Horizon: Zero Dawn, a highly acclaimed action role-playing game from Guerilla Games, features not only a compelling, post-apocalyptic world overrun by robotic creatures but highly engaging combat mechanics with an archer skillset. Visuals and story aside, the combat in Horizon: Zero Dawn is particularly intriguing for its wide variety of combat forms, weapons, and tactics, and there is no lack of enemies to fight, ranging from humans to machines. There are far too many machines in-game to give them all an in-depth review and rank, so I’ll share both my bottom five and top three rankings for fightable machines. These rankings will also be largely spoiler-free to not detract from any experience within the game, as Horizon is one you’ll want to fully immerse yourself in.
In Horizon, once an enemy notices you–or Aloy–a yellow question mark will appear above its head, signalling that its attention will be directed at you unless you’re able to successfully hide or escape. This typically lasts only a few seconds before the machine either turns away and carries on, leaving you to continue about as you were, or it will fully notice you, in which the yellow question mark will turn into a red icon, meaning the machine is going to begin attacking. With that information in mind, here are my bottom five rankings of machines in Horizon.
The first machine you’ll encounter in Horizon, and one of the most common. These sentinel and scout machines are small and not particularly dangerous at all. And that’s the thing, these machines have always been more bothersome than engaging to fight, especially as you level and are able to take these down with just one arrow or strike (while satisfying, not engaging). However, watchers typically accompany other, more powerful, machines and will immediately alert them if they are able to spot you, making them the number one snitch of all the machines in Horizon.
Although birdlike in stature, Longlegs are (thankfully) unable to fly, but are insanely fast and agile, able to cover long distances in a short amount of time. Armed with a variety of weapons, which include lasers and missiles, these machines are difficult to fight from both short and long ranges. I typically try to avoid these particular machines, however, when I do encounter them, aiming for the weak point at the center of its chest does make for a satisfying explosion.
One of the more formidable, and challenging, machines in Horizon, often encountered throughout the Carja Sundom. It’s not only heavily armoured and capable of shooting missiles and emitting shockwaves, but it’s also capable of, you guessed it, flight. This machine makes it particularly difficult to adhere to any stealth strategies and to use either ranged or melee weapons. Granted, the right strategy, equipment, and level can make for a rewarding fight with this machine, but if you happen to not have all three, or even luck, this machine will most probably kill you. My first encounter with the Stormbird was outside the Free Heap settlement, which is early enough in the game that I was in no way prepared to fight it. Despite my evading tactics, it would absolutely not leave me alone and continue to fly above wherever I chose to hide, instead of turning away like most other machines would, ensuring to terrorize me while I attempted to find refuge in the settlement.
Among the stealthier machines in Horizon, these creatures are able to turn completely invisible before attacking their targets. This was completely to my surprise when I first got ambushed by a pack of stalkers while walking through some lush forest. In their sites, stalkers deploy alarms that set off with a loud sound and flare to signal movement. These alarms, like the creature, are hard to spot and surrounded by foliage to further cloak their location. Stalkers, while fun to engage with, are the natural enemy of my borderline blindness, making them a very bitter surprise every time I run into them.
Similar to Stormbirds, Glinthawks have the ability to fly and are also equipped with projectile freeze attacks. These machines terrorized me for the better part of my playthrough until I was able to level enough so that they’d become more bothersome than challenging. But I will not forget how they leave no room to evade, attacking in packs and using their freeze attacks or outright diving and tackling. Not only that, but these machines are nosy, too, oftentimes intervening in battles where they were previously nowhere to be seen. Their extreme mobility also makes it difficult to follow and attack since they have the entire expanse of the sky, while you are subject to their mercy on the ground. I have a personal vendetta against Glinthawks now, not leaving one alone in peace.
Moving on to my top three rankings of Horizon machines, which include my favourite machines to fight and engage with. Full disclaimer though, none of these machines were fun to fight until I levelled enough and gained a good enough strategy to actually stand a chance against them.
One of the more challenging machines in Horizon, equipped with a mounted gun for ranged combat and powerful melee attacks for short-range combat. All you really need to make this a fun (and short) battle are tearblast arrows. My favourite method to take these machines down is to use a tearblast arrow to detach the mounted gun, then pick it up and use it against the ravager and any surrounding machines in the area. Granted, there most definitely is still fun in taking down a ravager without detaching the gun and simply fighting it with all weapons intact, this is just my typical method.
These machines would have been in the bottom five if they were able to fly, but thankfully, since they resemble crocodiles and alligators, they are unable to. These machines are always in packs of at least three and are not only quite armoured but are equipped with freeze attacks that they absolutely spam in combat. The best strategy I’ve been able to find is to shoot off the covers over the blaze canisters on their head, and then immediately use fire arrows to set the blaze canister aflame, which will result in a hefty explosion which not only damages the particular target but any machines around.
A robot dinosaur, equipped with heavy armour, and all kinds of mounted guns, lasers, and projectiles. Daunting at first, but once you’re able to develop the right strategy, this machine can be taken down in just under a minute or two. All I can say about this is tearblast arrows. Detach any and all mounted guns you can, basically strip it for parts until there’s nothing else to take off. Then, use a tripcaster or any other shock ammo to momentarily stun it and then use whatever arrows or melee you wish. Or, pick up one of the dismounted guns and use it against it, similar to the ravager. Encounters with this machine, particularly in the Hunting Grounds, become a lot more gratifying when you’re able to turn the tides in your favour and not get absolutely trampled.
Hopefully, these rankings provide somewhat of a layout of how combat in Horizon: Zero Dawn is, as well as the many engaging and eventful encounters you can have. Granted, I’m not even done with the game, only just now starting the DLC ‘Frozen Wilds’ since this game is so incredibly large and full of captivating stories all around. Everyone has their own experiences, strategies, and preferred tactics so feel free to pick up Horizon and see where you fall on that wheel.