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Spoilers for a side quest and some machine types in Horizon Zero Dawn


So I was foggy, but Mrs. McP had class, so I wanted to play at least a little. So I loaded it up, and, right there by my campfire, were dudes! Dudes, I thought, mean side quest. I thought, “perfect! I’ll do one side quest and call it a night. Side quests are great for times like these,” I thought, “because they usually just mean running about collecting sticks!”

So I went up to the guy, was all “‘sup, I’m Aloy,” and there was a scene. No dialog choices, nothing. And he’s all “The caravan was attacked and there are monsters and you’re a hunter” and I start to worry this isn’t a “find the sticks” quest but a “fight a bunch of hard shit” quest which I didn’t want to do. “Fine,” thought I, “I’ll just put it on my quest list so I remember it’s here and move along to find some dude who wants sticks” but NOOOOOO because as SOON AS THE DIALOG ENDED the fight began, against a thing I HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE!

So I died.

“Ok,” I thought, “That’s cool. I died. I’ll restart from the campfire and just not go this way, remember these guys are here and come back and HOLY SHIT THE SAVE POINT IS WHEN THE FIGHT STARTS?????”

Game…..you gotta give the player a “come back later” option on side quests. You really do. REALLY.

So kill the thing I did, and the second wave of things, and then I had to follow the guy’s tracks. “Ah,” thought I, “this is more like it. Following. Purple sparkles. This is what I wanted in the first place.” So I followed, found the guy, and, once again, a scene happened, he got shot by something and I had to fight this thing I HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE which could FUCKING DISAPPEAR! IT COULD DISAPPEAR!!!!! YOU CANNOT SCAN A THING THAT HAS DISAPPEARED!!!!

So I died. And I thought “That’s cool, I’ll just not follow the guys tracks and come back later and OH COME ON THE SAVE POINT IS THERE?????”

Game…..if you’re not gonna give me a “come back later” option on side quests, you really, REALLY have to give me save points that allow me to walk away from said quest at a point where there isn’t a DISAPPEARING MYSTERY DEATH MACHINE ABOUT TO KILL ME.

I love ya game, I do. But work on that.

But I killed it.

Then I went to bed.


Yes! I remember that! The ram-like chargers, right? And the disappearing whatever it was…’stalker’? Yeah, that was exciting. Honestly, this was a point where I kind of figured “you know, if you’re going to be pulling this kind of trick, I’m just going to leave it on normal difficulty.”

But I salute you for leaving it on hard, if you did.

And, you know, I kind of respect the game for actually making something urgent this way. We’re always poking gentle fun at the way you can run into some bereaved character whose child was kidnapped and who begs you to please go find him or whatever, and you say yes and then wander off and don’t get to it for two months, but whatever, because the bereaved parent and the kidnappers all wait patiently for you to get around to this trivial task and it doesn’t matter.

There’s something to be said for a narrative where if you stumble on something that’s happening, it’s happening RIGHT NOW and you need to act on it. We could argue that maybe they should at least give you the option to refuse to act on it (in which case you could stand back while everyone dies and then loot their stuff, I guess), but I can’t entirely dislike the fact that they don’t let you get out of it once you’ve started. Even though, as you eloquently describe, it can be frustrating.


I do believe “stalker” was the invisible thing, but fuck if I know what the other one was, because one problem with scanning new machines is it works just find if you’re hiding or something, but when they come out of cutscenes it’s either “AIEE! WHAT IS THAT? AND THERE’S 27 WATCHERS! SIT STILL!” or “AIEE! WHAT IS THAT? IT’S INVISIBLE! THE FUCK?”

So I didn’t scan them.

The one time I thought I was gonna scan the stalker (which was, mercifully, alone), I ran like fuck and hid. But I guess I ran too far and hid too well because I lost track of it and it lost track of me. I had no idea where it was. Couldn’t even hear it. So I spent a good five minutes jumping and throwing rocks like a crazy person trying to get it to come where I could see it. Took forever. But it worked!

Then I died.

And yeah, the ONE thing I remembered two nights ago was “turn it back to hard.” Good job, me.

It can be frustrating. I certainly hope there’s some game mechanic that makes it so overleveled quests don’t present, though. This one was tough enough even though it was a level 10 and I was level 13 (and it got me to 14). If I’m playing tonight and get vortexed into a level 28 quest I’m doomed. There’s got to be something preventing that.



Yeah, you’d hope they wouldn’t just auto-drag you into something you literally can’t finish. Although the other thing is, as you found, one CAN just run away from these things. It doesn’t let you avoid reloading in the middle, but you can flee.

I recently willfully started a quest that was a couple of levels too high for me, and even though it kept respawning me at the “oh no what is that I’m going to die” point, it did let me run for my life and get the hell out of that area and the thing didn’t chase me and I found a campfire and saved so I don’t go back there until I’m damn good and ready.

And then I deselected that quest and went to do something else.

Similarly, you lost track of the stalker and presumably could have just wandered off and never found it until you felt like wandering back that way. So in that sense it’s probably more an illusion of “you have to act right now” than a real “if you don’t, it’s going to move on without you and when you come back it will be over,” although I don’t know for sure.

I mean, I still have that too-high quest on my list, so I’m pretty sure it will be waiting for me in a month in traditional fashion, but it’s possible the stalker would have killed that dude and you would come back in a week to find everyone had moved on.

I would respect that, while also complaining about it.

FO4 did a bit of that, with some of those timed rescue missions, like if you don’t help this settlement within a certain number of hours you fail the quest. I respected that, while also complaining about it.


I mostly complained. Broke the damn flow. Here we were chugging along and we had to drop everything to go save a mutfruit.

But that’s another post.

I somehow doubt they time them in this game. The dude was dutifully not dying the whole time I was there trying to not die myself. Even when I really ran away and Aloy was all “Ok, they’re gone. Go about your business” he was still politely waiting for me to finish the quest so he could die.

As for levels, ok, I’m playing on hard and all, and I’m foggy, but this thing was, they said, three levels BELOW where I was, and….no. Three levels down should be easy, even on hard. This was not. Makes me nervous for the future.


I haven’t been playing on hard, but yeah, I’ve been finding that their recommendations for challenge level are fairly tough. If it says something is above my level, even a little, then it’s going to be too hard, and if it says something is my level, then it’s going to be pretty hard, but doable if I work at it.

And the levels on machines…I dunno. Some of those machines still kick my butt even at a few levels below me.


I’m used to levels being “This is the level you need to be at for it to just kinda cruise along.” Not “Ok, MAYBE you can do it at this level….”

I also gotta get new armor. I’m still wearing that suit the rather sweet pathetic dude gave me. Sentimental reasons. But it kinda sucks.

Oooo! Speaking of stuff, I found five hunter arrows on a dead dude last night!

He’s ok! The ammo gnome is ok!


Aww…he made it! That’s great news. I haven’t found those arrows, but I don’t even care about the arrows. It’s just good to know he’s alive.

Yeah, I had to buy new armor. I still have the sentimental armor you’re wearing, but it does kind of suck, so I’ve gone through a couple of upgrades. I’m wearing the sort of medium level stealthy kind right now. (Because I do love me some stealth assassinating!)

There’s a whole set outlined in purple that I’m not allowed to buy yet, even though I totally have the money, so apparently I’m appropriately attired for my level. All the better to barely squeak through the things I should be tackling!


You know you’re foggy when you find arrows and you think of the gnome.


You sure that’s level with the armor? I get a red thing when I don’t have all the shit the dude wants for it. Some stuff, they want shards AND wire and watcher hearts and shit. So you look and if the shards you got, that’s white, but if there’s a red little pile of junk, you’re just missing the junk.


Oooooooooohhhhhh…you’re probably right! I probably DON’T have all the random junk they want for it. I think I noticed that feature a while ago and then forgot about it, so I’ve been just selling off my machine hearts and stuff. My bad.

Maybe the challenge level would be more accurate for both of us if we were wearing better armor.


Could be. I’m at a point now where one good whack takes away about three quarters of my health. And one tail flick from that stalker took me from full health to dead. One hit.

That’s gotta be armor.


Yeah, I agree. Armor!

Time to start saving up machine hearts and lenses and what not. I’ve been selling them off to clear out my inventory, but I’ll just have to let it get cluttered.

They better not want boar skins and fish bones, though. I need those for my satchels!

Incidentally, do you like how they’ll let you basically assign yourself a quest to hunt for the parts you need? I kind of like that (you can have personal goals as well as the ones set by random psychopaths you meet along the road!), although the one ‘job’ I set for myself wound up being 20th level or something (that’s going to be a hell of a boar skin), so I abandoned it.

I should check it out again now that I’m tougher.


Very key, the armor.

Saving up machine parts is damn handy. For all the stuff I haven’t bought.

I STILL haven’t gotten bones! Or, like, one. Everything in the future is boneless! Convenient for grilling, true, but DAMN!

I’ve never been so pissed to only have rich meat!

I keep forgetting I can self-assign jobs, but it’s a pretty awesome mechanic. Let the game find me the not boneless fish. And it is very nice that they do the levels, though I’m not sure how that plays. Are there, like, ornery turkeys? Exploding rabbits?


Beware the exploding rabbit!

But yeah, grilling isn’t everything. The boars of the future–or more specifically the mad scientists who genetically engineered those boars–need to understand that.