Codex Gamicus

Horizon Zero Dawn is an action-adventure role playing game developed by Guerrilla Games, released on the PlayStation 4 in 2017. The plot revolves around Aloy, a young huntress living in a world where mankind has regressed to primitive tribes and the dominant species are giant animalistic robots referred to as "machines". As the story progresses, Aloy discovers the secrets regarding her mysterious origins.

Guerrilla Games' first new IP in 13 years, Horizon Zero Dawn received critical acclaim, and is one of the best-selling titles for the PlayStation 4.


Horizon Zero Dawn is an action-adventure RPG with an adjustable third-person perspective. The player takes control of the huntress Aloy as she explores the world and uncovers the mystery behind her origins. The game map itself is an open-world, corresponding roughly to modern-day Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Nevada (albeit scaled down significantly for the sake of a more dense gameplay experience), described as a "post-post apocalyptic" setting.

Hunting machines is a vital part of survival, as machine components scavenged from their remains are valuable for crafting ammunition, upgrades, and trade. Machines act similarly to wild animals, often gathering in herds, and will attack in response to perceived threats, either with ranged attacks or brute force. The game encourages stealth to approach enemies, providing a visibility and noise meter: Aloy can hide in tall grass to avoid being seen and crouch-walk to reduce audibility. Aloy's default weapons are a bow and spear, and additional ranged weapons can be purchased, including the Tripcaster (a trip-wire placer), slingshots, and the Ropecaster (which temporarily ties down enemies). Weapons can also be modified, improving their aim/reload speed, damage, and elemental effects. Aloy is equipped with a augmented reality device called the Focus, which allows her to detect weakpoints, track machine movement, and tag enemies. Aloy also has the ability to "override" machines with her spear, allowing her to take control of them. Certain overridden machines can be ridden, but all overridden machines will be hostile to other machines, allowing for a wider range of combat strategy. Aloy can unlock the ability to override more machines by visiting Cauldrons, underground machine production facilities, and overriding the system core.

Additional resources can be harvested from the environment, such as medicinal plants or animals. Aloy can use resources to trade with merchants to get new weapons or outfits. Each outfit provides different advantages, such as elemental resistances, and most come in three tiers.



The game takes place in the 31st century. Mankind has regressed to primitive tribal societies. The only remnants of their technology advanced predecessors (whom they refer to as the "Old Ones"), are the ruins of their civilization. The new world is now dominated by large animalistic robots, which are simply called "machines" by the tribes. The most prominently featured tribes are the Nora, isolated matriarchal hunter-gatherers who live in the mountains and worship a deity named "All-Mother"; the Carja, an advanced tribe whose society is centered around the sun; the Oseram, tinkerers known for their forging, drinking, and arguing; and the Banuk, hunters from the frigid north who seek a symbiotic relationship with the machines.


The story revolves around a huntress named Aloy. Cast out from the Nora tribe at birth, she is taken in by another outcast named Rost, but her origins remain shrouded in mystery. When Aloy is six years old, she attempts to interact with some Nora children only to be pushed away by the woman watching them for being an outcast. Running off angrily, Aloy falls into an ancient ruin. While searching for a way out, she finds a Focus, a small AR device, which helps her use the ancient technology and escape. The next day, Rost begins teaching her to hunt, showing her how to craft arrows, find medicinal plants, and the basics of hunting machines. Aloy discovers that the Focus allows her to identify a machine's weakness and their set paths. She uses this to kill a machine, and then to save a Nora boy after he falls into a machine herd. However, she is once again scorned by the boy's father for being an outcast and motherless. When Aloy asks Rost for answers, he replies that in order to find out, she must enter the Proving, the Nora's annual rite-of-passage. She will be made a Brave (the Nora's hunter/warrior caste) if she competes, but if she wins, she will earn a boon from the Matriarchs, the leaders of the Nora.

Over the next twelve years, Aloy trains herself for the Proving. The day before the Proving, she is brought to Mother's Heart, the Nora's main village, by Rost. As outcasts are forbidden from interacting with the tribe, Rost tells her that he is leaving to where she can't follow in an effort to have her fully accept the Nora. Upon entering Mother's Heart, Aloy encounters High Matriarch Teersa, one of the three main leaders of the Nora, and Teb, the boy she saved as a child, who gives her a new set of armor as a means of thanks. Aloy also encounters envoys from the Carja who have come to watch the Proving; among them are two Oseram: Erend, brother of the Carja Vanguard's captain Ersa, and Olin, a scavenger who also has a Focus, and becomes evasive when Aloy attempts to ask him more.

The next day, despite sabotage from another contestant, Aloy wins the Proving. However, her victory is cut short when the Proving is attacked by cultists, who kill most of of the contestants. Aloy takes a Focus from a fallen cultist, but she is attacked by their leader. Rost, who had been watching her the whole time, reveals himself, resulting in a confrontation that ends with the cultist stabbing him in the gut. Rost manages to push the barely conscious Aloy to safety before the cultists bomb the cliff-side, taking him with it.

Aloy awakens days later inside the Nora's Sacred Mountain, believed by the tribe to be their goddess. Examining the cultist's Focus, she manages to learn about the motives behind the attack: Olin is working with the cultists, and Aloy was targeted specifically, due to her uncanny resemblance to a woman seen in a hologram (whom Aloy suspects to be her mother). Soon after, Aloy is found by Teersa, who shares that the cultists have killed over half of the Nora's braves, and reveals that Aloy was found inside the mountain as an infant by the Matriarchs. They agree that the best way forward is to find Olin in the Carja's capital Meridian. Soon after leaving the Mountain, Aloy encounters a Corruptor, an ancient machine controlled by the killers, which can hijack other machines. Upon killing it, Aloy discovers the component it uses to control over machines, and with it, gains the ability to control machines herself. As she heads west to the Carja Sundom, she helps the Nora retaliate against the killers, befriending the War Chief's son Varl in the process, before leaving Nora territory.

Upon arriving in Meridian, Aloy discovers that Erend's sister Ersa has been murdered by the Shadow Carja (Carja who seceded from the main tribe following the overthrow and death of the previous Sun-King), leaving Erend the Vanguard's captain in her absence. While skeptical of her accusation towards Olin, Erend agrees to let her search Olin's apartment. Inside, Aloy finds Olin's location, a diary with evidence for Erend, and a threat for Olin: the cultists are holding his family hostage to force his cooperation. As Aloy leaves, Erend begs her to help him find the soldiers behind Ersa's murder.

Note: The main quest branches at this point: either of these branches can be completed in any order, as long as the first is be completed before the second.

Plot Against Meridian[]

Meeting Erend in Red Ridge Pass, Aloy investigates the murder site. She discovers a set of cart tracks leading up to the nearby mesa, where she and Erend find hostile Oseram waiting for them. Aloy deduces that the murder scene was staged, and suspects that Ersa may still be alive (the body found in Ersa's armor was mutilated beyond recognition). Erend races to Meridian to check, telling Aloy to meet him at the Sun-King's palace.

At the palace, Erend confirms Aloy's suspicions that the body is not Ersa's. The Blameless Marad, spymaster for Sun-King Avad, has connected the deception to Dervahl, an Oseram warlord with a vendetta against Ersa and the Carja. Avad asks for Aloy's assistance in helping Erend and the Vanguard find Ersa, and she agrees to meet Erend by the Carja-Oseram border to search for Dervahl. They are able to locate Dervahl's camp and find Ersa, but are too late to save her from her injuries. Finding evidence of a further plot against Meridian, Aloy races to the Carja capital while Erend tends to his sister. In Meridian, they manage to foil Dervahl's plan to bomb the city, but Aloy is ultimately the one who stops Dervahl and saves Avad from his vengeance. At Avad's request, Erend takes Dervahl alive, in order to auction the warlord off to the Oseram clans for execution.

Chasing the Truth[]

Arriving at Olin's location, Aloy hides in the shadows as the cultists unearth another Corruptor, much to her and Olin's horror. Suddenly, all of the cultists' Focuses are disabled. The culprit makes his presence known to Aloy over her Focus, but keeps his identity secret. Killing the cultists and the Corruptors at the dig site, Aloy confronts Olin for answers. Olin explains that the cultists are the Eclipse, members of the Shadow Carja led by Helis (the champion of the previous Sun-King, and the man who attacked Aloy and killed Rost). Plotting to overthrow Avad and retake Meridian, they serve an entity called "HADES" (believed by Olin to be a demon), and are reviving ancient machines, including Corruptors and another variety called "Deathbringers", on his orders. Olin is unaware of the identity of the woman in the hologram, but remembers seeing her image in the ruins of Maker's End and suggests checking there. The player will choose to either kill Olin or spare him.

On her way to Maker's End, Aloy is contacted via Focus by the stranger from before, who identifies the woman in the hologram as Elisabet Sobeck. Encountering more Eclipse and a functioning Deathbringer, Aloy accidentally makes her survival known to HADES before she enters the main ruin. Inside, she discovers that the ruin was the headquarters of Faro Automated Solutions (FAS), a trillion-dollar robotics company responsible for creating Aloy's Focus, and the Corruptors and Deathbringers are in fact part of FAS's "Chariot" line of war machines, capable of self-replicating and using biomass as fuel. On the top floor, she finds recordings of conversations between FAS's CEO, Theodor "Ted" Faro, and Sobeck, revealed to be a renowned Old World scientist and former colleague of Faro. In 2064, a Chariot Line swarm went rogue, consuming biomass and replicating at an unrestricted pace. Berating Faro for his recklessness, Sobeck warned him that at the projected rate, it would be a mere 15 months before the Swarm caused the entire biosphere to collapse. The last recording shows Sobeck forcing Faro to fund plans for something called "Project: Zero Dawn". The confused Aloy voices her frustration, leading to an argument with the stranger, who grudgingly reveals his name to be Sylens. Having deduced that HADES intends to use Faro robots to eradicate life on Earth, Sylens convinces Aloy that learning about Project: Zero Dawn will reveal the nature of her connection to Sobeck and HADES' motivations for wanting her dead.

Following Sobeck's trail, Aloy clashes with the Eclipse as she explores more ruins until she finally reaches Project Zero Dawn's headquarters, where the learns the project's goal. As the biosphere would collapse before the Faro robots could be shut down, Project: Zero Dawn created an AI called GAIA, which shut down the Faro robots and developed a terraforming system to restore the biosphere. The machines present throughout the world are part of that biosphere, and HADES is in fact a subordinate function of GAIA, designed to reverse terraforming operations in the scenario where restoration had failed and needed to be restarted. Aloy remembers a door within the Nora Sacred Mountain and connects it to ELEUTHIA, another subordinate function tasked with restoring humanity. Knowing that she must have emerged from behind the door before the Matriarchs found her, Aloy retrieves the code needed to fix it, but is found by Helis and subdued.

Helis attempts to sacrifice Aloy to a corrupted machine, goading that he sent a group of cultists to wipe out the Nora tribe in retaliation for her efforts. With Sylens' aid, Aloy escapes, and races to the Sacred Lands. After taking out the Eclipse batallion, she makes her way to the Sacred Mountain, where most of the Nora have taken refuge, and repairs the door. Aloy enters the chamber behind it, where she discovers a message left behind from GAIA. GAIA reveals that nineteen years earlier, an unknown signal severed her subordinate functions, forcing her to self-destruct to keep HADES from taking control and destroying the biosphere. Before her self-sacrifice, GAIA created Aloy, a clone of Elisabet Sobeck, with the intents that Aloy would restore her upon reaching maturity. However, sensing that HADES escaped her destruction, GAIA gave instructions to find a Master Override in the ruins of the GAIA Prime facility and use it to destroy HADES. When Aloy leaves the chamber, she gives a simplified explanation of her origins and purpose to the Matriarchs. The Nora attempt to worship her, which Aloy angrily rejects, demanding that they must think about the world beyond their borders. Knowing the Eclipse will attack Meridian soon, Aloy asks anyone able to fight to join her there.

Aloy heads to the GAIA Prime ruins, where she learns the final fates of Sobeck and Project Zero Dawn: Elisabet Sobeck sacrificed herself to repair a faulty seal, preventing the Faro robots from detecting the facility but trapping herself outside in the process. Some time later, Ted Faro, his sanity destroyed by guilt, erased APOLLO, the archive of ancient knowledge intended for the new humans to use, believing it to be a "disease", and remotely killed the remaining Zero Dawn executives to keep them from rebuilding the archive. Aloy retrieves the Master Override from the ruins, but is met by Sylens near the exit. Sylens confesses that he was responsible for finding HADES, and created the Eclipse in exchange for ancient knowledge. With his information, Aloy deduces that HADES' goal in attacking Meridian is not the city itself, but the Spire, a Zero Dawn transmission array located nearby: by using the Eclipse to reach it, HADES plans to use it to reawaken the remaining Faro robots to wipe out life on Earth again. Sylens gives Aloy a lance to use the Master Override with before departing for good.

Aloy races to Meridian and warns Avad about the planned invasion. The Carja rally forces to protect Meridian and the Spire, including people whom Aloy has helped along her journey. When the invasion inevitably arrives, Aloy joins the defense, killing Helis and guarding the approach. The army of machines eventually breaks through, and HADES reaches the Spire. Joined by her allies, including Erend and Varl, Aloy fights her way through HADES' defenses and stabs its vessel with Sylens' Lance, halting its transmission and saving life on Earth.

Sometime later, Aloy finds the Sobeck Ranch, Elisabet Sobeck's childhood home. There she finds Sobeck's body surrounded by flowers, and mourns the woman who gave everything to ensure life on Earth had a future. During this moment, a recording of a conversation between Sobeck and GAIA plays, revealing that while Sobeck never had any children herself, Aloy is everything she had wanted in a daughter.

After Credits Scene[]

At the base of the Spire, a group of people examine the vessel of HADES. Suddenly, HADES emerges from the vessel and flies away from the Spire into a lantern-like contraption, held by the waiting Sylens. The wandering maverick reveals his plans to interrogate HADES about the ones who sent the signal who awakened it (whom he refers to as "Masters") as he approaches the carcass of a colossal Faro machine.


After the completion of Killzone 3, Guerrilla Games began developing a new intellectual property, their first IP since starting the Killzone franchise. Having spent over a decade working on dark, gritty post-apocalyptic FPS games, many members of the team felt the desire to create something more brightly colored and hopeful.

In designing the civilizations in the game world, Guerrilla Games used a process referred to by Jan-Bart van Beek as "intrinsic ideation": rather than focus on what would be cool or interesting, the developers would look to the native environment for inspiration.


Horizon Zero Dawn received critical acclaim, having a score of 89 on Metacritic based on 115 reviews from critics[1].

Criticism was directed towards facial animations, melee combat and human AI.


  1. ["" "Horizon Zero Dawn for PlayStation 4"].


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