Before we even begin, let’s clarify something: There is no single “best weapon” in Horizon Zero Dawn. Each has its uses and its strengths, but there is no single weapon that we’d call “the best.” There are better versions of each weapon, though, and a few unique weapons. We’ll focus on those in the best weapons section.
The best outfit is a much different situation. There are a lot of useful outfits that you’ll pick up, each with their own useful situations — ice hunter armor is good to wear while fighting glinthawks, for example — but there is one outfit that stands apart from the rest. You’ll have to do some work to get it, but it is very, very worth the trouble.
The best weapons
You can buy the best version of each weapon from any of the mid- to late-game merchants (usually the ones near or in Meridian). Just look for the shadow version of the weapon you want. They’re expensive and usually require a pretty rare machine part or two to pick up, but the extra power and modification slots make them a must-have.
Beyond those, there are four weapons that you receive as rewards for side quests. You can’t just walk to the store to pick these up — the only way to get them is to complete their associated quests.
Complete all 15 hunting grounds trials with a perfect score (a blazing sun) and turn them in at the hunter’s lodge in Meridian to pick up the lodge versions of the blast sling, ropecaster and war bow. Like we said in our quests guide, though, don’t expect these to be superweapons — they are only marginally better than the shadow versions you already have access to.
The “Hunter’s Blind” side quest will get you the tearblaster weapon — you’ll pick up this level 12 quest while following the hunter’s lodge storyline. The tearblaster is a one-of-a-kind weapon that delivers no damage, but will blow armor and components off of machines. Think of it like a vortex cannon. This is a great weapon for those machines that have armor plating over their weak points or have special attacks tied to removable components.
Making any weapon better
Never forget about modification slots. As you progress in the game and get more and more powerful modifications, you can drastically alter the damage any weapon can deal.
As your weapons inventory expands and you find yourself needing to deal specific types of elemental damage, you can buy multiple versions of the same weapon and specialize the modifications. For example, you can buy two hunter bows and load one up with three very rare flame damage-increasing modifications and the other with three very rare tear damage mods, giving yourself two specialized and very powerful versions of the same weapon.
The best outfit: the shield-weaver
There may not be a best weapon in Horizon Zero Dawn, but there is, without a doubt, a best outfit. Meet the shield-weaver.
The shield-weaver outfit is an ancient technology that gives Aloy a force field. The shield will take a ton of abuse — completely blocking all kinds of damage — before it has to recharge (and it recharges pretty quickly).
This armor is amazing. It carried us through the end of the game without even needing our medicine pouch once — not because we’re that good, but because it absorbed that much damage.
Here’s how to get the shield-weaver armor.
The Ancient Armory
You’ll find the side quest (and the armor itself) inside a bunker just east of the Mother’s Rise settlement. It’s in an underground cave near a strider site.
Inside, you’ll find a locked door that you need to get past, but the lock is missing parts. Once you get through the locked door, you’ll need to unlock the clamps holding the armor in place — and the controls for the clamps are, of course, missing parts as well.
The part you need is probably new to you. Power cells are not an item you can scavenge or remove from machines (even though behemoths have a component named power cells — these are different power cells). You’ll need to find a total of five — two for the door and three for the clamps — to get at the shield-weaver armor.
No matter when you pick up this quest — either by finding your first power cell or by stumbling into the bunker — you won’t be able to actually finish it until the very end of the main storyline quests — after you finish “The Mountain that Fell.”
How to find the five power cells
Power cells don’t show up on your map, and Horizon Zero Dawn is pretty tight-lipped about telling you where they are. The only hint (if you can call it that) is that the armor is in a bunker, and there are five other bunkers in the world.
If you were lucky or very thorough in your first playthrough of the bunker locations, you may have already found some of the power cells — we found one of them without even noticing we’d picked it up. If you missed any, you can just revisit the bunkers and pick them up. Power cells will be marked with a green resource icon.
- Ruins to the east of Mother’s Watch. Inside the bunker that Aloy fell into as a child, you’ll find a power cell near the exit behind a wall of stalactites and stalagmites that you can destroy with your spear.
- All-Mother Mountain. There’s a power cell in one of the Nora rooms inside All-Mother Mountain — not inside the facility behind to the closed door. Go down the hall to the right of the door and take the first left. Look for an air duct to crawl through. It’s a little hard to find, so consult the map above.
- Grave-Hoard. This is the power cell you’re most likely to find accidentally (it’s the one we found). The path you take through the Grave Hoard during the main storyline quest of the same name will take you right past it. It’s right after you unlock the door with the three sets of locks. (This is what added the quest for us, too.)
- Maker’s End. At the top of the Faro building, look to the east of the table where you watched Ted and Elisabet’s conversations. There’s a way to climb up to the very, very top of the building where you can find a power cell waiting for you.
- GAIA Prime. After you finish exploring the GAIA Prime ruins and you’re returning to Sylens’ workshop, there’s a power cell in a room that tunnels into the mountain.
When you get all the power cells you need, all that’s left is to install them and enter the combinations to unlock the shield-weaver armor.