Horizon Zero Dawn Master Combat Guide

For the video version of this guide, click here: VIDEO GUIDE

Horizon Zero Dawn is a Playstation 4 exclusive title developed by Guerrilla Games, who were also responsible for the Killzone series of Playstation exclusive first person shooters.

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This guide will teach you all about combat and advanced features such as Elemental Severity Thresholds and Elemental Status Effects, two of the most important factors to consider when planning your combat tactics against the tougher enemies in the game, especially on higher difficulties.


Weapons in Horizon Zero Dawn come in 4 different ranks, from weakest to strongest these are Nora which are the basic versions of the weapons, then Carja, then Shadow and finally Adept. Adept weapons can only be acquired in the Frozen Wilds DLC, so the Shadow rank is the strongest rank pre expansion.

There is also a 5TH rank named Lodge, solely for the following 3 weapons, the Ropecaster, the Blast Sling, and the Warbow. The Lodge rank can only be exclusively acquired through the Hunter’s Lodge quest line and offers no additional functionality over other ranks, besides only slight improvements upon some base values of the Shadow versions, so are by no means an important undertaking.

Modification Coils are upgrade items found in the game solely for improving weapons, and Weaves are upgrade items used solely for improving outfits. Unlike Weaves, Coils cannot add new abilities that differ from a weapon’s ammunition types.

Only a Coil’s primary effect determines whether or not you can equip it on a weapon, meaning that you can equip these Coils on weapons that do not necessarily benefit from their secondary or tertiary enhancements.

Outfit Weaves are applied in a similar fashion to weapon Coils, but offer more flexibility in that you can add defensive values for attributes not inherent to the outfit.

This means you can maximise an outfits given strength, like adding to the already high melee defence of the Nora Heavy Protector outfit, or add other defences like ranged or elemental, to make it more versatile.

Saving more potent and rare upgrade items is a good idea for improving a wide variety of outfits and weapons later down the road, allowing you to swap out and maximise your combat effectiveness in any given situation.

The Handling stat of a weapon is indicated by this hand icon and essentially improves draw speed, reload speed and fire rate, basically increasing your attack speed.

Weapons with high Handling tend to synergize well with the following Skills: ‘Concentration+’, ‘Fast Reload’ and the ‘Double’ and ‘Triple Shot’ Skills. Handling can be augmented on all weapons via Coil modifications but some weapons derive much more meaningful benefits from this stat than others.

Normally, once you slot a modification into a weapon or an outfit, it cannot be removed, and applying a new modification into the same slot will overwrite and destroy the existing modification.

To avoid this, you will want to acquire the Tinker skill under the Forager tree, which is a tier 4 skill requiring 3 skill points to unlock, and will allow you to freely swap out and test modifications without destroying existing ones.

Besides the four elemental status effects I will detail shortly in this video, there are another two forms of damage you should be aware of, Basic Damage and Tear.

The Basic Damage output of a weapon is indicated by this downward striking arrowhead icon. This is the amount of Basic Damage the weapon will inflict with no secondary effects.

Hitting any component on a machine (revealed in a yellow highlight after using your Focus ability) will always deal a minimum 50% additional damage, so its always worthwhile aiming for components to maximise damage output of your attacks.

Certain enemies in the game also possess components that act as weak points, and are even more vulnerable to Basic Damage than regular components, examples of weak points are as follows: the exposed Heat Cores of Corruptors and Deathbringers, the Eyes of all machines (especially Watchers), the Exhaust Port of a Rockbreaker, and the Heart and Data Nexus of a Thunderjaw.

Unlike regular components, these weak points cannot be destroyed or removed, but hitting them will multiply your Basic Damage output by up to 700% in the case of the Watchers Eye and 400% for the Thunderjaw’s Heart, so seeking out weak point components on machines that have them, can make your battle much more manageable.

Attacks dealing Tear on the other hand, indicated by this torn shield icon, will deal no physical damage of its own (apart from the pre-set amount of damage for tearing off components).

Instead it deals ranged sonic blasts of concussive force to primarily dislodge exposed components from machines without destroying them, allowing you to harvest the valuable resources inside once the coast is clear.

Tear is also very effective at removing protective armour plates from evolved machines leaving them susceptible to attacks once removed.

Explosive components are unique components that can only be found on a few machines, unlike elemental canisters, these explosive components are only vulnerable to Basic Damage and cannot be destroyed by any other means, they cannot be removed by Tear and do not react to any elemental attacks, so dealing as much Basic Damage to them as possible to quickly trigger an explosion is key.

The resulting explosion from destroying explosive components will either deal Fire, Freeze, Shock or Tear damage depending on the component destroyed.

Destroying these components have the added benefit of disabling many of the machines attacks and abilities on top of the large amount of explosive damage inflicted. These explosive components can be found on the following machines:

The Concussion Sac of a Longleg will explode with Tear.

The Power Generator of a Shell-Walker will explode with Shock.

The Processing Unit of a Trampler will explode with Fire.

The Force Loaders on a Behemoth will explode with Tear.

The Cargo Sac and Gullet of a Fire Bellowback will explode with Fire.

The Cargo Sac and Gullet of a Freeze Bellowback will explode with Freeze.

The Freeze Sac of a Glinthawk will explode with Freeze.

The Freeze Sac of a Snapmaw will explode with Freeze.

The Fuel Sacs on a Rockbreaker will explode with Fire.

The Lightning Gun of a Stormbird will explode with Shock.

The Freeze Sac and Freeze Unit of a Frostclaw will explode with Freeze.

And finally The Fire Sac and Fire Unit of a Fireclaw will explode with Fire.

Just to note the Frostclaw and Fireclaw machines can only be exclusively found in the Frozen Wilds DLC, and do not appear in the original game.

Elemental canister components are similar to explosive components in that they will also explode if attacked, however there are two major differences.

The first being that elemental canisters need to be triggered with the correct elemental attack to trigger the explosion, unlike explosive components which can only be triggered by Basic Damage attacks.

The second difference is that elemental canisters can be easily dislodged with Tear to harvest their resources inside, whereas explosive components cannot be removed, only destroyed.

There are three different types of elemental components on machines as follows: the Blaze Canister which requires fire attacks to trigger a fire explosion, the Freeze Canister which requires Freeze attacks to trigger a Freeze explosion, and finally the Power Cell Canister which requires Shock attacks to trigger a Stun explosion.

OK now we will delve deep into two of the most important factors to consider when planning your combat tactics:


There are 4 types of elemental status effects available in the game as follows:

FIRE which builds to the Burning Status

FREEZE which builds to the Frozen Status

SHOCK which builds to the Stunned Status

And CORRUPTION which builds to the Corrupted Status

To successfully apply a status effect to an enemy, you first need to build up the effect with the appropriate attacks, this build up process is known as Severity.

You need to keep building the Severity until a threshold is met, this is known as the severity threshold, and only until this threshold is met will a status effect be applied.

Different enemies in the game will have different severity threshold requirements, and this is purely dependant on their size, with larger enemies possessing a much higher severity threshold to meet.

As an example, a Thunderjaw is a large machine which has a severity threshold of 300 points on normal difficulty. If your weapon has a fire value of 50, it will take 6 shots to reach and apply the burning status effect to the Thunderjaw.

When an enemy is hit by an elemental attack, the resulting severity build up is indicated by an icon of the corresponding element displayed above the enemy.

This severity icon fills with colour as the Severity builds, and will be replaced by the associated status icon when the Severity Threshold is met, either Burning, Freezing, Stunned or Corrupted.

At this point a white ring will appear around the status icon, which indicates the effects duration gradually disappearing as the status runs out.

When building up an effect to meet the Severity Threshold, you have a 6 second delay before the severity will start to diminish. This is known as severity decay.

Each time you hit an enemy with an elemental attack it will reset the decay timer, so as long as you keep your shots within this 6 second window, you will never see any severity decay allowing you to reach the threshold as efficiently as possible.

Only one elemental state can be built up at a time, so if you have an enemy at 50% of their Fire threshold, and then you switch to Freeze, all the Fire build up will be lost and replaced by Freeze.

However, unlike Severity if one status effect has already been successfully applied, starting the build up of a different status effect will NOT cancel it. Once you reach the severity threshold to apply the second status effect, only then will it cancel and replace the first one.

Modification Coils can also drastically improve the Severity build up value of weapons reducing the number of shots required to inflict an elemental status.

There are also two important skills found under the Brave tree which will directly multiply severity build up, these are Double Shot and Triple Shot, which are tier 3 and tier 4 skills respectively requiring 3 skill points each to unlock.

As the skill name suggests, you can nook two or three arrows at once before firing, allowing you to hit the enemy with two or three times the severity value of your weapon in a single shot, dramatically reducing the shots required to inflict a status effect.

Combined with the appropriate upgrade Coils, these skills make applying Status Effects a breeze.


As you kill machines, they will start to evolve and develop armour plates to mitigate damage and help shield their vulnerable components.

The number of times a machine has to be killed before it evolves varies significantly from machine to machine, for example you only need to kill a Behemoth once before it evolves into its more heavily armoured variant, whereas you will need to kill a Strider 15 times before it evolves.

Once a machine does evolve, you will only ever encounter the heavily armoured variant of that machine from that point on.

However, its worth noting that armour plates do not protect against elemental severity build up, they only reduce damage, therefore your strategy for applying elemental status effects will be the same for both armoured and non-armoured variants.

To be able to deal the most Basic Damage to evolved machines without elemental assistance, it is best to first remove its armoured plating exposing the sensitive underside and any vulnerable components.

The most effective way to do this is to use Tearblast arrows exclusive to the Sharpshot and Powershot Bows, both of which are Aloy’s primary and best sources of the Tear attack. The Tearblaster weapon is a good secondary option for short to mid-range encounters where accuracy is much less important.

OK now let’s cover the four elemental status effects in detail, FIRE, FREEZE, SHOCK AND CORRUPTION.

First up is FIRE.

Being the most common enemy weakness, fire, which inflicts the burning status effect, should be your primary focus early in the game. With all human enemies and corrupted machines being extremely vulnerable to fire and burning, you won’t need any other element or damage type to effectively take on these types of enemies for the entire game.

Two of the more formidable machines in the game, the Corruptor and the Deathbringer, are both in permanently corrupted states and do not have normal variants, therefore the fire element should be your primary focus of attack when engaging these dangerous foes.

Both of these machines possess a unique mechanic where dealing Fire Severity will build up an additional status ailment called Overheat. When this effect triggers, the machines will be Stunned and expose a Weak Point component called the Heat Core, which has a very high Basic Damage multiplier.

Repeatedly triggering the Overheat Status with Fire and hitting the exposed Heat Core components with your best damage weapons, is by far the most effective way to dispatch these dangerous foes as quickly as possible.

Also remember to target any Blaze Canister components on machines with fire attacks to trigger a huge area of effect fire explosion. The same goes for the portable Blaze tanks worn on the backs of the human Cultist Dredgers who attack you with flame throwers.

The machines that carry Blaze Canister components are, the:










SCORCHER (exclusive to the Frozen Wilds DLC)

The weapons in the game that can burn enemies with fire are the Carja and Shadow Hunter Bows which both utilize fire arrows, the Shadow Tripcaster which utilizes the Fire Wire, the Shadow Sling which utilizes fire bombs, the Adept Forgefire which utilizes Firethrower and Fire Burster ammo, and finally the Adept Striker Bow which utilizes Fire Arrows.

Next up we Freeze, attacks of the Freeze element inflict direct cold-based damage and build up Freeze Severity which inflicts the Frozen Status Effect.

When Frozen, enemies take significantly more damage from all sources, by up to 200% for the duration of the effect.

This makes the Freeze status effect the best means of maximizing your raw damage output during combat, and is a crucial tactic when taking on giants like the Thunderjaw, Behemoth or Fireclaw.

In addition to the significant damage bonus, freezing a machine will also render its armour plates completely useless, meaning you do not suffer any damage reduction from hitting them.

Like Burning, Freezing is also highly effective against human opponents allowing you to cull large groups of enemies quickly.

Remember to target Freeze canister components on machines with Freeze attacks to trigger a huge area of effect Freeze explosion.

The machines that carry Freeze canister components are as follows:






And finally, the STORMBIRD

The weapons in the game that can Freeze enemies are the Nora, Carja and Shadow Slings which all utilize Freeze Bombs, the Shadow Rattler which utilizes Freeze Bolts, the Carja, Shadow and Lodge War Bows which all utilize Freeze Arrows, the Adept Champion Bow which also utilizes Freeze Arrows, and finally the Adept Icerail which utilizes Icethrower and Ice Cannon ammo.

Next up we have the SHOCK status effect which effectively stuns enemies causing temporary paralysis, rendering them immobile and unable to perform any actions.

Successfully applying the Shock status effect will result in the enemy crumpling to the ground and exposing otherwise difficult to hit components.

While the effect itself deals no damage of its own, the resulting immobilization is perfect for dealing damage and tearing off armour and components with impunity, stunned enemies also present the perfect opportunity to override machines.

Bear in mind dealing a critical hit on any downed enemy, whether knocked down or stunned, will cause it to instantly recover.

However, where the Shock status effect does differ from the standard Knockdown is dealing normal damage to the downed machine will not reduce the duration of the effect, which is a huge bonus.

Remember to target the Power Cell components on machines with Shock attacks to trigger a huge area of effect Shock explosion.

The machines that carry Power Cell components are:








And finally, the FIRECLAW

The FrostClaw and the FireClaw are both exclusive to the Frozen Wilds DLC.

The weapons in the game that can stun enemies with Shock are Sylens’ Lance which you acquire late in the story, the Shock Trap which is a quick slot tool, the Nora, Carja and Shadow Tripcasters which all utilize Shock Wires, the Carja and Shadow Slings which both utilize Shock Bombs, the Carja and Shadow Rattlers which both utilize Shock Bolts, the Nora, Carja, Shadow and Lodge War Bows which all utilize Shock Arrows, the Adept Storm Slinger which utilizes Storm Bolts, and finally the Adept Champion Bow which utilizes Shock Arrows.

OK the fourth and final status effect in the game is Corruption which is another effective and useful status effect.

Once the Severity Threshold is reached, affected enemies will become hostile to all others in the vicinity, attacking anyone and anything on sight including Aloy, so applying this effect from distance or without detection, is most effective.

Machines that have been corrupted by Aloy are easily recognisable by the green cabling encompassing most of their body, whereas corrupted humans on the other hand, will only occasionally cough up dark green fumes proving much more difficult to identify at a glance.

Aloy can also become Corrupted by coming into contact with pools of Corruption on the ground left by Corrupted machines. Being melee attacked by Corrupted machines will also have the same result sapping Aloy’s health and building Corruption Severity.

Once the Severity Threshold is met, Aloy will suffer heavy damage over time and will not be able to Sprint making escape, all the more difficult. Therefore Severity build up should be avoided at all costs especially when combating multiple machines.

Only 3 weapons in the entire game can deal Corruption damage, the Shadow and Lodge War Bow’s as well as the Adept Champion Bow, the latter being the most powerful Bow in the game and exclusive to the Frozen Wilds expansion.

Buy Horizon Zero Dawn COMPLETE Edition from Amazon USA: Buy Game from Amazon USA

Buy Horizon Zero Dawn COMPLETE Edition from Amazon UK: Buy Game from Amazon UK

Amazon (Official Guide Book) – Buy Official Game Guide Book from Amazon USA

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