Horizon Zero Dawn has a fairly expansive skill tree, with a whole host of abilities to unlock as Aloy finds her way through the primitive culture and robot ruins. But not all skills are created equal, and some should definitely take priority when planning out your character build. We'll explain the best and most useful skills to unlock first in Horizon Zero Dawn, which will make your Aloy that much more versatile to continue gaining levels and skill points well into the late game.
Skills to Unlock First
A must-have for early in Horizon Zero Dawn. No matter how skilled you are with your arsenal, you'll often need to at least soften up enemy enclaves or robot herds with a handful of silent takedowns. Silent Strike allows you to do this easily, and if you get skilled enough, you can even lay waste to an entire bandit camp without ever alerting a single guard. Keep in mind that for human Heavy enemies, you'll need to purchase a secondary tier, called Leader Strike (below). And even with upgrades, Silent Strike won't be an instant take-down of larger machine enemies.
This skill slows down time while aiming with your bow. Given how quickly machines will move, especially when alerted, it's almost necessary to pick off particular components from wiley machines. It's also a useful skill to keep around for precision sniping with the Sharpshot Bows, and it even helps in a pinch during dicey situations once enemies have discovered you. Headshots ahoy.
If you do get into a melee bout with an enemy, having the Critical Hit ability may just save your life. It lets you do an extra burst of damage while an enemy is already down, usually fatal, but always helpful. When you sneak up on a bigger enemy and can't use the Silent Strike, the Critical Hit will let you start by taking off a solid chunk of their life total.
All of your ammo crafting and capacity upgrades rely on materials, so it's good to secure the Gatherer ability early. That will make sure you have plenty of stockpiled materials for just about anything you'd need, and at worst, you'll pick up more than you have use for. In that case, feel free to sell the excess that you can spare and drop any unsellable excess (like wood) on the ground.
Best skills for late-game
Traps are some of the more expensive crafting ammo types, and there's nothing worse than laying down a bunch and then finding you didn't need all of them, only to leave the remainders on the battlefield. It's a big waste. Disarm Traps lets you get them back, so you'll never waste a trap again.
Practically a must, it's almost shocking this late-game skill even needs to be unlocked at all. Your mods are bound to their weapons and outfits by default, and until you buy Tinker, you can't unbind them. Without it, you have to either only equip mods when you pick up strong ones and trust you'll never find one that's even stronger, or buy several versions of an armor or weapon set to keep upgrading with better mods. Neither of those are good solutions, so buy Tinker and swap out mods till your heart's content.
If you want to sneak around enemy camps, eventually you'll reach a point that you can't actually take down the entire base quietly. Leaders are too tough to beat with a Silent Strike, and if you get into melee combat, the rest of their forces will come running. Leader Strike lets you silently assassinate even the toughest human enemies, so you can clear out a base like a ninja or just take down one heavy with a superweapon and use it to lay waste.
A great combination with the basic Concentration skill, Fast Reload lets you squeeze off several arrows in a row before your concentration slow-motion stops. When you're facing down a heavily armored enemy like a Behemoth, firing a few Tearblast arrows quickly lets you rip off a lot of armor before it even has a chance to respond. That may make the difference when it comes to tougher boss encounters, Hunting Challenges, Cauldrons, or Corrupted zones.
With a good grasp on the best skills in Horizon Zero Dawn, you can begin planning out your early-game and late-game builds. Keep in mind, there may be some skills that speak to your personal playstyle, don't be afraid to dig into those! Be sure to check out our full Horizon Zero Dawn Guide for more tips, crafting materials, how to override machines, and more.