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Video Game / Horizon Zero Dawn

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The Metal World, but not the one I sought! The future is a frightful dream, huntress!

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.

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.

It released for the Playstation 4 on February 28, 2017.


Preview: E3 reveal trailer and demo, Aloy's Journey, E3 2016 gameplay demo, launch trailer.

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

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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.
    • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
    • Played straight in the case of armor-wearing hostiles susceptible to Silent Strike, where Aloy's spear is shown ignoring the armor altogether.
  • 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.
  • 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."
    • 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).
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Beehive Barrier: The Shieldweaver outfit has this as part of both its active and passive appearance. Getting it, on the other hand...
  • 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.
  • 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 produce.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Old Ones. The environment was screwed up, everybody was at war — and actually 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 all of the 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    "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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Idiot Ball: It's unclear exactly who was holding it, but whoever gave Ted Faro Omega level clearance for the Zero Dawn project, allowing him to override and overrule the Project Alphas who were in charge of building GAIA and monitoring & maintaining the project after Zero Day, was really holding on tight to that ball. Faro had provided the funding for the project, true, but he had no relevant technical expertise and wasn't familiar with any of the systems and couldn't have possibly made any positive contribution. Along with that, we know that every single decision Ted made that wasn't browbeaten into him by Elisabet ended disastrously. So whoever gave him that access enabled him to carry out his last terrible, misguided plan; deleting APOLLO.
    • It could be a case of Dramatic Irony as due to Faro's company creating all the Zero Dawn facilities and networks, he could easily had someone install the Omega Clearance as a backdoor override, remembering that failing to install a backdoor into his robots was what caused the Faro Plague. Of course, he would have had a hard time selling them if their security had been easy to crack, and his competitors would have swooped in and done it in his place had he been unwilling to do so. Failsafe Failure at its finest.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Grave-Hoard, as immediately lampshaded by Aloy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
    "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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 fatally kill the user if shots aren't timed far enough apart for the charge to die down.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Example of: