Recap: 9 Things That Happened in Horizon Zero Dawn

Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn.
Guerrilla Games

Welcome to Horizon Forbidden West week! It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since we first met Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn, and now it’s almost time to continue her journey to to restore GAIA and save the world. Horizon Forbidden West releases on February 18 and picks up six months after the events of Zero Dawn. To get you up to speed on the story so far, we’ve put together this Horizon Zero Dawn recap. Here you’ll find the Horizon Zero Dawn story and endings explained as well as everything you need to know about Aloy and the world of Horizon.

A quick spoiler warning first: if you haven’t already played Horizon Zero Dawn and want to, look away now. We’ll be uncovering major storylines and characters here. If you just need a refresher before playing Forbidden West, welcome!

Let’s dive straight into our Horizon Zero Dawn recap.

#1 Aloy is cast out of the Nora tribe at birth and taken in by an outcast named Rost.

As a child, Aloy finds a Focus, a small triangular device worn on the temple that lets its wearer interact with machines and technology. She uses the Focus to train for the Proving, a Nora ritual to test its finest warriors, but Aloy has other plans — if she wins the Proving, she can ask the matriarchs why she was cast out.

Aloy wins the Proving but the contestants are attacked by masked warriors who almost kill Aloy. Rost sacrifices himself to save her, and she’s taken inside the Nora’s sacred mountain.

#2 Aloy discovers she looks identical to a woman named Elisabet Sobeck.

Inside the mountain, Aloy learns she was targeted by the masked warriors because she’s a 99.47 percent genetic match for Elisabet.

She’s also told that she wasn’t born, she was found. The Nora matriarchs heard her crying and found her at the foot of a locked metal door, which they revere as a goddess. “The mountain is your mother,” the matriarch tells her. The door begins to open for Aloy, thinking she’s Elisabet, but stops because it’s been damaged and can’t confirm her identity. To learn how to open the door, Aloy is made a Nora Seeker and ventures out into the wilderness.

#3 A man named Sylens speaks to Aloy through her Focus and tells her she can learn more about Elisabet at Maker’s End.

Maker’s End is actually the ruins of Faro Automated Solutions, a robotics and technology corporation that claims it’s “where all the problems of tomorrow are being solved today.” Aloy investigates the ruins and finds a recording of Elisabet arguing with the corporation’s founder Ted Faro, who admitted the machines glitched and stopped responding to their instructions.

“This isn’t a glitch. It’s a catastrophe,” says Elisabet, a brilliant scientist who developed green robots that could repair the environment and reverse the impact of climate change. Seeing the money to be made in her creation, Faro built a line of killer robots who consumed biomass as fuel and were capable of self-replication. Now ignoring Faro’s orders and replicating faster than humans could destroy them, the “Faro Plague” robots were destroying all organic life on Earth. Humans were rapidly hurtling towards a mass extinction, said Sobeck.

#4 Elisabet started Project: Zero Dawn to save humanity.

Elisabet knew the only way to stop the Faro Plague was to starve them out. But by the time the machines ran out of biomass, there wouldn’t be an environment left for humans to reclaim. So she created GAIA, a super intelligent and fully-automated AI who would terraform the Earth once the machines died out in thousands of years. “Mother Nature as an AI,” is how Elisabet described GAIA.

GAIA was comprised of several subordinate functions — Minerva, Hephaestus, Aether, Poseidon, Demeter, Artemis, Eleuthia, Apollo and Hades — who handled things like reseeding plants, breeding animals, and creating machines to assist the terraforming process. Once the Earth was habitable again, GAIA would spawn a new generation of human beings and teach them from a vast archive of human knowledge and cultural achievement.

#5 Aloy and Slyens discover what went wrong with Elisabet’s plan.

Hades was a failsafe protocol that would step in if this new environment was hostile for human. If needed, Hades would eradicate all life on Earth so GAIA could start again. The question that remains is why Hades is trying to wipe them out again now.

#6 Aloy returns to the door in the Mountain with the key to open it.

Inside, she finds an abandoned Zero Dawn facility where she watches a recording of GAIA, who says that three microseconds ago — 19 years ago by the time Aloy watches the recording and at the exact moment she was found as a baby inside the Mountain — she received an unknown signal that turned her subordinate functions into self-aware AIs. Hades seized control of the terraforming system and began destroying organic life so GAIA, desperate to stop it, self-destructed.

This stopped Hades but also GAIA, so first, she ordered the facility to use Elisabet’s genetic material to create Aloy, who could access Project: Zero Dawn facilities to reboot GAIA once the crisis was averted.

She also mentions that the other AIs fled the destruction, but she doesn’t know where they are now.

#7 Aloy and Sylens travel to GAIA Prime to destroy Hades for good.

Here Aloy learns that Ted Faro, driven mad by knowing he’d brought about the end of life on Earth, sabotaged Project: Zero Dawn. Elisabet snuck out of the facility to repair the damage, locking herself out of the facility in the process. Faro also purged Apollo, the archive of human civilisation, so the next generation wouldn’t be tempted to repeat his mistakes.

#8 Aloy is helped in the final battle against Hades by Varl and Erend

Before leaving GAIA Prime, Sylens admits he created the Eclipse, the masked warriors who hunted Aloy, and that he restore Hades after GAIA self-destructed. Before leaving the Eclipse, he installed a “back door” into Hades and tells Aloy how she can use it to destroy the AI for good.

Aloy is joined by Varl, a Nora Brave, and Erend, the captain of the Carja vanguard and together they fight back the Eclipse to get to Hades. Aloy purges the AI and the hostile machines stood down.

#9 In the post-credits scene, Sylens captures Hades.

The Horizon Zero Dawn ending shows us that Hades isn’t dead after all. The tool Sylens gave Aloy to kill the AI actually set it free — so that he could capture it. Should we really be that surprised that Sylens betrayed Aloy? “Hello, old friend. Remember me?” he asks Hades. “We’ve still so much to discuss.” He wants to know more about who sent the signal that woke Hades up. He looks down over a massive machine in the desert, which we can be pretty sure we’ll see more of in Horizon Forbidden West. We already know Sylens returns in the sequel, but we won’t know more about what his motives are until it releases on PS4 and PS5 February 18.

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