7 tips and tricks to help you survive Horizon Forbidden West

a Horizon Forbidden West screenshot
(Image credit: Sony)

Horizon Forbidden West has finally been unleashed into the wilds. This installment has everything fans loved about Horizon Zero Dawn, namely stunning graphics, challenging gameplay, a vast world to explore and a gripping narrative tying it all together. It is the first significant PS5 and PS4 exclusive of 2022 and will no doubt remain popular throughout the year.

While it isn’t a revolutionary sequel, it is a thoroughly satisfying experience, as we detailed in our Horizon Forbidden West review.

Horizon Forbidden West is arguably more difficult than its predecessor. If you’re not prepared, the world’s vicious enemies will bring your life to a swift end. There’s also the large open world and its slew of side missions and collectibles to contend with. Things can get overwhelming, but we’re here to lend a hand.

Below, we’ve listed some basic tips and tricks to help you get the most out of Horizon Forbidden West.

1. Scan enemies and the environment

Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West - Aloy explores the environment (Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Aloy uses a device called a Focus that allows you to get a ton of useful information about the world and its inhabitants. Pressing R3 brings up an overlay that spotlights things like animals, plants and lootable boxes filled with crafting items. Yellow highlights will appear on scalable mountains and buildings, letting you know exactly where you can climb.

You’ll mostly use Aloy’s Focus to scan enemies for vulnerabilities. If a machine is weak to acid, for example, you’ll know to use acid arrows against it. The focus also shows breakable armored sections and parts that will explode if struck. Knowing which machine parts to (pardon the pun) focus on gives you a significant advantage over enemies and can shorten potentially long encounters.

Items of interest and vulnerable enemy parts remain highlighted for several minutes, meaning you won’t constantly have to reinitiate the Focus ability. And unlike similar “detective modes” seen in titles like the Batman Arkham series, the game only highlights items of interest. You won’t mar the beautiful graphics with an ugly colored overlay.

Focus is your best friend, so use it whenever possible.

2. Craft and upgrade often 

Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West - Aloy faces a deadly machine (Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Like we said up top, Horizon Forbidden West can be downright brutal. If you want to last more than two minutes when going up against hulking Thunderjaws or deadly Tenakth rebels, then you’ll need to upgrade your gear.

Villages and shelters scattered across the world almost always have workbenches. This is where you’ll craft upgrades using items obtained from completing quests or that you’ve pilfered from defeated enemies you come across while exploring. Crafting at workbenches is a straightforward process. Simply select a weapon or armor set you want to upgrade and craft.

The game will tell you if you have the necessary items for crafting. If you’re missing something, you can create a quest to find it. Doing so places a waypoint on the map showing you where to find said items. This saves you a ton of time and is a great feature to take advantage of. Instead of wandering aimlessly to find a specific machine type, the game will tell you where to find them. The Focus ability will even show which part you need to break on a particular machine. Very handy indeed!

3. Add coils to weapons and gear 

Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West - Facing a Tenakth soldier (Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Coils let you to boost your weapon and gear stats. For example, slotting a coil that adds +5 fire damage to fire arrows amplifies the amount of fire damage inflicted on enemies. There are also defense-focused coils that make you more resistant to melee, ranged and certain types of elemental attacks. With the right coils in place, you’ll survive the most harrowing encounters and potentially take out enemies before the fight even begins.

Every weapon and gear piece has a set amount of available coil slots but can unlock more slots by upgrading your gear. You’re free to add different types of coils or use the same type to amplify its effects. Coils are found all over the map and are often a reward for completing missions. Best of all, you can swap out coils at any time. This encourages you to not only be prepared for specific enemy types but to experiment and see which coils generally suit you best.

4. Overide Tallnecks 

Tallnecks are enormous giraffe-like machines with giant saucer heads. Unlike most other machines, these majestic giants are peaceful and non-threatening. Climbing to the top of a Tallneck’s head and overriding it with your specialized spear reveals points of interest on sections of the map. Basically, Tallnecks are Horizon Forbidden West’s answer to the towers found in the Far Cry series and are just as useful.

5. Complete side quests and supplemental content 

Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West - Aloy uses her grappling hook (Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Open world games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are notorious for having a ton of extraneous content that exists to inflate already overly-long playtimes. Horizon Forbidden West isn’t lacking supplemental content, but almost all of it is worth your time to partake in for several reasons.

In terms of gameplay, completing side content rewards you with useful gear, coils and crafting items. The main campaign will give you all you need to make it to the end credits, but you’ll obtain the very best gear from side quests. Without spoiling things, you’ll eventually unlock arena-style challenges that dole out some truly impressive gear.

Narrative-wise, almost all side missions tell unique and interesting stories that better flesh out the world and peoples of Forbidden West. Admittedly, most missions have you fighting against machines, but the stories tied into those missions lend them emotional resonance.

6. Don’t search for collectibles until the final act 

Collectibles litter the map. But like Metroid Dread, you won’t be able to snag some of them until you have specialized gear. Trying to explore an underwater cavern is pointless without an oxygen mask, for example.

This is why it’s best to wait until the final act to start hunting collectibles. The game will clearly tell you when you’re about to initiate the final mission. By that time, you’ll have everything necessary to get those previously impossible-to-find collectibles. But if you want, you can collect any items (and complete side quests) after completing the campaign.

7. Take your time and enjoy the world 

Horizon Forbidden West is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Take the time to examine all the captivating vistas around you. Go through every option in a conversation wheel to learn more about the world and its people. Explore every sunken cave or towering mountain. You’ve waited five years for this title, so savor it for as long as possible. We promise it’ll be worth it. 

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.