Horizon: Zero Dawn Ending Explained
Horizon Zero Dawn - Ending
(Last Updated On: March 7, 2017)

Horizon: Zero Dawn has a rather complicated story told over the course of its 12 hour playthrough via audio recordings, cutscenes and dialogue sequences with NPCs. It’s easy to miss a lot of the core of the story if you don’t fish out some of the details. However, this article will cover the basics to give you a rundown of what happened and how the game ends.

Horizon: Zero Dawn starts with Aloy as a baby with her guardian Rost. Both of them have been outcast from the Nora tribe, a primitive but stable group. They live on the outskirts of the land where Rost trains Aloy so she can compete in a fake Hunger Games-style event called the Proving, which if she wins it will allow her to join a tribe and no longer be an outcast. Aloy manages to win the Proving and become a Seeker after everyone else in the Proving is killed via sabotage. She seeks to gain answers about the sabotage by tracking down a splinter cell group from a tribe called the Carja.

Horizon Zero Dawn - Avad

The 13th sun king ruler of the Carja had originally waged war with the other tribes, but the 14th ruler managed to kill the previous ruler and steer the Carja away from their raiding and slave-harboring ways. However, the war managed to take a toll on the other tribes, especially the Nora; they regressed to primitive ways of dealing with their tribesmen, banishing them as outcasts if they dared venture into parts of the land that are deemed cursed. Their superstition is also what led to them brandishing Aloy as an outcast when they found her as a baby at an ancient door.

Aloy makes her way to the city of Meridian to track down Olin, who was at the Proving before the sabotage occured. While in the city, Aloy discovers that Olin was hired to betray all those in the Proving when the leader of the splinter cell group, Helis, captured Olin’s family and held them hostage.

Aloy manages to track down Olin, who is among a group of cultists in a gorge filled with dangerous machines. Aloy defeats the machines, kills the cultists, confronts Olin, and saves Olin’s family. Aloy learns from Olin that the Shadow Carja are known as the Eclipse Cultists’ they’re led by Helis, the former champion of the 13th Carja king who was also known as the mad sun king.

Horizon Zero Dawn - Helis

Helis wants to restore the Carja to power and make them great again, similar to when they were under the mad sun king. He wants the Carja to go back to being a tribe of conquerors before the 14th king took control. He’s driven by grief and anguish after his wife died during childbirth. He was resolved to continue on after the 13th king allowed Helis’ family to be buried in the cave of the royals, cementing Helis’ position as the chosen under the king. To this end, Helis believes his goals can be accomplished by following the commands of a machine overlord named Hades, and that the Carja can be restored to glory. Hades is the one who gives Helis his commands through the Focus device, directing and chiding him in the way of restoring the ancient machines, starting with the Corruptors, also known as Scarabs.

It’s explained that the Corruptors, the ancient war machines, can corrupt other machines, turning the robosaurs into rabid, violent attackers. The Corruptors are like the foot soldiers for the more devastating machines known as the Deathbringers, giant mechs filled to the brim with devastating firepower.

The Eclipse cultists plan on using the Deathbringers to wipe out the other tribes and restore the Carja to their original prominence.

Aloy manages to discover that the Eclipse gained control of the Deathbringers through an old Faro Automated Solutions facility – a company that was responsible for making the robots and the Focus devices. Aloy manages to infiltrate an abandoned Faro facility where she learns that they were responsible for making AI networks responsible for automated manufacturing of machine forces. She learns how the Corruptors were part of a Peacekeeper line of machines, which were used to take control of other enemy robots on the battlefield.

Unfortunately, Ted Faro, the owner of the Faro Corporation, ran into a problem when the AI had a fault: it became rampant. Faro tried a last ditch effort to get the programmer to build in a backdoor to take back control of the machines known as the Hartz-Timor Swarm, but it was already too late and the machines had become autonomous both within and outside of the network.

It turned out that the Chariot Line of Hartz-Timor Swarm Peacekeepers went rogue and began self-replicating through a cauldron known as the Horus Titan. In order to keep functioning, however, the Peacekeepers began converting organic material into biomass fuel, this included grinding up organic matter (such as plants, animals and humans) and turning it into fuel.

In order to prevent the entire destruction of the Earth, Dr. Elisabet Sobeck came up with the “Zero Dawn” project as a final solution to stop the Peacekeepers.

Aloy tracks down one of the machine manufacturing stations known as Cauldron Sigma, which looks like a mix between something out of The Matrix and Terminator.

Aloy ventures to the different machine Cauldrons in order to override their cores, which enables her to take control of the machines. However, the Eclipse cultists are already far ahead in their plans to overthrow Meridian, the capital of the Carja.

Horizon Zero Dawn - Sylens

Along the way Aloy is guided by an explorer named Sylens who had previously aided the Eclipse in acquiring their Focuses from the Faro facilities. Sylens ended up leaving the Eclipse once he discovered what they were up to.

In one of the Faro facilities that Aloy infiltrates, a hologram from the past features a General Herres, who explains that Project Zero Dawn was not a super weapons program and that life on Earth was going to cease to exist no matter what. Aloy finds a hologram of Elisabet’s Zero Dawn project and it’s true that it’s not meant to save mankind, it’s meant to rebuild the world.

Elisabet explains that Zero Dawn is a sentient terraforming AI protocol that designates how organic life will reconstitute the planet. The AI is called “Gaia”, a literal AI version of mother nature.

Horizon Zero Dawn - Gaia

Gaia as an AI is designed to run the encryption process to stop the swarm, but it will take around 60 years. Gaia’s purpose thereafter is to take back control of the machines, build new machines to help terraform, and use the machines to clean up the Earth so that Gaia can then begin to use the machines to gestate and distribute the seeds of organic life to repopulate the Earth over the course of 350 years.

Gaia was aided in the endeavor by other sub-routines, such as Hephaestus, which helped shape the machines to not only be adequate in navigating terrain, but also aesthetically to replicate past animals, hence why the machines that were built after the Swarm were wiped out began looking like robosaurs instead of war machines.

After the Swarm destroyed the Earth and Gaia went online, the AI eventually cracked the encryption of the Swarm and broadcast the deactivation codes for the Swarm army. In order to keep Gaia in check, a Matthew McConaughey wannabe named Travis Tate explains in a holographic backup that they made a failsafe called Hades. Hades’ job was basically a kill-switch for Gaia, forcing the AI to reboot and try again if the bio reconstitution failed the first time.

After Aloy gets the data from Elisabet’s office she goes back to the All Mother’s mountain and enters into the Lyceum, the place where humans are genetically bred by AI automatons. Aloy learns that over time Hades had become infected with the same virus as the Swarm and began attempting to usurp Gaia and destroy all life again. Gaia attempted to thwart Hades’ attempt by blowing up the reactor, destroying her and the other subordinate AI. Before doing so, Gaia gestates one more embryo with the DNA of Elisabet Sobeck… an embryo that eventually becomes Aloy.

Horizon Zero Dawn - Elisabet Sobeck

Gaia designed Aloy to access all the Faro facilities and rebuild the planet using Gaia Prime that only she could access. Aloy learns that she’s the only one who can destroy Hades and she’s the only one who can restore the planet and purge the corruption.

When she reaches Gaia Prime it turns out that the people who were being bred and released into the wild – as tribesmen – weren’t receiving knowledge because the education and history subordinate known as Apollo was destroyed by Ted Faro. Faro destroyed Apollo and all of human’s culture and history because he felt it was a disease that would only curse the innocents to come. Thus, when Gaia began releasing people from the Lyceum they were released without the archived knowledge held within Apollo, thus they were primitive and had to start from scratch.

Hades, however, offered humans an opportunity to gain knowledge. Sylens meets Aloy at Gaia Prime, revealing that during a scavenge he found a Focus device and used it to locate an old Horus Titan, which contained some of the AI code of Hades before Gaia purged the system by blowing the reactor. Hades had Sylens find and repair more Focus devices and used him to establish the Eclipse cult to work as a personal army; Hades pretended to be a god to the Eclipse to create civil war with the Carja as a cover so that Hades could gain control of a tower called the spire. After Hades acquired what it could from Sylens, it launched a kill order against him, forcing him to become a fugitive on the run, hence this is why Sylens begins helping Aloy.

Hades also sought to kill Aloy because she represented the only thing that could stop him from taking over the transmission spire and rebroadcasting the Swarm virus again. Hades intended to revive all the biomass mechs and replication cauldrons that were decommissioned during the extinction.

Horizon Zero Dawn - The Spire

Hades manages to launch his assault against the Carja in Meridian, which is where the spire is located. He takes control of the broadcast tower, raising the ancient army of machines in the process.

However, Hades and his army of killer mechs are unable to defeat Aloy and she manages to overcome the corrupted Deathbringers, kill Helis and his men, and destroy the Hades master control unit. Once Hades is destroyed, Aloy activates Elisabet Sobeck’s virus purge and deactivates the evil machines while cleansing them of the Swarm virus.

The game ends with Aloy finding the body of Elisabet while an audio recording plays of Elisabet explaining that if she had a child, she would want her daughter to be strong and unstoppable and capable of healing the world.

In a post credit scene it’s revealed that Hades lives and is captured by Sylens, who begins to question the AI about its masters and who woke up the AI and why they wanted it to destroy Gaia.

TL;DR: A rich white guy builds killer robots that destroy the entire planet. A rich white woman builds the entirety of mother nature into a super AI that looks like a black woman cosplaying as the Statue of Liberty — all in an attempt to fix the rich white guy’s mistake. It sort of works, but the rich white guy’s killer robots come back and ruin the benevolent black mother nature AI. As a last ditch effort the mother nature AI creates a perfect being in Aloy based on the rich white woman’s DNA. Aloy is designed so that she’s the only one who can stop the corrupting robot virus, and restore the Earth to its former glory.

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Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

  • FutureFox

    Aloy = Serge the arbiter in Chrono Cross
    HADES = FATE computer in Chrono Cross
    GAIA = The Oracle (The Matrix)
    HADES = The Matrix (The Matrix)

    Glad I just read up on the game rather than spend scores of hours playing this.

    • More like GAIA = The Oracle
      and HADES = The Architect.

      • FutureFox

        Yeah. I couldn’t remember the name.

  • Travis Persell

    Did you even play the game? Most all of your facts are way off there dude.

  • Travis Persell

    Did you even play the game? Most all of your facts are way off there dude.

    • Feel free to list them.

  • Joshua Lee Porter

    After the scene in the alpha room where Faro killed all the creators, it led me to believe that he still had a lot of power. It wouldn’t surprise me if Faro seeded himself in a cradle, and is the one behind Hades waking back up

  • nff

    The ending seems indicate horizon dawn 2 ? i guess
    and to be frank i kinda want to fight that giant thing from the ending

    • The Horus Titan class? Looks like you’ll be facing off against that in Horizon 2 now that Hades has been put back inside.

      But yeah, it’s obvious Sylens will be the main villain for Horizon 2.

  • Edward Burgess

    Does anybody know where that cutscene with Aloy and her mother is located on the map?

  • Glen

    This was the best game ever created to date. I’d love if they created another like it.

    • Vivi Siow

      ^_^ *thumbs up*

  • Disqusted

    Sounds like ass. And this is the story they put a huge amount of development time into. I heard it doesn’t go anywhere until the very end of the game.

    I assume it’s not really avoidable on a second playthrough, either?

    • That was literally one of my biggest issues. They did an awful job spacing and pacing the game’s narrative with the actual gameplay. The back end of the game is story heavy in a disproportionate manner to the rest of the game. And it’s more like walking-sim central once the actual plot points are expounded upon. I think they really should have spaced out how the plot unfolded to keep players guessing throughout the whole game but also fed small bits of information as well.

      As I mentioned in another comment, Nier did a much better job of spacing the narrative and pacing it with the actual gameplay. They avoid doing massive info-dumps, and give players small bits of info sprinkled throughout the story across multiple play-throughs. It’s a brilliant design for both replayability and keeping the narrative from obstructing the actual gameplay.

      • Disqusted

        That’s the way I like it, just give players small bits of info here and there that don’t obstruct the gameplay.

        Walking sim central sounds like the end of Gravity Rush 2 when you’re stuck in the palace for ages.

        • Walking sim central sounds like the end of Gravity Rush 2 when you’re stuck in the palace for ages.

          That’s EXACTLY how it is in Horizon.

          • Disqusted

            Ugh. That is a disturbing trend.

          • Vivi Siow

            Well,they can’t appease anyone,I appreciated the info dump-it made it all the more mindblowing on what happened OwO

  • ptitty

    Excellent write up! I heard rumors that it was gonna have some SJW/contemporary feminist themes, and now Im dismayed that seems to be the case. But Im honestly more annoyed by the hippie, mother-earth, chosen one nonsense more.

    • Steve

      They’re supposed to be primitive people. The “hippie, mother-earth, chosen one nonsense” makes sense if you can manage to see the world from their point of view. Without becoming too enraged, of course.

  • John

    I couldn’t finish it, I got to Meridian before I gave up on this SJW fest, I really really tried to ignore that and just enjoy it but the underlying themes of SJW’s were too much. The industry has been usurped by SJW but what I do like is that they made their own title and story for it rather than try and ruin a current good IP. So if you don’t like it you don’t have to play. That’s fine by me. Good luck to them but I won’t finish the game and won’t bother with picking up a sequel if they are stupid enough to make one.

    • I do have to agree that the SJW themes really are overbearing.

      The gameplay is solid, and they did do exactly what people said: Make their own game with those themes.

      It just felt way too preachy at times, like they took Fury Road as a template and then ramped it up by 11.

      I mean if they wanted their “strong wymnz” that’s fine and all, but every dude in the game is this emasculated weakling, even the main bad guy is laughable, and it felt like fan-fiction written on Tumblr by a 16-year-old girl. Nothing wrong with that if you like that sort of thing… but I doubt this is going to be a huge draw with the standard target demographic.

      • Disqusted

        Sounds horrific.

      • motaskah

        I kind of like that the people in power were the matriarchs but then they were total dicks too! makes sense. Humanity is evil as fuck. Men and women are evil. Men are just more evil cause they can kill more people with their stronger arms but given the chance women are just as, plus they keep birthing out evil men so if you wanted this word to be less evil then you should stop breeding ladies. Your fault!

        • Vivi Siow

          Nah,it’s you men’s fault for getting yourselves to fuck us… x.x

      • tom

        Boo fucking hoo. All this “SJW” talk is truly pathetic. If the game’s focus on female characters over male ones (for once) is enough to ruin the whole experience for you, you both have a lot of growing up to do.

        • If the game’s focus on female characters over male ones (for once) is enough to ruin the whole experience for you,

          “For once”? You’re an uneducated moron. Games have had plenty of female leads for decades. If you can’t take criticism for a game you’re fanboying over, maybe you’re the one who needs to grow up, eh?

          • Noksukow

            “Games have had plenty of female leads for decades”. He said “game’s focus on female characters over male ones (for once).”

            Focusing on characters, not leads. Is there really an issue if the overarching story and gameplay is solid, does that matter if the focus is on female characters? I shouldn’t think so.

          • Focusing on characters, not leads. Is there really an issue if the overarching story and gameplay is solid, does that matter if the focus is on female characters? I shouldn’t think so.

            And these games have also existed for decades. From the Memento Mori games to the Longest Journey to Dreamfall to Tomb Raider to Still Life… you people are making it like focus on female characters is a new thing. It’s not, it hasn’t been. Whether they’re leads or strong supporting characters.

            It’s the mark of people bandwagoning on to the whole social justice thing because a bunch of idiots in the media who don’t ever play video games are saying that these feminist-friendly games are all the first of their kind.

          • Noksukow

            Again, a focus on female leads in your examples =/= a focus on female characters in a game where there is an obvious case of role reversal in many aspects of the game’s story and social structures.

            And again, my point was that it wasn’t a first of any kind, but that it has to be considered a “problem” to some. It’s not a problem if the gameplay and story is solid.

    • motaskah

      It’s funny but the SJW are turning on this game because of all the “native” and “tribal” imagery not knowing that the vikings and celtic people and a lot of “white” ancestry also had tribalesque things about them too. So you have SJW people protesting this game and anti-SJW protesting this game. LOL!!!!!

      • The thing is, I love some of the art-style in the game, I think they really should have incorporated more of the robosaur armor into one of the tribe’s aesthetics, though. There was obviously a lot of south Indian and north Indian culture that inspired the look of the tribes.

        But yeah… they’re obviously going to get pelted from people tired of all the identity politics, but now they’re getting pelted by the people who can’t stop talking about identity politics. They really should have just focused on fleshing out a really cool world centered around the robosaurs instead of trying so desperately to appease those who can’t be appeased.

  • Meteor

    How much a clone of Tomb Raider/Uncharted this game is?

    • Not much of a clone at all. The platforming is actually quite linear and you don’t do half as much platforming as I thought you would. It’s like quarter of the platforming of what you would find in Uncharted 4, and barely an eighth of the platforming you would find in Rise of the Tomb Raider.

      Combat is really good though… well, as far as the robosaur dynamics are concerned. Aloy has some good weapons at her disposal, even though they can be a bit repetitious. Fighting humans is a drag, though. The human AI is some of the worst I’ve seen in a game.

      • Disqusted

        It’s sad how so many people still have trouble making human AI that doesn’t suck balls. That’s why they love zombies so much.

        • Keystone

          I still say that the AI in Sierra’s SWAT 3 from almost 2 decades ago is superior to nearly every enemy AI in modern games.

      • Keystone

        “The human AI is some of the worst I’ve seen in a game.”

        Bad as TLOU’s?

        • Worse than TLOU. At least in TLOU they sometimes flanked, and even though the vegetable zombies were idiots, they tried working their idiocy into the lore of the zombies’ behavior, so it was bad… but somewhat tolerable. The human AI in Horizon is either willfully obtuse, standing targets or charging directly at you.

      • Meteor

        I see, thanks!

    • Vivi Siow

      I don’t think it’s a clone of anything? ?.?