The story of the Horizon franchise is A LOT. There’s dense lore, a multitude of important characters, and plenty of earth-shattering revelations. And while the franchise is only really just getting started, we’ve had more than enough happen across a single game and its DLC expansion to warrant a story refresher. So whether you played Horizon Zero Dawn on release in 2017 or you’re just jumping in for Horizon Forbidden West, let’s break down the story so far.
The Horizon franchise plays out its grand narrative of tribal politics and robot dino-animal-things in the 31st century in the wake of a cataclysmic robot-apocalypse that has wiped out the majority of humanity. Those that have survived have formed tribes, and are living their lives largely devoid of the technological advancements of their predecessors, who are widely known as the ‘Old Ones’.
Horizon Zero Dawn features four of these tribes: The Nora – deeply religious warrior-hunters from the south, who worship at the altar of ‘All-Mother’ – a mystical mountain; the Carja, who reside in the bustling cities of the central deserts and revere the Sun God; the Oseram – a tribe of practically-minded forgemen and women; and the Banuk, who are a mountain-dwelling tribe of hunters and shaman. The tribes aren’t exactly all on friendly terms either – with the Carja being notorious for raiding their rivals under the leadership of the Mad Sun King, Jiran.
Scattered across the stunning post-apocalyptic landscapes are animal and dinosaur-like robots known as ‘machines’, who for the most part peacefully coexist with the tribes. However, as the years pass by, the machines have become increasingly more violent towards humanity as part of a phenomenon known as the ‘Derangement’. So begins Horizon: Zero Dawn.
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