Levelling in Horizon: Forbidden West will seem familiar if you've played Horizon: Zero Dawn, but this time around some key differences in how skill trees work make it worth taking a closer look at.
As before, you earn XP for completing quests as well for certain actions - we'll explain how the level system works, what XP means and how to use skill points to make Aloy stronger.
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Horizon: Forbidden West's levelling system explained
Unlike many other games that have your character level up, Aloy's level itself doesn't influence most of her stats in Horizon: Forbidden West - while you gain more health points with each level, Aloy won't automatically do more damage, for example. Instead, you gain skill points every time you level up or complete a quest.
You can completely ignore the recommended level the game shows you for any of its main quests, but with the many activities throughout the Forbidden West, you can quickly earn XP and make things easier for yourself.
With each level you gain and quest you complete, you get skill points. In Forbidden West's quest menu, you can see the amount of XP you can earn for each individual quest before you start it, as well as skill points and other bonuses that come with it, which helps with deciding which quest you want to complete first.
The fastest way to get XP in Horizon: Forbidden West
In the early hours of the game, main quests are your only way to progress, but side quests start appearing as soon as you visit Chainscrape, the game's first proper settlement.
The main quests provide a steady stream of XP, but if you don't engage in any other activity in Forbidden West, you will likely reach a point at which Aloy's level is significantly lower than the recommended level for the next story mission. Nothing stops you from continuing with the main storyline anyway, but Horizon wants you to explore its world after all, so you should give its many different quests a go.
Some side quests only unlock after meeting certain characters or progressing with the main quest - that way you can be sure you're ready to attempt them.
Side quests are generally a good source of XP- between from just over 1,000 to over 10,000 XP. Some side quests give you just as much XP as a main quest, and the number of XP you earn stays the same no matter what difficulty you play on. How much XP you gain differs between each quest but side quests offer pretty high XP and between 2 and 3 skill points per mission. Expect the quests with high XP to have multiple parts.
There is a relation between side quests and the main quest - usually, the main quest will lead you to a settlement, where many NPCs wait with different side quests. Plainsong, for example, is an area you'll naturally come to at around level 15, and the side quests you find there will give you enough XP to be helpful at levelling Aloy up quickly.
If you wait until level 30, for example, to mop up these quests, your XP requirement for reaching the next level will be much higher, rendering old side quests much less useful for levelling up.
If you find yourself struggling during the main quest, do a few side quests that correspond to your current level, but keep in mind side quests also give you skill points and occasionally even a weapon, which can always be useful. If you want to make absolutely sure, simply accept every side quest you come across and then choose the ones you want to do by comparing the XP, skill points and other bonuses available.
Rebel camps, errands and salvage
Clearing out rebel camps awards fewer XP than a side quest, but you get 3 skill points for each. Errands and salvage contracts earn fewer XP, likely due to the overall lower difficulty in completing them, but that's also what makes them worth taking up if you're looking to make a few quick experience points.
As in Zero Dawn, cauldrons not only allow Aloy to overwrite a machine type, they are also a good source of experience points. However, due to the limited number of machines you can overwrite, their number is understandably limited. They are also spread quite far across the map, so that taking side quests is the overall easier method for quick XP gain.
Other activities, such as overriding Tallnecks or exploring ruins, award a fixed number of XP - 7500 XP per Tallneck is nothing to sneeze at, but their number is of course limited, just like in Horizon: Zero Dawn.
How to use skill points in Horizon: Forbidden West
Skill points are what you really want in Horizon: Forbidden West - together with weapon upgrades, skills make the real difference to how Aloy feels to play.
Forbidden West has six skill trees - Warrior, Trapper, Hunter, Survivor, Infiltrator and Machine Master. Each skill tree corresponds to a different aspect of the game. Warrior skills help with melee combat, Infiltrator skills make stealth easier, and so forth.
The skill trees come in different sizes, the further down a skill is on the tree, the more points you have to spend to unlock it. Furthermore, in order to gain a skill you have to unlock one or several connected skills first, making it more of a skill web than a skill tree.
The further down the tree a skill lies, the more points it costs. Some skills also further upgrade skills you've gained - you can upgrade your stealth more than once to become even more difficult to notice, for example, or get even more health back from using a potion.
Horizon: Forbidden West also offers new unlockable weapon skills as part of the skill tree, such as letting ammo from your blast sling bounce for more damage upon impact or using rope from your ropecaster as an offensive weapon.
In addition to this, each skill tree holds Valor Surges - short-time skills that you equip and unleash with a button combo as soon as Aloy has filled a corresponding valor meter. One Valor Surge in the trapper skill tree for example allows Aloy to do more elemental damage until the meter has depleted. Valor Surges unlock once you unlock three skills connected to the valor icon on the tree and can be upgraded three times.
Aloy has returned in Horizon: Forbidden West! To help you get started in her new quest, visit our pages on how levelling and skill points work, along with how to upgrade your inventory pouches. We’ve also looked at how to climb the Tallneck in Cinnabar Sands, cauldron locations and the door code for Death’s Door mission.
What is the max level cap in Horizon: Forbidden West?
In Horizon: Forbidden West, you can level Aloy up to level 50.
Because Forbidden West wants you to choose the skills according to your personal playstyle, you won't be able to max out every tree in a playthrough this time around. With 162 skills total, and the option to upgrade Valor Surges several times, you will have to make some potentially tough choices on how to spend your points instead.
Good luck reaching the level cap in Horizon: Forbidden West!