After putting over 50 hours into Horizon Forbidden West, I’ve learnt a thing or two about how the Forbidden West works, and importantly, what a player coming into this game should know before they dive deep into this Wild Wild West. This (spoiler-free) article is less a guide, more so a “Before you start” type of article. Don’t be like me, and learn about items and mechanics in hour 40 that I should’ve known at hour 20. So without further ado, here are some tips to help kickstart your journey through The Forbidden West.
Starting over…. Kinda
This is not much of a spoiler, since you find out about this within the first half an hour, but Aloy has lost her gear from Horizon Zero Dawn, save for a basic outfit and a couple of weapons. But she hasn’t lost everything: a few of the skills in Zero Dawn skill tree have been retained, like overriding a mount, gathering resources while mounted, and the ever-critical silent strike. Somehow, she lost her ability to notch multiple arrows, but it can be obtained in the Infiltrator skill tree.
“We can’t stop here, this is Daunt country!”
If you’re like myself, and would like to leave no stone unturned before moving onto another part of the map (read: anal retentive), my advice is: don’t. The beginning area, called The Daunt, is like a tutorial/bridging area between the areas of Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West—it retains the same aesthetics as Zero Dawn, before opening the rest of the West to you. I spent hours exploring here, and found myself struggling at times to clear markers. Turns out, some of these missions become a lot easier (and doable) once you venture further West and unlock equipment. So once you have familiarised yourself with the mechanics and combat, try and progress through so you can leave this area—you can always come back to complete the rest of the quests.
I’m freeeeee…. Free-diving
One of the aforementioned pieces of equipment is a diving mask, which you’ll get when… You know what, you’ll find out. This allows you to complete the underwater side quests (on the map, they appear as three waves), and one of the cavern side quests is in The Daunt (rescuing miners). So until you find this equipment, leave these quests alone—you can get through some of them, but they’re much more trouble than they’re worth without the diving mask.
Horizon Forbidden West’s accessibility functions are a mixed bag, but some that I’ve found handy, or at least can make some players’ lives easier, are the scanning and crafting options. With quick scan, you can single click R3 to scan your surroundings, and climbable areas light up so you know where to grapple. But clicking R3 constantly as you climb can be a pain, so why not turn on the option to have grapple surfaces as highlighted? It makes life a bit easier if you want to just focus on getting up that mountain.
The other option I found handy in a pinch is the crafting slow-down, which you can adjust to make the time slow-down when you open the weapon wheel last even longer. The last thing you want is to craft 80% of your next batch of arrows, only to get run over by a Behemoth and have to start crafting again, with less health—this option buys you just a little bit more time to dodge if you need to.
Say hello to my (not so) little (and quite a few more) friends
In Horizon Zero Dawn, I felt like once I acquired the Shadow Carja and Lodge weapons, that was it—I’d found the best weapons. Other than switching weapons for their functions, I was pretty much set. The Forbidden West has weapons to the nines: There are plenty to buy from traders and receive as quest rewards, and it doesn’t feel like there is a definitive version of a weapon, since each weapon has its pros and cons. I’ve switched between multiple variants of the Sharpshot Bow, the Hunter Bow, and other weapons based on who I’m facing. Between the different (some new) elemental damages, it’s still really difficult to find a loadout that can take on everything you face, even with six weapon wheel slots. So take the time, experiment with different combinations, and remember that you can filter your weapons by type, which will make changing weapons easier.
Hunt for the wildermachines
Every machine has parts you can dismantle, if you use the tearblast arrow. These arrows rip off the valuable parts of the machine if you’ve done enough damage, and can be salvaged for valuable parts. These parts were merely sold for currency once you’ve done enough crafting in Zero Dawn, but they are worth their weight in Forbidden West. Because every weapon and outfit has multiple upgrade levels, each upgrade level requires a machine part. The higher you want to upgrade a weapon, the rarer the machine parts that are needed. If all the machine parts you need to upgrade your loadout are confusing to keep track of, you can go to a workbench, select the weapon and the level you would like to upgrade it to, and press square to create a job for this part. This becomes a quest in the Jobs section that highlights the machine site you need to go in order to harvest said part.
Check the Stash to keep Aloy topped up
When you are out in the wild collecting materials, any excess materials that you can’t hold will go straight to the stash. This is handy since hoarders like myself will collect anything and everything, knowing that it’s going somewhere, and it also means no red symbols to indicate your inventory is full. But what goes into the stash should come out: as easy as it is to send stuff to the stash, you can’t easily retrieve them from the stash out in the wild. So whenever you come across settlements or shelters, go to your stash and press square to take everything you need to refill your resource inventory. Keep this habit up and you’ll be gravy.
“I’ve fallen down and I can’t get up!”
This may be just a me thing, but a few of the puzzles require you to figure out how to get from platform A to platform D, and if you don’t get to platform B, you need to start over. Once you get to B though, there’s usually a ladder or some sort of “save point”, if you will, that allows you to start back at B should you fall. But I have gone through a couple of puzzles where I missed the ladders, especially in underground bunkers and caverns, and it wasn’t until I looked up that I noticed that there was a ladder, tucked away in the shadows of platform B. Check each platform/flat surface every time you land, it will save you lots of time.
This will come in handy… if I find it
With the addition of new traps and bombs, it’s easy to get lost scrolling through the not-so-quick access menu on the D-pad. Thankfully, there is an option to customise your quick access wheel: instead of pressing down on the D-pad to use the item highlighted, holding down will open a menu that allows you to equip and unequip the myriad of items available, so you can organise it in a way that suits you. I no longer have to scroll through the majority of the menu to get traps, because I’ve organised them to be next to each other.
If you placed a trap and found that you didn’t end up using it, you can also dismantle them for the parts that make up said trap, meaning you can re-craft one at a workbench if you wish.
Skills that kill
With the introduction of the Valor Surge, it feels quite powerful to access them when the time calls for it. But what doesn’t get spelled out is that each Surge has three levels. In order to upgrade them, you need to learn the skills around that particular Valor Surge circle. This either increases the effect or the duration of the Surge, and a level 3 Surge makes a difference compared to a level 1 Surge.
On the subject of the skills on the skill tree, there are three different shapes. They represent active skill (four-sided diamond), passive skill (circle), and weapon technique (upside-down, five-sided diamond). Active skills have their own button prompts, passive skills will boost your stats without doing anything, and weapon techniques are usually activated by pressing L2 and then R1.Once the shapes become familiar, it’s easy to go through to find which type you’d like to upskill.
Skills that kill… in more ways than one
Once you’ve learnt enough weapon techniques, you’ll find that some weapons will have multiple techniques available. To change between them, choose the weapon to use on the wheel (holding L1), and then use the D-pad to switch between the techniques. You can now choose between the techniques, based on who you’re facing. Be mindful of stamina though, as these techniques deplete the stamina bar (yellow bar) as you use them.
Smash Sister: Melee
In the Brawler skill tree, there are many unlockable active melee skills, all utilising a combination of R1 (light attack) and R2 (heavy attack). Once they’ve been unlocked, learn them: It makes melee combat much more efficient and less grindy. A majority of the skills utilise multiple presses of R1 (some with pauses in between), and a finisher with R2. Because human enemies actually learn your combat techniques, if you spam the same light/heavy attack, they can block and counter your moves, so mixing combos in becomes imperative.
Where we’re going, we don’t need fast travel packs
At a certain point in Horizon Zero Dawn, you can visit a vendor to purchase a golden fast travel pack, which allows unlimited travel without using a fast travel pack (which you need to purchase or craft). In Forbidden West, the golden fast travel pack has been removed, but it’s not necessarily a negative: you can easily travel between the campfires without a pack like in the first game, and fast travelling to the main hub (again, you’ll find out soon enough) also doesn’t require a pack. Just press circle at the campfire when prompted, then R2 to fast travel to another campfire. I crafted five fast travel packs, and have used three (one was by accident). The added bonus of removing the golden travel pack means you actually traverse the map more, meaning you get to enjoy the views and come across more things to do, and there are plenty to do.
And that’s it! I hope these tidbits will help give you a springboard into the world and make the moment to moment action a bit easier. Now get out there and save the world, flame-hair!