damage through appropriate cold weather gear.
  • Genre Blind: Lampshaded: In one data point, Brad Andac laments that despite a century and a half of science fiction warning otherwise, humanity still managed to wipe itself out in a Robot War.
    Brad Andac: Isn't it just amazing how a century-and-a-half of science fiction did nothing to swerve our species from the path of doom?
  • Giant Mook: Cultist Heavies have a lot of health and fight with heavy machine guns rather than the prehistoric weaponry everybody else is carrying.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Project Zero Dawn. Billions of people were sent to their deaths against the unstoppable swarm of the Faro Plague all for the express purpose of buying time for the initiative to be completed. Furthermore, Zero Dawn was not a weapon created to destroy the robots, as the masses were led to believe via propaganda, but a massive undertaking to terraform the planet and bring life back to it in the centuries to come. There was no alternative; humanity was going to be extinct regardless, so it was either this, or allow life on Earth to come to a definitive end.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: In the final battle for Meridian, many of the people Aloy helped in both the main and side quests will show up to provide their assistance.
  • Great Offscreen War:
    • The Red Raids; as the result of the Derangement that made the machines more hostile to humans, the Mad Sun-King Jiran ordered a massive series of human sacrifices which he believed would end the machines' aggression. This resulted in Avad overthrowing his father and becoming the current king, but also led to the formation of the Shadow Carja and indirectly, the Eclipse.
    • The Faro Plague was responsible for destroying all life on Earth in 2066 while the last remnants of humanity created Project Zero Dawn to allow the next life to inhabit the planet. Aloy eventually discovers the root cause of the apocalypse from beginning to end throughout her journey.
    • Operation: Enduring Victory, the military campaign organized by the USRC (United States Robot Command), where the USRC armed every able-bodied human on Earth and directed them against the Faro Swarm to buy time for Zero Dawn, all the while knowing there was no way they would ever win.
  • Greater-Scope Villain:
    • The post-apocalyptic state of the world turns out to be the responsibility of one man, now centuries dead- Ted Faro. His company was responsible for building the military robots to his insistence that they be hack-proof, and which later went rogue, ending up destroying all life on Earth due to their ability to convert biomatter into fuel and armaments. After Elizabet Sobeck's Heroic Sacrifice, Faro also interfered with the Zero Dawn project by deleting APOLLO and killing all the remaining Zero Dawn Alpha personnel, due to wanting to leave the next iteration of humanity free of the "original sin" of technological knowledge (or erasing evidence of his culpability).
    • It's revealed in the late portions of the main game that an unseen third party was responsible for activating HADES, which in turn un-shackled the GAIA sub-routines into their own AIs. After the credits, Sylens begins following the trail after capturing HADES.
    • HEPHAESTUS (not HADES) is responsible for hacking the forges to create increasingly dangerous machine designs, despite never appearing in the game outright. Having been disengaged from GAIA's control through the virus HADES unleashed, it deemed humans as a threat and overrode the Cauldrons in response.
  • Green Aesop: Present, but not too heavily repeated, with the 2040s apparently having had a severe enough climate change that New Zealand and other island nations disappeared under the ocean due to rising waterlines. The "Great Claw-back" gave rise to green robotics technologies, and Faro Automated Solutions capitalizing on that. Their military robots only made the climate even worse.
  • Green Hill Zone: The Embrace is the game's starting area where resources are plentiful, quests are easy, machine herds are few in numbers, and the worst machines you encounter are low-level Scrappers. The area adjacent to the Embrace is still fairly safe but already contains a Bellowback site, and the northernmost parts of Nora territory pit you against Sawtooths, Shell-Walkers and similar threats that require a modicum of leveling plus some decent equipment to tackle without getting curbstomped. It only gets more dangerous from there.
  • Grey Goo: Such scenarios apparently occurred in the past, though obviously not to the point of being completely unrecoverable.
    • The "Haere Mai" and "We Were Indonesia" datapoints imply that construction companies' using nanotech led to the 2041 Citarum River Disaster, the real-world Citarum River being one of the most-polluted in the world.
    • Another log describes a veteran whose legs were lost to "nano-haze" stripping the tissue layer by layer.
    • The Faro Plague is an unconventional example — the robots use nanomachines to consume energy sources, including living things, but only rearm and make more full-size robots, not more nanomachines. Still, they eventually replicated at the expense of every living thing on Earth and left only the vast machine armies behind, stymied by the absence of material.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Although it takes some luck and effort, Aloy's stealth capabilities can be upgraded to the point that she practically needs to walk up to an enemy in plain sight and punch them in the face for them to notice her. They also never send more than one guy to investigate someone whistling from a nearby patch of tall grass even though the previous dozen that went looking mysteriously vanished. Note that none of this applies to Ultra Hard difficulty where enemy detection radii and sensitivity are vastly improved, and whistling twice at the same group gets them all converging on Aloy together.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • The Ancient Armor quest. Easy to get at the beginning of the game, but in order to complete it you'll need to find five power cells that are very tough to get if you don't know where to look for them. And four of them can only be found in areas unlocked by the main quest, so you can't just rush out to grab them and unlock the armor at the beginning of the game, either.
    • Players have completed the whole game without realizing there's a special fast travel pack with infinite uses for sale in Meridian, simply because the merchant that sells it is otherwise no different from all the others in the world, and the item is found in a rarely accessed shop category.
    • Climbing to Vantage Points or Banuk figurines isn't difficult in itself, but finding the first of the climbable ledges to begin the ascent can be frustrating at times without a small hint from the outside.
    • You get a trophy for gathering all 11 potential allies for the Final Battle. Ten of them join automatically once you finish their associated quest, but one challenges you to a Duel to the Death at the end. Agree and you can either load up a savegame from very long ago, or start a new game altogether if you didn't know about this beforehand.
  • Hand Wave: Why are all of the post-Zero Dawn machines shaped like animals, instead of more practical designs? An easy to miss Datapoint reveals it's because GAIA just likes to build them that way.
  • Harder Than Hard: Ultra Hard difficulty reduces Aloy's damage output to 70%, doubles the damage dealt by enemies, massively increases their detection range and sensitivity, disables enemy health bars so you have no real idea how much more they can take, multiplies all merchant prices by a factor of 5, and reduces the amount of healing medicinal plants add to Aloy's pouch. It makes knockdown and elemental effects much harder to apply, makes enemies much more aggressive, disables Mook Chivalry and makes it so that Aloy's Lure Call ability can only be used once before the entire herd immediately converges on her location. Needless to say that Aim Assist is also disabled by default. The general consensus is to not attempt this until you've acquired all the upgraded gear from a previous New Game+ run, which of course hasn't stopped masochistic Challenge Seekers from starting an Ultra Hard game from scratch.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: No matter what the outfit preview shows Aloy wearing, there is an option to not render the headpiece (with no decrease in the outfit's performance). This becomes Hilarious in Hindsight when a certain masked outfit is required in a specific region where the residents know Aloy's appearance and are out to kill her.
  • Here We Go Again!: Zig-Zagged; The Stinger shows Sylens bearing HADES towards a Metal Devil, despite his discovery of the omnicidal AI in one such machine resulting in the creation of the murderous Eclipse tribe and near-destruction of the entire world — and during his last conversation with Aloy, he clearly stated that even knowing how utterly dangerous HADES is, he still would do it all again. "A few more safeguards, perhaps — but basically the same." However, he makes his first question a good one: "Who sent the signal that woke you?", something no one else has the capacity to ask.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: So many that it's pretty much one of the main themes of the game. In order of presentation;
    • Rost sacrifices himself to save Aloy.
    • In The Frozen Wilds DLC, Ourea completes the override of Cauldron Epsilon, but is killed by the subsequent shock.
    • Practically all of humanity sacrifices itself fighting the Faro Plague in hopes of buying just enough time for the Zero Dawn project to complete.
    • Elisabet sacrifices herself to ensure GAIA is not discovered by the Faro Plague.
    • GAIA sacrifices herself by detonating her core to prevent HADES from hijacking her functions.
  • The Hero's Journey: A Reconstruction. Horizon Zero Dawn takes all the tropes and conventions associated that would typically be derided as cliché in myth or fantasy fiction, and applies them to a science fiction setting. The gods who shaped the world? They're Artificial Intelligences that were created for the specific purpose of terraforming the planet after it was turned into a lifeless barren rock. The Big Bad who's a Generic Doomsday Villain that only wants to destroy the world? It's one of those very AIs that's simply fulfilling the purpose it was programmed to do, but was activated in the wrong circumstances by an outside force. The Chosen One who was born in unusual circumstances and is seemingly the only person who can save the world? She was cloned from the singlemost brilliant individual of the pre-apocalyptic world, ensuring she would develop the skills, smarts, and determination needed to complete the mission she was made for. The game plays all of these dead straight, but the unusual setting not only serves to make them feel fresh again, it actually justifies them.
  • High-Tech Hexagons: The Shield Weaver's Deflector Shield is composed of these.
  • Hobbling the Giant: Aloy is armed with a tripcaster bow which allows her to deploy electrically charged tripwires which, as the name implies, trips, shocks, and jolts enemies who trigger the wires. This is most useful against behemoth enemies such as the Thunderjaw who are too big for Aloy to approach outright.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Aloy can use tear ammunition to remove machines' heavy weapons, like the Disc Launcher or Ravager Cannon. When she uses them, they absolutely tear through their former owners much quicker than any of her own weapons.
    • Igniting elemental canisters on machines triggers a massive explosion that deals heavy damage in a huge area after a short delay. While this is undoubtedly helpful in thinning out hordes of hostile machines, it can backfire horribly if you try this on a melee-focused robot, in which case the delay means the explosion will likely occur just as the machine reaches Aloy.
  • Hollywood Hacking: If encryption was enough to prevent hacking, humanity would have stopped having security threats altogether, even by real-world standards. It doesn’t take that much to create a cypher that would take 1,000+ years to brute force, let alone the 50 years covered by the story. Hackers are already accustomed to this, and search for the ‘weakest link’ in the security chain, and work outwards from there. In this case, it would make more sense to impound Faro’s inventory and personnel, and reverse engineer the communications equipment into something that can piggyback on the swarm’s signal.
    • If push came to shove and humanity was indeed completely screwed, the world’s nations could launch a series of shrapnel bombs into the atmosphere, shredding most if not all the satillites in orbit. This would force the Faro Plauge to operate in small independent groups. Quantum entanglement could only mitigate this, since its dependent on entangling specific quantum bits. Once half an independent group is wiped out, so would their remaining long-ranged communication.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Aloy and Erend discover that Ersa is not dead and is in fact captured by Dervahl. But they arrive too late to save her and she dies in Erend's arms.
    • The people of 2066 believed Zero Dawn to be a superweapon designed to stop the Faro Plague and willingly went all-in for Operation Enduring Victory to buy time. They were deliberately lied to by the creators and backers of Zero Dawn, who knew humanity was already doomed yet completed Zero Dawn with what turned out to be just enough time:
      General Herres: Then Enduring Victory served its purpose, after all.
      Elisabet Sobeck: Yes. If we'd had even one day less...
  • Hopeless War: What the Old Ones' war against the Swarm really was. There was literally nothing humanity could do to defeat the robot hordes since they were Nigh Invulnerable to any cyberattacks and their self-replicating abilities meant that for every robot humanity did manage to defeat, hundreds were already taking its place. All they could hope to do was ensure the world itself survived and that a new generation of humans would rise up to inhabit it.
    • To underscore the intensity of the fighting, after Aloy witnesses the activation of a derelict-yet-mobile Deathbringer, she remarks after destroying it that the ancients fought hundreds of them at once. The introductory hologram at the Zero Dawn facility shows their numbers at least 697,000, with Corruptors numbering at least 485 million. The lounge staff back in the day had to request extra soundproofing between the presentation room and the lounge area to keep down the screams and sobs from those who had yet to see the Bad News.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Aloy gains the ability to use to certain robots – horse-like Striders, bull-like Broadheads, or ram-like Chargers — as rides.
  • I Call It "Vera": Played with for humor. Nil calls his bow "The Voice of our Teeth", but then Aloy asks a follow-up question:
    Aloy: So... what's your knife called?
    Nil: Why would someone name a knife?
    Aloy: So much for small talk.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Grave-Hoard, as immediately lampshaded by Aloy.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chest: Who put all those supply crates deep in every Old World ruin the game has? Or more specifically, who stocked numerous otherwise sensibly placed storage containers with materials that the Old World wouldn't even have known, let alone needed to supply the ruin's original occupants?
  • Infinity +1 Sword:
    • Subverted by the three Hunting Lodge weapons. They are the most powerful weapons in their respective categories, and unlocking them requires beating some truly tough challenges, but their buffs aren't strong enough to give you a definitive edge in combat.
    • Played straight by the Shield Weaver armor, to the point that many players abstain from using it because it trivializes combat on all but the highest difficulties. It's so powerful that the Frozen Wilds DLC introduced assets specifically designed to disable the armor's signature shielding.
  • In the Future, Humans Will Be One Race: Averted, humans are just as diverse phenotype-wise as they are in the present. Justified in that the Zero Dawn team deliberately designed the genetic diversity of the post-apocalypse generation of humans to match that of the status quo in the 2060s. Patrick Brochard-Klein, the Alpha behind the Eleuthia program was quite insistent about this, pointing out that he wanted the embryos stored in the cradles and other containers to offer a snapshot of human society in the present day and he was absolutely clear that this wasn't genetic engineering which he points out is illegal according to Accords that had been put in place (and which he co-authored).
  • Ironic Echo: Helis's first words to Aloy as he threatens her life: "Turn your face to the sun, child." Aloy later returns the favor by saying his own words back to him before fatally impaling him.
  • Irony:
    • Aloy became an outcast of her village because she has no mother. It's revealed that she effectively has two mothers — GAIA and Elisabet Sobeck.
    • The outfits that protect Aloy from fire are always the most revealing.
  • Item Crafting: An important part of the gameplay, mostly revolving around ammunition for your ranged weapons. Running out of ammo in the middle of a fight is about the worst thing that can happen, so a large part of your resource satchel will always be filled with the stuff you need to craft Trick Arrows, sling bombs, wire traps etc. on the fly. Juggling the numerous resources required to do so is one of the challenges you'll have to manage to make headway in the game, especially on higher difficulty settings.
  • Jerkass: Many of the Nora are not very nice to Aloy because she's an outcast. Most of them become more civil when she wins the Proving, and outright respectful later on. When she leaves Nora territory she meets a large number of people who are not very nice to her because she's a "savage". Most become more civil as she progresses in quests and makes the world better.
  • Justified Tutorial: The player is trained in nearly every basic mechanic in the game while playing as a very young Aloy being taught essential survival skills by Rost.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The proctor who was in the middle of her declaration of elevating Aloy to becoming a Brave gets shot by an arrow from Eclipse Cultists.
  • King Mook: Many quests pit you against a unique Humongous Mecha variant of the normal machines you'd typically encounter in the wild. Can overlap with Degraded Boss if you fight them before ever encountering their smaller counterparts.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the side mission "Fatal Inheritance", Aloy is asked by a man, Ranaman, to clear out a group of machines that killed his entire family and won't leave the estate. It turns out that Ranaman was exiled from his family and that he lured the machines there to kill everyone, so that he could claim the land as his inheritance. Ranaman threatens his sister and Aloy with another lure after Aloy destroys the first one... and he immediately gets carried away by a Glinthawk that was attracted to the lure that he was carrying.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Sylens admonishes Aloy to finish any unfinished business before entering the Zero Dawn facility underneath Sunfall and that he doesn't want to hear any whining about such event chains being Lost Forever, is he chiding Aloy... or the player?
  • Lens Flare: Machine lights at the edge of Aloy's vision often produce this effect.
  • Let Them Die Happy: All of humanity from the days of the Old Ones died believing that Project Zero Dawn was a super-weapon that would stop the Faro Plague before it destroyed everyone and everything. It stopped the plague, but that was long after the machines ate everything.
  • Loophole Abuse: Grata can not speak to other outcasts. She can, however, pray to All-Mother, and when Aloy is around she tends to pray about the things she needs, express her gratitude to All-Mother for the things Aloy brings, and ask her to help Aloy win the Proving.
  • Lost Technology: It appears all of your enemies are made of it... if "lost" also means incomprehensible to presently-living humans.
  • Matriarchy: The Nora practice a literal case, with their rulers being Matriarchs and High Matriarchs. It appears to be a result of the Nora reverence of motherhood, with Matriarchs being grandmothers and High Matriarchs being great-grandmothers. There are leadership roles not restricted to women, such as the War-Chief and Seeker, but these roles are currently held by women anyway.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Aloy sounds like alloy (as in metal alloy), which alludes to her relationship with the Metal World, and an alloy is a compound of different elements which is fitting for a character who is a clone of a human woman birthed by an AI Computer.
    • Sylens is a mysterious dude who plays his cards very close to his chest, and has a tendency to go dark at inconvenient times. Aloy comments on how appropriate his name is. A more sinister meaning is appended in The Frozen Wilds where a Banuk remarks that silence tends to linger in the places he moves and is the fate of the people who follow him.
    • Faro's name is identical to Pharaoh, appropriately enough for a "king" who causes a devastating plague.
    • Elisabet Sobeck's first name means "divine abundance", while her surname is a homophone for Sobek, the Egyptian crocodile god of fertility, power and protection. Her environmental robotics company, Miriam Technologies, is named for the prophetess of Exodus, sister of Moses and Aaron, perfect for a visionary who guided humanity into the future.
  • Mechanical Horse: Striders, Chargers, and Broadheads
  • Mechanical Lifeforms:
    • The Machines are treated as this by the tribal humans that live alongside them. Indeed, many of them simply act like metallic animals rather than typical robots, often seen grazing or defending their territory from intruders. The ancient, still functioning factories where they are constructed are referred to as 'Cradles' (later as 'Cauldrons'), and the phenomenon that causes them to go berserk, known as 'The Derangement' is seen as something akin to a violent illness or Demonic Possession.
    • As the game goes on we discover that most of the Machines (specifically the animal-shaped ones) are part of a terraforming system once helmed by GAIA Prime and its subordinate functions to make Earth livable again after it was nearly sterilized by the malfunctioning war machines (The Corruptors, Metal Devil and so forth) created by Faro Automated Solutions. The 'Derangement' is, in fact, the rogue subordinate AI HEPHAESTUS, determining humans to be a threat to the robots and building more and more aggressive machines.
  • Mechanical Muscles: Most of the animal-shaped machines have wiring meant to serve as muscles for the machine. Even some of the non-animal machines like the Watcher.
  • Mega-Corp: The world of the Old Ones is implied to have had several of these:
    • Lists such as the "Fortune 5" are mentioned, and those who own such companies became trillionaires..
    • One such company, Faro Automated Solutions (FAS), was responsible for instigating armed conflict for the sake of creating markets and consequently paving the way for the apocalypse.
    • Corporations were recognized as "people" to the extent that they could run for political office-by-proxy, in turn making it easier for future legislation to blur the line between a business and a country.
    • Increased business led to the various advertising methods seen in several of the datapoints, coupled with augmented reality, and corporate names began appearing everywhere.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Rost is killed right after the Proving.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Averted; the game doesn't give you any. For the most part this isn't a big issue, as any strong attacks will send Aloy flying away, usually preventing an immediate follow-up attack. However, if you're foolish enough to take on several strong machines at close-quarters, be prepared to be stun-locked and beaten to death in short order.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: In two versions.
    • A few machines have more powerful variants that begin to show up as you progress through the story and enter more dangerous areas of the world. Examples include Redeye Watchers instead of regular Watchers, or Sawtooths graduating to Ravagers.
    • All machines start out with only partial armor plating, but if you kill too many of any given type, the Cauldrons roll out upgraded versions that have the same stats but significantly improved armor coverage, making even Goombas like the Watcher a challenge to One-Hit Kill at range. Note that your kill statistics carry over into New Game+, so you're likely to encounter the up-armored variants immediately.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The prologue cutscene shows us Aloy as a baby; the first playable segment of the game is of her as a child before a Time Skip to about age eighteen.
  • Money for Nothing: Averted for most of the game. Unlike most contemporary Action RPGs, quests in HZD almost never reward equipment. Better weapons and armor can only be acquired by purchasing them from merchants, and that stuff is expensive. You will eventually reach a point where you own everything you need and shards just keep piling up in Aloy's Hammerspace, but many hours will pass before that happens, and any accumulated cash reserves can still be tremendously useful to those who start a New Game+ on Ultra Hard where items are five times as expensive.
  • Mook Chivalry: No matter how many enemies you managed to aggro at once, only one of them will ever attack you at any given time. One of the challenges of Ultra Hard difficulty is that it disables this courteous behavior.
  • More Dakka: Ensues whenever Deathbringer Guns or Ravager Cannons contribute to a battle, both of which are heavy machine guns of various make (the former is a normal ballistic weapon, the latter fires blue energy bolts). The Rattler is a more low-key example, being a crossbow of sorts that rapid-fires metal bolts in bursts of five.
  • Motivational Lie: Operation Enduring Victory was this on a global scale. The human race was effectively doomed the moment the Faro swarm went rogue. But the military leadership deliberately leaked rumors that Project Zero Dawn was a superweapon that would shut the machines down and save the world, in order to motivate millions of soldiers and volunteers to sacrifice themselves in a Hopeless War to delay the swarm long enough for Zero Dawn to be completed before the extinction came.
  • Mundane Utility: Like all armor bonuses, stealth armors are primarily meant to aid in combat, but they also prove extremely helpful in exploring the world. A maxed-out stealth armor cuts enemy detection ranges down to 25%, allowing you to get within a few meters of most machines without triggering a detection circle even if they're staring right at you. If you just want to get from A to B undisturbed, stealth armor is the outfit of choice.
  • Near-Villain Victory: In the end, the final battle with HADES' Deathbringer takes ten minutes at a maximum. Any longer, and it would have succeeded in destroying the biosphere once more.
  • New Eden: The ruins of human civilization have been reclaimed by luscious plant life. Considering the entire world was destroyed and "reborn" as a whole new Earth, probably an intentional parallel.
  • New Game+: Added in patch 1.30. One can replay the game with all the upgrades and skills except for the Override tree that unlocks only after the Proving very early in the game. This includes the Shield Weaver Armor, the Tearblast arrows and other devices that on a normal playthrough is acquirable late in the game. In addition one can find Adept weapons and outfits which have extra modification slots. The catch is that difficulty level is locked unlike the normal method where the difficulty can be toggled back and forth in difficult areas.
  • Nightmarish Factory: Cauldrons are run by machines for the purpose of making more machines to keep the biosphere running. Since they were never meant to have humans in them, they have no reason to appeal to their sense of aesthetics. Inside, the entire complex appears to be what would happen if the Nostromo collided with the weapons factories from Terminator Salvation. To the humans of the era, they must look downright eldritch.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Arrows generally fly straight and true without the need to account for projectile drop.
  • No Blood for Phlebotinum: In the last days of the Old Ones, coffee has become a rare and heavily conflicted resource due to global warfare and environmental damage. Coffee companies and coffee-growing nations actually purchased war machines from Faro Automated Solutions specifically to fight each other. Part of Travis Tate's willingness to participate in Project Zero Dawn was hope that it had coffee stockpiles.
    Travis: Hey — don't supposed you got real coffee in this place? You know — blood coffee? Conflict cappuccinos?
  • No Flow in CGI: Averted, everyone's hair and clothing move in a fairly realistic fashion. Heck, sometimes Aloy's braids move around too much. Though the large loop bracelets that the Nora matriarchs wear and the heavy draping sleeves the Carja priests favour remain stiff and perpendicular to the wrist, even when their hands are raised, and when Aloy lowers her head her hair doesn't fall down along the sides of her face.
  • No-Gear Level: When Aloy gets captured by Helis at Sunfall, she starts out fighting a Behemoth without her gear and needs to find a way to get a hold of her weapons before she can even think of facing it.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Justified in the Cauldrons, as they were built as completely autonomous factories that were never intended to have humans inside them.
  • Notice This:
    • Justified, the device Aloy found as a child provides her with an Augmented Reality interface and scanner.
    • Climbable edges are painted either yellow or orange if they're artificial, or off-white if they're natural. They can still be surprisingly hard to spot at times, especially the latter.
  • Nuke 'em: One of the strategies the Old Ones tried in their attempt to stop the encroaching Faro Plague, but they quickly stopped it again, partly because of the morale and environmental impact it was having, but mostly because it didn't have an effect on the enemy. You know things are bad when nuclear carpet bombing does diddly-squat to your targets. Some of the present-day documents Aloy can find imply that the nuclear detonations' legacy still scars the land in regions like the Forbidden West.
  • Odd Name Out: Of all the AIs the make up Project Zero Dawn, Minerva stands out as the only one named after a Roman deity, unlike the others who are named after the gods of Greek mythology. Its project leader was also the only military leader in the group and it had the most military function of any of them, and Minerva's Greek counterpart Athena was the goddess of wisdom and war — which would have gone great with the theme. According to writer Ben McCaw, this was merely due to them liking the Roman version better.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Several! Most of Operation: Enduring Victory. Faced with a self-replicating, virtually unstoppable swarm of machines that consume biomass, there is very little hope for humanity. Instead, to buy enough time for Project Zero Dawn, every human being alive performed a Heroic Sacrifice to delay the machines for over a year. Most of them had no combat training whatsoever — the military just handed them guns and shipped them to the front. And they fought until they died anyway. Many other civilizations would have fallen in a fraction of that time.
    • There's also a significant chunk of Sun-King Avad's recent backstory. Fleeing his mad royal father and escaping with a foreign slave to her lands, gathering support there and among his own people, returning with an army and taking the holy city and being forced to kill Jiran.
    • When you think about it, the survival of the earliest humans released from ELEUTHIA facilities. No doubt countless numbers died, but it's an astonishing feat of collective intelligence, experimentation, and drive that hundreds or thousands of teenagers with a kindergarten-level education clawed their way into what became several new civilizations.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Mere minutes before Aloy finds out that Ted Faro deleted all of the old humanity's knowledge and killed all the alphas, she can find several recordings of a crazed Faro. One has him saying that the knowledge of APOLLO is poison, and another has him saying he's found a "solution" to make it all better. Aloy says aloud "I don't like where this is headed" after hearing the second one.
    • There's no shortage of people who try to double-cross Aloy, lure her into ambushes or otherwise underestimate her badassery. Most of them lose it when their attempts inevitably fail and Aloy comes gunning for them.
  • One-Woman Wail: The game's main theme several other pieces from the soundtrack, and even the map screen.
  • Operation: [Blank]: The "Zero Dawn" Project, which was supported by Operation: Enduring Victory. The latter consisted of countless separate engagements, each with its own name that followed the same pattern.
  • Overheating: Dealing fire damage to Corruptors and Deathbringers triggers an unique status ailment called "Overheat". A temperature gauge with thermometer icon appears above their heads and gradually fills with red color as the heat level builds up, forcing the Corruptor or Deathbringer to temporarily shut down and expose a number of hidden vulnerable heat sinks while cooling down once completely filled, granting a large damage multiplier when hit. This is, by far, the most efficient method of rapidly depleting their health bar or even killing them, especially on higher difficulty settings.
  • Oxygen Meter: Aloy has a fairly standard green meter for when she is stealth-swimming; and can safely hold her breath for up to about thirty seconds at a time. If she is still underwater afterward, she loses health rapidly until she either surfaces or drowns.
  • Percussive Shutdown: A sidequest ends with Aloy finding a lure that a merchant had brought into a city, causing Glinthawks to attack. When the merchant stammers that he doesn't know how to shut it off, Aloy gives him a contemptuous look before stabbing it with her spear.
  • Point of No Return: Invoked twice:
    • Sylens indicates this to Aloy before she goes underneath the Sun-Ring. After this mission, Aloy can no longer approach Sunfall without wearing a specific outfit, and the Nora's Sacred Lands are devastated by the Eclipse's attack.
    • The final Point of No Return is before "A Looming Shadow", in which the game itself will warn you that starting the mission begins the endgame, locking out all sidequests.
  • Post-Apunkalyptic Armor: Bandits will attach bones, machine parts, et cetera to themselves in this manner. Although it's been nearly a full thousand years since the apocalypse.
  • Powered Armor: The Old Ones had this by the time of their demise, although whether it acted as just environmental/self-contained protection or also offered augmentative ability is unknown. During the ending voice-over, Aloy finds Elisabet Sobeck's body still in her suit at the latter's home ranch.
  • Powerful, but Inaccurate:
    • All heavy weapons deal massive damage but have piss-poor accuracy. It's not uncommon for Eclipse Heavies to unload dozens of shots at Aloy with their Firespitters without hitting her even once, and the other big guns are only marginally better.
    • The Double and Triple Shot abilities trade accuracy for damage. A fully charged Triple Shot to a vulnerable component deals horrendous damage to just about anything, but you'll need to be pretty close to the target for all three arrows to connect.
  • Practical Currency: The main currency that merchants will buy and sell things for is metal shards, which are also one of the primary ingredients for item crafting.
  • Purple Is Powerful:
    • The best equipment in the game is colored purple in the menus.
    • The Frozen Wilds introduced a new machine tier that's even more powerful than "corrupted": "daemonic". These monsters are easily recognizable by their purple highlights both on their models and in the Focus.
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: Ted Faro's deletion of APOLLO and murder of the Zero Dawn Alphas was in all likelihood committed to keep from the world the fact that the apocalypse was his fault. However, the surviving recordings in all the bunkers still hold enough information for people to put together that he's the cause of the end of the world.
  • Ragnarök Proofing:
    • Zigzagged. After nearly a thousand years the ruins of human civilization look the part, though functional technology still exists in the form of machines that resemble animals. Turns out the machines themselves are fairly new — one individual Thunderjaw being operational for several years makes it venerable — and more are being made all the time... by facilities that are Ragnarok Proofed, though not all are untouched by elements or human interference. Then again the Frozen Wilds has a Cauldron that was constructed within the past five years of the main events, so these facilities are likely actively being maintained.
    • The Focus devices work remarkably well for nearly millennium-old electronics, and also apparently never need to be charged or otherwise maintained. A possibility is that it could employ a minuscule version of how the "Peacekeepers" use biomatter as fuel, as they are made by the same company.
    • Vantage Spikes - recording devices that offer Aloy a glimpse into the distant past at Vantage Points - have a stated lifetime of 50,000 years. Seeing how most contemporary electronics can consider themselves lucky if they survive five years without defects, this is beyond impressive, even more so in a hypercapitalist society like the Old Ones' where the industry would prefer devices with short lifespans because technical longevity directly translates into lower sales numbers.
    • All of the GAIA systems were specifically designed to withstand the centuries, as they had be able to operate autonomously long after humanity was gone.
    • Most of the Faro Plague's Scarab and Khopesh units are still fully functional after almost a thousand years of hibernation. Some are damaged, like the immobilized first Khopesh Aloy fights, and the Scarabs have developed a weakness to fire, but those are pretty minor defects after a millenium of being buried deep in the earth. Their weapons still work well enough every time you face them. Makes you wonder how little it would probably take to reawaken the dormant but intact Horus Titans if someone put their mind to it...
  • Random Drop:
    • While every machine type has a list of common resources it's guaranteed to drop, the color-coded uncommon, rare and very rare items only drop at random. Skills can be unlocked to increase the drop rate of uncommon (bones, lenses) and rare resources (skins, hearts) gained from killing animals and machines, respectively.
    • Coils and Weaves have a second layer of randomness. Not only do they drop randomly, their stats are also randomized within a specific range that depends on their rarity. They can also have up to two additional properties (called secondary and tertiary) that are, you guessed it, chosen from a semi-random pool that includes "nothing" as well.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • After being told that outcast children effectively never complete the Proving and rejoin the tribe by becoming braves, Aloy takes the opportunity to make some barbed comments about how the Nora treat outcasts. Teersa replies that it's more a testament to how few children are made outcast in the first place, with the only one she can remember aside from Aloy herself being a thirteen year old boy who killed his own mother. Aloy admits someone like that probably wouldn't have lived long enough to compete in the Proving.
    • There's only so much an AI can do when it comes to teaching and raising children. Granted, raising intelligent humans was harder thanks to the loss of Apollo, but there were other factors and things the A.I. cannot substitute that a human can do.
    • If you shun any technological progress while the rest of the world doesn't, and refuse to even keep tabs on what's happening beyond your borders by outlawing any contact with the outside world, you will get your ass kicked eventually when someone decides to invade your territory. The Nora learn this the hard way. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have learned a lesson from this by the end of the game, if their dialogue is anything to go by.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Bandits and the Eclipse in a nutshell.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Practically everything Teersa says holds special weight. Actually, the entire Nora mythology in general will take on a different significance on the second go-around.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Another major theme of the game, particularly the interaction between the environment and old/new human technology.
  • Reclaimed by Nature: The game has quite a bit of it, along with a bit of Ragnarök Proofing for a select few bunkers, although the natural environment is still contrasted with the eerily organic looking machines who now dominate the Earth.
  • Recorded Spliced Conversation: Some audio logs are from a soldier who kept audio correspondence with his wife. The last two of those are an original message, and the military's obviously-spliced version (his original message was a lot less hopeful), and the wife calling his number, pointing out he doesn't sound like himself and she's getting the runaround when she tries to find out anything about him.
  • Scavenged Punk: The clothes and things that people use are made from parts that are taken from the machines and scavenged from the ruins then cobbled together with primitive materials.
  • Scenery Porn: The ruins of civilization have never looked this green and pretty since The Last of Us, and since this game is set even further After the End that's quite the accomplishment.
  • Schizo Tech: Hoo, boy. "Schizo" barely covers the Technology Levels. Most of the world is stuck at "tanning" like the Nora, with the Carja head-and-shoulders above them... at "stonecutting." Despite that, all the biodiesel-powered robot animals running around for people to hunt makes gasoline (Steampunk!) and smelted metal readily available, along with 20th century tech like elemental weapons and precision explosivesand the Eclipse tool around with recovered 21st-century fully automatic weapons. Some people have actually managed to salvage 21st century Augmented Reality interfaces, and Sylens is basically The Cracker.
    • The Nora themselves, and Aloy in particular, display this in their bows, which are advanced recurve and even compound bow designs that any contemporary competition archer would be proud of. Compound bows were only invented in 1966, providing a particularly harsh contrast to the rest of Nora technology.
    • The Shield Weaver outfit consists of an array of ultra-advanced personal Deflector Shield emitters that was cutting-edge technology even to the Old Ones, stitched on a traditional Nora garb made from tanned leather, feathers and beads.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • By the end of the game, GAIA is still offline and yet to be rebuilt, HADES is still active as Sylens' prisoner, and it is emphasized that a mysterious third party was responsible for prematurely activating HADES in the first place, much less empowering it enough to make GAIA desperate.
    • Most of the other GAIA AI subordinate programs are unaccounted for as well, including ARTEMIS (the sub-function responsible for the world's fauna) and POSEIDON (marine life).
    • Somehow, the Stormbirds have learned about a new threat, one that involves "the Metal World, but not the one before". The oracle who drank their blood prophesized Meridian on fire and Aloy dead, classic apocalypse stuff.
  • Ship Tease: A few men and women hit on Aloy throughout the course of the game, which either goes unacknowledged or is met with blunt rejection. Varl and Vanasha are maybe the only ones she seems to return some feelings towards, but it's complicated by her not really knowing how to act on them, as well as by Varl's limited and superstitious worldview clashing with her knowledge of the truth and discomfort with the level of reverence he and, to a much greater extent, the rest of the Nora develop for her later in the game.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: The Tearblaster. It's a sonic shotgun; think of it as a five-round Fus Ro Dah that will blow the armor and components off a machine at close and even medium range, possibly stunning the machine as well. Not only is it more effective and more precise with close-range precision shots than the tearblast arrows from a sharpshooter bow, but each set of Tearblaster rounds only costs one Metal Vessel and one Echo Shell!
    • For dealing sub-par cluster damage in a random, short-range cone, there is the Rattler. It is essentially a bundle of crossbows firing small salvos of metal bolts with each trigger-pull, with pathetic range and accuracy. It is near-useless against small or human targets at even point blank range (where spear-hits would do the job better). However, when firing at medium-to-larger machines means every shot hits, and those shots are augmented by damage modifications and/or the Freeze effect, it behaves more like a primitive auto-shotgun. Considering that one of its ammo types includes the Freeze effect, Even the mighty Thunderjaw becomes short work for the bold and sufficiently-prepared.
    • The Double Arrow and Triple Arrow skills also fall in this category, sort of. They severely reduce your accuracy, but if you can get close enough for all arrows to connect, the damage output is massive.
  • Shout-Out:
    • During Horizon's development, Aloy's name was originally spelled "Eloi", referring to the society in H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, one of the game's influences.
    • Aloy's name blessing ceremony, culminating with Rost holding her out towards the rising sun is highly evocative of the opening of The Lion King.
    • Three of the ancient items one can find (The Stranded Figure, The Stranded Shackles, and The Stranded Necklace) are from an upcoming Kojima Productions game called Death Stranding, which happens to be using an engine created by Guerilla Games. Collect all 3, and you can trade them in to a particular merchant for a lot of boxes and a pair of warm socks. The items in the trade menu even bear the Kojima Productions logo. Proof.
    • The "Archive Abuse" datapoint is an email from Dr. Samina Ebadji rejecting the addition of Torture Porn films to the archives including several Eastern European torture flicks and sixteen installments of a series called Making a Millipede, a nod to the infamous The Human Centipede films.
    • GAIA's human hologram form bears a resemblance to Captain Planet's Gaia.
    • Ted Faro's "I did it three minutes ago" line, regarding the deletion of the Apollo archive is highly reminiscent of the iconic line from Watchmen. As is opening the room to let cold depressurized air in to kill underlings.
    • This shot from Aloy's Dream Sequence while she's injured after the Proving is a recreation of this one from Aliens.
    • The design of the AI Cores specifically HADES which is a giant ball looks like the cores did in Portal 2 albeit much larger.
    • When Aloy recovers her weapons while in the Sunring she breifly puts her arms out to the side doing the same pose Maximus does in the "are you not entertained?" scene in Gladiator.
  • Shows Damage: Most machines, especially the larger, more robust models, clearly show whatever damage you inflict on them. Armor plating, weapons and support components can be removed, internal tanks blown up, motive systems rendered inoperable. Heavily damaged machines start spitting sparks from joints and unprotected parts as if they're bleeding, and some even adopt the behavior of a wounded animal. Sawtooths for instance start limping and holding one front paw close to their chest when near death. This mechanism becomes particularly important on Ultra Hard difficulty due to enemy health bars being disabled, leaving visual signs of damage the only way to judge a hostile machine's condition.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: The Tearblaster has only one firing mode and can't be upgraded at all, but a single hit is all it takes to tear off most machines' armor plating and external components. Its ammo is cheap to craft, and its spread and respectable range mean that a quick salvo at the start of a battle makes the rest of it much more manageable regardless of difficulty.
  • Sliding Scale of Gameplay and Story Integration: Deliberate, approaching Perfect; every gameplay element that isn't 100% natural is provided by Aloy's Focus tool, which provides an ultra-tech Augmented Reality interface. When she's provided with her first bow and arrow, it actually recognizes it and helps her learn how to use it!
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Very idealistic, all things considered. Both the old and the current world were/are far from ideal, and the game can get incredibly dark at times, but there's always a ray of light that refuses to be snuffed out. In the distant past, the whole of humanity could've just lain down and surrendered in the face of the Faro Plague, but the Zero Dawn Project gave them hope and inspired them to fight back, against the extinction of all life. Sure, there was no shortage of sceptics, but the ones with the means to make it happen believed in it and gave everything they could to ensure life would continue no matter the odds or the sacrifices they had to make. In the current age, for every asshole Aloy meets there're ten good people trying to make the world a better place. If she decides to help them, it works out marvelously most of the time, and in the end she unites almost her entire world against a common foe with basically just the force of her personality (her One-Woman Army status certainly doesn't hurt, of course), thus laying the groundwork to usher in a new era of peace and progress.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence:
    • The Old Ones had advanced to the point of standardizing and legislating it, under the name of the "Turing scale", though there's not much information on what the points on the scale actually are, just that it involves several subtests. They encountered an interesting problem with developing artificial intelligence: the closer to human the intelligence is, the harder it is to predict, because it starts encountering all those messy human emotions on its way up the scale. Like fear. ELEUTHIA Cradle servitors are at Turing 0.4, noted as being enough for "low-grade empathy and limited improvisation without undermining adherence to codified behavior sets". Turing 0.6 is the legal limit but even scores in the 0.5 range are high enough that continued monitoring is 'strongly advised', and the known record was Turing 1.38. When Elisabet launched GAIA, she was at 0.6 and spun up from there, somewhere past the record.
    • In The Frozen Wilds CYAN's creators knew that despite this element of unpredictability she'd have to be more complex than was legal to perform her function, and so in mandatory testing some scores were falsified so she appeared to be Turing 0.54, with an earlier test putting her at Turing 0.61 ruled as a false positive.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Lorund, an Oseram tribesman, and Smiling Rainin, a Carja tribesman, are constantly bickering partners in a scrap business. Their constant bickering is framed by this trope. The pair could be viewed as a microcosm of Carja/Oseram relations at large.
  • Socketed Equipment: Usually, outfits will have sockets available for protective weaves to be inserted into for extra protection against a chosen damage type. This, plus the fact that some modifications have multiple bonuses that overlap with the armor itself, means its possible to become immune (or near-immune, on higher difficulties) to a specific element or type of attack. Note that most machines will have a multiple types of attack, such that even if you're immune to a Bellowback's jets of flame, a flaming boulder from a Fireclaw will still hurt a lot. Some types, like melee and missile damage, can be maxed out at only 80%, so some damage is still inevitable.
  • Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: Most of the different types of machine have distinct-sounding footsteps, allowing the experienced player to tell if (for example) a Watcher, a Sawtooth or a Tallneck is nearby without even checking the Focus.
  • Spanner in the Works: Multiple.
    • Ted Faro deleted APOLLO, the program meant to give the new generation of humanity all the knowledge of the Old Ones. While he claims this was to preserve their innocence, at least part of it was to hide his own culpability for what happened. Sylens blames him for every crime that has happened since, such as the massacres at the Sun Ring. In a (slightly) more immediate way, the childcare robots raising the new generation had no idea what to do without APOLLO, and just kept the children inside the Cradle facilities until they ran out of food. The first generation were therefore unleashed onto a wild world with nothing more than kindergarten education.
    • Nineteen years ago, an outside signal caused HADES to activate unnecessarily, which would have resulted in the extinction of all life on Earth as he un-terraformed the planet. GAIA destroyed herself to stop this, but not before setting Aloy's birth in motion so that she would be able to restart GAIA eventually.
    • And then that plan got derailed when HADES unleashed a virus that broke his shackles, as well as those of all the other subroutines, and they escaped GAIA's control. One of the side effects was that the Alpha Registry at Mother's Heart was corrupted, meaning the door would not recognize Aloy. GAIA admits her plan has failed, but she trusts Aloy will find a way regardless.
    • And then Aloy's propensities and very existence in turn became one for the machinations of HADES and Eclipse. Repeatedly, she disrupts and thwarts their plans through simply trying to find out the true nature of her conception and birth, because the two are closely related and opposed.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Bandit forts and outfits are very spiky affairs. Eclipse officers are a subdued example due to their collars, which are fashioned from countless bullets and/or casings of various calibers.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers:
    • Avad, the Carja Sun-King Avad, and Ersa, a freed slave and Oseram warrior. They can't be together because their respective people are still hostile to each other even after the Red Raids, and such a marriage would cause an uprising in Meridian and possibly renewing another war.
    • One of the sidequests involve tracking down a noble Carja girl that apparently ran away from home, only to find out she's been having a secret romance with a Shadow Carja soldier. Neither of them can tell anybody about their relationship for obvious reasons. And naturally it doesn't end well.
  • Sticky Bomb: The Blast Sling and its upgraded variants all can fire sticky bombs that detonate 5 seconds after hitting something. They're the most powerful single-shot weapon in the game, but you can only carry a few shots for them (base 3, upgraded ultimately to 12) and they fire really slowly. The best thing about them is that they don't alert enemies to you until they start exploding, so you can stick several of them onto a target and switch to a different weapon to finish off the now heavily-injured foe. Also, they're really effective against Helis, who normally tries to block projectiles with his bracers.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: With the reveal that the Nora's supposed "goddess" GAIA created Aloy to save humanity from HADES, the Nora Tribe are quick to bow to Aloy as "All-Mother's Anointed One". Having been treated as nothing but a curse by them her entire life, this only makes Aloy angry, seeing this as nothing but the unwelcomed opposite extreme that it was, shames them for it and demands that they stop bowing to her.
  • Subsystem Damage: The defining part of combat is the ability to dismantle hostile machines piece by piece. Most machines have external weapons or support components that can be shot off to various effects in addition to dealing high damage. Removing a weapon makes the machine unable to use it anymore while sometimes Aloy can pick it up to turn it on its former owner. Destroying power cells, fuel canisters or cooling systems triggers huge elemental explosions and often puts the machine in an elemental state like shocked, burning or frozen. A few components like processor units or heat sinks simply inflict massive damage upon their destruction. The effectiveness of this tactic varies from machine to machine, and high-grade models often protect their vulnerable components with armor plating that must be removed before the part itself can be damaged, but there's no doubt that targeting subsystems is always the most efficient way to take down a robotic enemy.
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Most machine types are ridiculously heavily armed for the function they were originally built for. To elaborate, all but the few Combat-class machines are terraforming devices - Stormbirds clean up Earth's ravaged atmosphere, Snapmaws do the same to the water, Acquisition-class machines like Grazers, Striders, Chargers, Behemoths and Tramplers collect resources to keep the terraforming network running, and so on. Yet almost all of them carry weapons of varying sophistication that often have little obvious use as terraforming tools, and it's always been like this even before the Derangement, which merely made the machines act more aggressively but didn't change their designs.
  • Suspicious Videogame Generosity: When you're exploring a linear level like a Cauldron and come across a congregation of medicinal plants and/or supply crates near the door to the next area, stock up on everything you can, proceed stealthily and prepare for a fight.
  • Take a Third Option: Implied to be how Aloy wound up being raised as an outcast by Rost. After the unusual circumstances of her birth, High Matriarch Lansra wanted her cast out, essentially a death sentence for an infant. Teersa saw her as a gift from All-Mother and wanted her raised by the tribe. The compromise looks to have been to have Aloy raised by the honorable outcast Rost, meaning she would be raised by a good man, but outside of the tribe.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: At the end of the sidequest "Sun and Shadow" Aloy has to break bad news to a teenaged girl suspected of suicidal tendencies, then stop her and talk her into seeing that life is Worth Living For.
  • Tank Goodness: The Old Ones had some very spiffy tanks in their armories, with an oversized turret that carried two enormous BFGs. Aloy occasionally comes across their crumbling wrecks near ancient military outposts, but since these weren't part of the Faro Plague, we never get to see them in action.
  • The Stinger: HADES attempts to find another Metal Devil to inhabit, but gets intercepted by Sylens. Sylens then wonders who initiated the signal that awakened HADES in the first place, and says he intends to interrogate HADES to find out the answer, as he makes his way towards a Metal Devil.
  • This Is My Boomstick: During the attack on the Proving, one of the Cultists kills Vala and Bast with a heavy machine gun, demonstrating to the new Braves (and the player) that modern weaponry still exists in the Future Primitive world.
  • Timed Boss Battle: The final battle against HADES' Deathbringer gives you 12 minutes to destroy it before HADES reawakens the dormant Faro Swarm and wipes out all life on Earth again.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ted Faro basically fills out every checkbox required to start a Robot Apocalypse. Build armies of heavily weaponized autonomous robots? Check. Give them the ability to replicate themselves? Check. Allow them to convert biomass into fuel and manufacturing materials, giving them essentially infinite operation time? Check. Give them "beyond military-grade" operating systems with no backdoors so there's no way to shut down or override them if they malfunction? Double check.
  • Trick Arrow: The base game alone has no fewer than nine different arrow types spread out across three bow classes. Some just deal more physical damage while others cover the whole elemental range, make enemies go berserk for a short time, yield more resources from kills, or are particularly effective at blasting off components and armor segments. In short, there's a special arrow for pretty much any situation, and you will make use of them all at one point or another.
  • Trip Trap: Tripcaster weapons are used to deploy these. They're particularly useful against the powerful robotic Thunder Maws. You can even upgrade the tripwire so that it will explode and cause fire damage to your prey.
  • Turbine Blender: In "Maker's End", one of the text datapoints discusses the Banda Sea Incident and describes the process by which the Faro Plague converted organic matter, i.e. living beings (animals, plants, humans) into biofuel:
    Apparently a fisherman in the Banda Sea captured video of a Hartz-Timor Horus unit refueling via biomatter conversion along the shoreline of Pulau Wetar. On a pod of endangered dolphins, no less, quite possibly the last of their kind. Not to get graphic, but it looks like what happens inside a blender, as if the robot was whipping up a big pink swirling milkshake of dolphin chum.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: Cauldrons generally adhere to the same formula of exploring a fully automated assembly line populated with various machines, culminating in a miniboss battle against a specific machine with some backup that ends in an unimpeded exit for Aloy. This makes it quite surprising when Cauldron XI turns out to be a heavily damaged shell of its former self that's crawling with human Eclipse troops. When Aloy gets to the core, overriding it triggers a Hold the Line sequence against an onslaught of more Eclipse baddies that devolves into a Mêlée à Trois when a host of angry machines joins the party. The final part then consists of fighting her way back to the surface through a gauntlet of Stalkers and a few terrified Eclipse fighters trying their best to hide from the stealthed hunters, and once Aloy makes it out of the Cauldron, another large-scale battle between Eclipse and machines raging at the front door.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Despite machines being always hostile to humans for the past nineteen years, anyway hardly anyone makes any comment on Aloy's ability to ride around on Striders and Broadheads. There are a few unnamed NPCs who'll react with shock and surprise at the sight, but it barely comes up in real dialogue. Some characters call her "machine rider" without any indication that this is amazing. Dervahl even claims he's not going to be impressed unless she can make one serve him breakfast.
  • Uterine Replicator: The first generation of the existing humanity were all bred in so-called "Ectogenic Chambers". Aloy was born from such a machine as well.
  • Vendor Trash: Most valuable items are required at least once to trade for weapons or outfits, but some only exist to be sold for shards. These are usually decorative relics of the Old Ones that serve no practical purpose anymore, like polished coins, ancient jewelry or artificial heart implants.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Downplayed, but the first thing Scottish ecologist Tom Paech did upon learning the truth about the Faro Plague and Project Zero Dawn was scream for Ted Faro's head and start a scuffle, forcing local security forces to restrain him. Apart from this incident he seems to have been a mildly abrasive but decent guy, though.
  • War Is Hell: Not shown up front for most of the game, but in the time of the Old Ones with Operation Enduring Victory, and in The War Sequence at the end of the game, the full power of an army of Mecha-Mooks is shown, to terrifying effect.
  • The War Sequence: In the final mission, Aloy and her allies have to hold off a ton of almost every single type of combat machine (barring Rockbreakers and Thunderjaws) as HADES tries to break through Meridian to get to the Spire. To aid in the defense, they make use of Petra's BFGs from Free Heap.
  • Warfare Regression: Amongst the Ruins of the Modern Age, humans now fight mainly with spears and arrows, made from or modified with machine scrap to allow for things such as compound bows, auto-loading crossbows, and tripwire and snare launchers to allow them to survive against the machines. All of humanity's technological knowledge up to 2066 was lost due to Ted Faro's deletion of the APOLLO archives, and so the humanity that came after did not possess the know-how to make technology more advanced than said spears and arrows, leaving them at a hunter-gatherer level. The Nora in particular seem to have an intense aversion to (and fear of) entering the ruins of the Old Ones, which they consider to be cursed by All-Mother.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Data points, audio logs, and other bits of information picked up throughout the game show that Elisabet Sobeck and Ted Faro used to be friends before they had a falling out over their opposing philosophies. After Ted's company left the environmentalism business and went into military contracting, and Elisabet split to continue working on her calling, he hit her with a dozen lawsuits, but he respected Elisabet and was willing to swallow a lot of pride to call her for help when the glitch in his Chariot robots was worse than expected, and it's clear her death did not help his Sanity Slippage either.
  • Wham Episode: "The Mountain That Fell". You've already been through a few Wham Episodes by this point, but this quest takes the gold; While searching the ruins of the GAIA Prime facility for the Master Override that will allow her to shut down HADES, Aloy learns that Elisabet Sobeck sacrificed herself to repair a malfunctioning seal from the outside and save the Zero Dawn Alphas' lives from an approaching swarm of machines. But without Sobeck to rein him in, Ted Faro convinced himself that humans would repeat the mistakes that led them to extinction in the first place if they were given the "poison" of knowledge. So he deleted APOLLO, the AI that contained the entire sum of human knowledge, thus dooming humanity to a new Dark Age, then killed all of the Alphas so they couldn't try to undo it. The Future Primitive setting the game takes place in? It's because none of the humans born in the Cradle facilities received any education beyond Kindergarten. And it's all Faro's fault, all because he didn't want future generations to know it his fault the world was destroyed in the first place.
  • Wham Line: In the conclusion of the game, it's revealed that Sylens' Lance is not in fact intended to delete HADES, but return it to his control. Sylens said that he would do it all again with more safeguards. He's off to a good start, having come to a brilliant realization — HADES was prematurely activated. It did not try to destroy all life out of turn purely of its own volition;
    Sylens: Hello, old friend. Remember me? We've still so much to discuss, so much you never revealed. Your Masters, for example. The ones who sent the signal that woke you. Knowledge has its rewards, don't you think? Well... let's begin.
  • Wham Shot: The last scene of the game shows Sylens planning to interrogate a captured HADES as they are seen approaching the wreck of a HORUS-class titan.
  • Wilhelm Scream: If a player has the skill where jumping while aiming at something slows everything down, then shooting wildlife while the aimed slowdown happens will yield a slightly warped version of a Wilhelm scream. Proof.
  • Word Salad Title: "Horizon Zero Dawn" is admittedly an odd jumble of words that don't make any sense without context. It makes much more sense as you learn more about Project Zero Dawn and how it shaped the world after it came to an end. Project Zero Dawn as a title itself makes more sense when you learn about Zero Day — the day when no life remains on Earth.
  • Wreaking Havok: A great many world objects can be destroyed through the application of sufficient force. Aloy's prehistoric weaponry is incapable of doing thisnote , but large machines frequently leave a trail of destruction in their wake when they get involved in a battle. You think a dense forest or some huge boulders will keep you safe from that rampaging Thunderjaw on your heels? Think again while you watch the monster smash through almost any obstacle like a T.rex-shaped battering ram. One main story quest actually requires you to exploit this.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: Experienced huntress Aloy must spend a skill point to learn how to whistle so she can lure enemies to her location.

    Tropes specific to The Frozen Wilds 

  • Abdicate the Throne: Aloy gives up her title of chieftain and returns it to Aratak at the end, as she never had any desire to lead the werak. She only earned it so that she could overturn Aratak's laws and go to Thunder's Drum to find the cause of the machines' Daemonic possesion.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Aloy finds several datapoints left by a pair of dam workers recording their last day on the job before being replaced by Faro robots. They decide to use the dam's incredible acoustics to play some music on electric guitars, calling themselves "Concrete Beach Party" after an incident where they brought towels and a beach ball to hang out on the spillway.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: To help with the increased difficulty of the expansion area, the new medicinal plants in The Cut fill a larger portion of your medicine pouch than the regular plants in the main game area.
  • Artificial Meat: An old article mentions an old ranching family switching over to more industrialized meat-growing operations as raising cattle gets increasingly expensive.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Leadership in Banuk society is reserved for the most accomplished hunters, and Aratak is definitely the Cut's most formidable warrior. Aloy herself becomes the werak's new chieftain after she defeats Aratak in a challenge for the position.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The three elemental weapons you can acquire. While they can do a lot of damage and apply elemental effects quickly, especially when you get them upgraded, they chew through ammo fast, and the ammo in particular is very expensive to craft. The upgraded Stormslinger also hurts Aloy for increasing amounts with each successive shot: its "magazine" contains more than enough shots to kill the user if shots aren't timed far enough apart for the charge to die down.
    • Repairing overridden machines sounds cool in theory but is pretty much useless in practice. Overriding a machine that's part of a herd usually results in that machine attacking its herd and being destroyed, so there's nothing left to repair. Even if it does survive, you can't order it to follow you around, so all you get is a machine in mint condition that despawns the moment you leave the general area. Repairing a mount is rarely necessary because most players will unlock the "Call Mount" skill sooner or later, so even if you lose your mount you can immediately call a new one. Last but not least, repairing machines is expensive. Restoring a heavy machine like a Thunderjaw from near death can cost you hundreds, if not thousands of shards for little to no gain.
    • Overriding HEPHAESTUS' control towers stuns every hostile machine in the area for a few seconds and... that's about it. Blowing it up from a distance is much easier to do than sneaking up to it in plain sight of the herd, with the added benefit of dealing massive damage to anything near the tower when it explodes. The XP reward is the same either way, to boot.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Two of the three new machines introduced in the DLC are based on bears: the Frostclaw and its improvement, the Fireclaw. They're enormous and intimidating, they move fast, they have melee attacks that are extremely difficult to dodge, they have ranged elemental area-of-effect attacks that ignore line of sight and appear on the ground you're standing on, their weak points can be difficult to hit due to their movements and their armor, they're extremely durable (even destroying all three weak points won't kill them), they're hard to tie down with the Ropecaster, they don't have weapons you can break off and turn against them, and as their names imply, their attacks can burn or freeze you. They're like Thunderjaws, but more durable, more agile, and less cuddly.
  • Beef Gate: The mountain pass that leads Aloy to The Cut, the region where The Frozen Wilds takes place, is guarded by a Demonic Scorcher, a high level enemy who in part ensures that the player is a high enough level to tackle the DLC missions.
  • Bittersweet Ending: CYAN is freed and HEPHAESTUS is purged from her system, but Ourea sacrifices herself to achieve this and it also comes at the cost of a large portion of the Firebreak facility. HEPHAESTUS is also still out there somewhere and is continuing to make deadlier machines.
  • Brick Joke: One of the dam workers notes in a datapoint that she saw security chief Dod Blevins ripping up the landscape in an old fashioned gasoline powered snowmobile and switched two trail signs, hoping he'd wipe out and have to take a walk of shame back to the lodge. Later you find another datapoint, which notes that after a snow melt, Blevins' body was found by the wreckage of a snowmobile, after disappearing 15 years before.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The official Collector's Edition guide for Horizon Zero Dawn includes some information about certain tribes and characters which doesn't make it into the game. One tidbit is that the Nora hunt deer, not just Grazers, and some of their art does resemble deer more than it does canister-bearing Grazers. Presumably they simply don't show up to players. However, a quest in the Frozen Wilds has a Banuk shaman looking at a hologram of a deer and not having any idea what it is. Either deer just don't come as far north as the Cut, or the material for the guide was written up before it was declared that there were no large animals in this world.
  • Convection Schmonvection: The climax takes place in a cauldron built within a geothermal power plant inside the Yellowstone magma chamber. Nobody suffers any ill effects from the extreme heat, and Aloy can even safely touch exposed metal with her bare hands. Scattered through the area are various hot springs and geysers that similarly are harmless, and a datapoint says those were "cooled down" by the Project Firebreak, which is the only Hand Wave given.
  • Eldritch Location: The assembly line cauldrons from the base game are creepy enough already, but the R&D Cauldron Epsilon in the Cut takes it Up to Eleven. Thanks to being utterly infested with HEPHAESTUS' purple tentacle things, the whole place looks more organic than anything else, which coupled with its dim lighting and being partially built inside a dormant volcano gives it a nightmarishly oppressive atmosphere.
  • Fail O'Suckyname: The three Banuk Hunters you meet trying to hunt machine parts each keep trying to come up with a name for their group, and each time it's worse than the last, until they hit Sunshine Snowshoes and even Aloy is laughing. They don't end up figuring out a name until you help them complete their hunt, at which point they choose one based off of what Aloy says to them — "Nukoni's Arrows", "Scars of the North", or "Shattered Hearts".
  • Fetch Quest: Lampshaded by a weapons maker named Varga, who asks Aloy whether people really send her on long hikes to retrieve things for them. For the quest that sparks this exchange, she insists on accompanying Aloy.
  • Grim Up North: The expansion is set in the northernmost part of the map in what was once Yellowstone National Park and its surroundings, but the area has since turned into a frozen wasteland where humans have to fight for their survival every second of the day. Aloy has a whole range of complaints about the cold, one of which is a quip about frost forming between her teeth.
  • Honor Before Reason/What You Are in the Dark: Mailen refuses any help from Ikrie even with a broken leg, insisting on passing the test to join the White Teeth werak by following the rules to the letter. When Aloy pulls Ikrie along to protect Mailen from a pack of machines, Ikrie lets Mailen limp back to the camp alone, after which Ikrie decides to journey on her own afterward. Mailen is accepted into the White Teeth, and Aloy gets to choose how to tell the story of what happened.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Cut is the place where you can acquire the best weapons bar none. Not only are the Banuk Striker, Champion and Powershot bows simply better than all other hunter, war and sharpshot bows, respectively. What makes them so powerful is their ability to be overdrawn for massively increased damage per shot. You'll need the improved firepower to handle the Cut's unique machines, though. The Banuk also offer a couple of top-tier armors, but their effects aren't nearly as impressive as the weapons'.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Aratak and Ourea are brother and sister. Granted it's not a reveal to them, but to Aloy and the audience who realized their conflict just got a lot more complicated.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: A minor example. Badgers are one of the new animals introduced in the expansion, but badgers vastly prefer flat, open prairie environments to the forested mountains they're found in in the game.
  • Power-Up Letdown: The Improved Stormslinger is significantly more powerful than its standard model, but unfortunately this power comes at the cost of injuring Aloy herself with every successive shot, and this self-damage increases in severity just like its offensive output does. Quickly unload most of its clip into enemies in a frantic fight and watch Aloy being killed by her own weapon. It'll make you think twice about using the thing at all after the upgrade.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: As in the base game Aloy's usually willing to shrug at tribal customs she doesn't really agree with but grows angry at the truly harsh ones. When meeting some Banuk who start to question and reject some of those rules, like Ikrie and Inatut, Aloy immediately supports and encourages them.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: Although not strictly a sequel, The Frozen Wilds was the last part of the HZD 'verse to be released and is significantly more difficult than anything in the base game. Its introduction quest already has a level recommendation on par with the very final main story quest, and it only gets worse from there.
  • Sequence Breaking: You can unlock Frozen Wilds as soon as you reach the first Carja fort. If you're on a New Game+, and therefore strong enough to fight the new machines, it's possible to play through the main DLC storyline before you ever encounter Sylens or learn about Zero Dawn/GAIA. This will lock you out of learning some of Slyens' backstory because you learn it from Ourea, who dies at the end of the main questline. In addition, while Aloy and CYAN's conversations evolve as she learns more about Zero Dawn and the old world, their first conversation still includes the two of them discussing AI and some other features of the old world that Aloy hasn't received context for yet.
  • Stylistic Suck: The recording you find of Concrete Beach Party's "Last Girls on Earth" is made of this. Justified in that it was recorded by two amateurs inside a dam.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: As it turns out, mankind as a whole was unwittingly responsible for their own most pressing current issue: the Derangement. Their relentless hunting of what's keeping them alive - GAIA's terraforming machines - is the sole reason Hephaestus began designing and unleashing Combat-class machines, culminating in the truly scary monsters like Thunderjaws or Fireclaws, all in an effort to protect GAIA's work from those blissfully ignorant fleshlings. If mankind would simply stop hunting machines for parts and giggles, things would calm down real fast, but seeing how deep machine hunting is rooted in most tribes' traditions, the odds of that happening are slim to none.
  • Video-Game Flamethrowers Suck: One of the new weapons introduced in the expansion, the Forgefire. It's got pathetic range and it burns through its ammo entirely too quickly. On top of that, the ammo takes a lot of crafting materials to build. The enemies that have vulnerability to fire are typically too large and powerful to engage at the range of the weapon, and you'll run out of ammo at very inopportune times anyway. You're much better off just using standard fire arrows or fire bombs. Once upgraded to the Improved Forgefire things become a bit better since it now has a secondary attack that shoots a long-range fireball that inflicts heavy damage on the target, but the secondary attack still has low ammo and a long charge-up before it shoots.

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HEPHAESTUS

Like HADES, it was probably never intended to actually talk to people, and takes even less direct notice of them.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

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Main / MachineMonotone

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