Horizon Zero Dawn really comes into its own on PC

8 essential tips to know before starting Horizon Zero Dawn on PC

© Sony Interactive Entertainment
Guerrilla Game's previously PS4-exclusive game is now on PC – but you need to know some vital tips before you venture into the apocalyptic wilds
Written by Tom ReganPublished on
Who would have thought that in the year 2020 that not one, but two PlayStation 4 exclusives would find their way onto Steam? Following in the footsteps of last month’s unexpected PC port of Death Stranding, Sony’s formerly exclusive open world game Horizon: Zero Dawn has now leaped and rolled its way onto PC.
Featuring both the base game and The Frozen Wilds DLC, this ‘complete edition’ brings Guerrilla Games’ critically acclaimed open world opus to PC with a host of new tweaks and improvements. Boasting ultrawide monitor support, vastly improved framerates and the surprisingly game-changing ability to tweak your field of view, murdering robo-dinosaurs has never looked this good.
Still, for newcomers, Horizon Zero Dawn’s absolutely massive world can initially feel pretty intimidating. Luckily for you then, this guide has been assembled to give you all the tips you need to know to help you make the most out of the exhilarating action-RPG.

Before playing, use the in-game benchmark tool and check your drivers

Make sure the game is optimised for your PC before you get started
Horizon Zero Dawn is a surprisingly demanding game. Running on the same gorgeous Decima engine that powered Death Stranding, this game is one of the rare PC titles to shun the gaming standard of Dirext X11 in favour of the shiny Direct X12. Unfortunately, unlike Death Stranding, Horizon: Zero Dawn’s PC port doesn’t support either DSSL or ray-tracing. Regardless, if you’re rocking a fairly modern GPU, this PC port should still put the PS4 Pro version to shame… as long as you’ve updated your machine accordingly.
Initially, our pre-launch build of Horizon Zero Dawn felt a little poorly optimised, but after a few tweaks, we were soon getting a solid 70 frames on max settings from an Nvidia Geforce 2070 max Q. In order to get the best performance out of your rig, make sure to update either your Nvidia or AMD graphic card drivers, download the (hefty) 35GB day one patch, and then run that handy in-game benchmark tool. For NVidia users, the geforce experience software will allow you to automatically optimise the game before you launch it, too. If you still find yourself hoping to squeeze a tiny bit more out of the game, however, turn 'dynamic clouds' off in the menu. Honestly, you won’t miss them.

Tweak that field of view

Opening up the field of view can make a big difference
OK, we know what you’re thinking – this isn’t exactly the sexiest sounding new addition for a high profile PC port. Yet, in practice, the ability to tweak your field of view is genuinely a game changer. Where the PS4 version of the game kept the camera locked uncomfortably close to our plucky protagonist Aloy, on PC you have the freedom to adjust the field of view. Not only does zooming out allow you to better enjoy the game’s luscious locales, it also helps to give you an edge in combat – making distant threats far easier to see.

Prioritise unlocking Lure and Silent Strike before other skills

Silent Strike and Lure will be some of the best tools in your arsenal
As you start roaming Aloy’s deadly homeland as an adult, you’ll soon find yourself earning enough experience points to net yourself new skills. While there are a wealth of useful upgrades on offer for our fiery protagonist, Lure and Silent Strike are the ones you’ll want to get ASAP. Silent Strike gives Aloy the ability to sneak up on smaller robos like Grazers and Watchers and insta-kill them. Combine that with the dog whistle-esque Lure, and you can entice the poor unsuspecting machines right to your location. This deadly skill combo is a great way to net a ton of easy early game XP and loot.

Don’t forget to grab free stuff from new merchants

In what can only be described as a completely baffling business model, each time you meet a new trader in Horizon Zero Dawn, they give you a free goody bag that takes the form of a ‘Treasure Box’. After greeting a new vendor, scroll down to the Treasure Boxes tab and nab yourself a free, randomly-generated piece of loot.

Hunt non-robotic animals for gear upgrades

Hunting the fleshy animals is just as important as hunting the machines
It’s easy to think that the robotic machines are the only thing worth hunting in Horizon Zero Dawn, but you’ll want to save some arrows for their fleshy counterparts, too. As the world opens up around Aloy during her epic adventure, you’ll encounter everything from boars to foxes and rabbits. While these adorable little animals will do you no harm, unfortunately for them, their meat is required to upgrade several vital items. Whether they’re used to expand potion pouches or weapon slots, animal skin, bones and flesh are essential currency; used as either upgrade materials or lucrative wares you can sell to various traders.

Make sure to max out your enemies’ status meter

Forcing an enemy to succumb to status ailments makes combat a lot easier
When you hit enemies with elemental arrows or weapons that deal status damage in Horizon: Zero Dawn, it triggers a ‘status meter’. This circular icon not only indicates that you have inflicted some status damage on your unsuspecting robotic prey, but how much it's affected them. In order to really mess up those pesky machines, you’ll want to ensure that their status meter is completely full. How? Well, just keep hitting them with the same status-changing attack and they'll eventually succumb.

Buy maps as soon as possible

After ‘The Proving’, you’ll find yourself able to buy maps… and you definitely should. These nifty pieces of parchment reveal the location of all of the game’s previously hidden collectibles: Banuk figures, vessels, metal flowers and vantage points. Once you’ve bought the map, these tasty trinkets will show up on your in-game map, allowing you to collect them and eventually trade them in for some high-value treasure chests.

Complete the four Cauldrons

Cauldrons can give you a quick XP boost – plus other bonuses, too
What would an open world game be without some good old-fashioned optional dungeons? In Horizon: Zero Dawn, these come in the form of cauldrons. Split into four, these cauldrons are usually found hidden on various hillsides. Venture in and it’ll very much be worth your time. Clearing out these dungeons rewards you with not only a good amount of XP but, more crucially, the ability to override (control) a new type of machine. While they can be a pain to locate, doing so will make the late game infinitely easier. Avoid these at your own peril.