Horizon Forbidden West & Zero Dawn: Full Timeline Of Events

The narrative of Horizon Forbidden West and its sequel, Horizon Zero Dawn, spans a complex timeline of events that goes back centuries. The Horizon games allow players to explore the newly tribalistic regions that cover the post-apocalyptic United States following the complete destruction of humanity due to climate crises, technological evolution, and mankind's hubris. Both games are story-driven in focus, and revolve around protagonist Aloy, played by Ashly Burch.

[Warning: full spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West follow.]

In order to understand the context of Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West, it is first necessary to comprehend their history. The full story of the Horizon games timeline spans centuries, beginning in the present day and concerning the current climate crisis. The story of Horizon Zero Dawn begins in the year 3040, however, so there is a millennium of events to explain how the state of the world deteriorated to become that which protagonist Aloy is familiar with.

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These centuries of recorded events are discovered throughout the game by players at the same pace as Aloy, as she journeys and learns more about the history of humanity. Within recordings that Aloy encounters, there are endless dates, events, and people listed. Players do not need to understand every tiny detail in order to play either Horizon game, but an overall comprehension of the timeline of events will help players understand the world that Aloy must navigate.

The prelude to Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West begins in the mid-21st century, in the period known as the 'Old World'. Businessman Ted Faro kicks off the series of events that lead to the mass extinction of humanity through the Faro Plague of machine enemies seen in Horizon Forbidden West. Ted founds Faro Automated Solutions in the year 2033. This corporation was originally purposed to provide automated servitor robots, then in the "Claw-back" decade of the 2040s, the company created environmentally green robots. This environmental effort was led by roboticist and bioengineer, Dr. Elisabet Sobeck, and Faro Automated Solutions became the wealthiest corporation in the world.

Throughout this period and beyond, the Earth faced multiple devastating ecological events: The Great Die-Off of 2033 in which the Azores sank into the sea; the Submergence of 2036 after which much of New Zealand is underwater; and a nuclear disaster caused by an earthquake in 2051 that rendered land uninhabitable due to a near-unsurvivable nuclear fallout. By the end of the 2040s, Faro decided to gear his company towards providing military-grade robotics, principally the Chariot line known as the "Peacekeepers", and Dr. Sobeck goes her own way to found the green robotics company, Miriam Technologies.

It is here, in his hubris, that Faro begins creating the plague of robots that will ultimately wipe out humanity. Faro neglects to include a failsafe within the machines, ignoring the previously established Turing Act of 2044 that passed a sentence to limit the sentience of machines after an instance where a climate control AI went rogue. By 2064, a system-breaking glitch has developed in the Chariot line where they began consuming biomass as fuel, an aspect originally intended for use in emergencies only. With this switch in primary energy source, the robots began self-replicating exponentially and were unresponsive to commands; it was estimated that the swarm, aptly named the Faro Plague, would take 15 months to strip the entire planet of life.

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Faro contacted former partner Dr. Sobeck to find a solution. Sobeck recognized that there is little hope left for humanity as it stands, as the Faro Plague will succeed in wiping out all life on earth. Instead of saving current mankind, Sobeck created the AI, GAIA, and several subordinate functions as Project Zero Dawn, with the purpose of overriding the chariot machines after humanity is gone and rebuilding the Earth for mankind's return.

By the late 2060s, a space colony mission has failed as the Odyssey spaceship explodes when leaving the solar system, and the biosphere had degraded to the point where humans needed breathing apparatus. Following the extensive loss of flora and fauna, the last humans retreated inside sealed facilities. Sobeck sealed herself into a facility known as GAIA Prime with Project Zero Dawn Alpha members, though a malfunctioning hatch meant that GAIA's signal was leaking outside and revealing their presence to the Plague. Dr. Sobeck bravely donned Horizon Zero Dawn's shield weaver armor and manually sealed the facility from the outside, leaving her stranded.

Wracked with guilt, inside the facility Faro's erratic behavior led to him locking out the Project team Alphas and purging the APOLLO database as he was convinced that humanity was doomed to fail again if they knew of their past. After revealing his actions to the Project Alphas via hologram, Faro withdraws oxygen from their room and suffocates the last of his companions. Faro presumably dies alone of old age within his personal bunker, Thebes.

By March 2066, the exposed human populations and macrobiotic land organisms are estimated to have become extinct. By 2068, marine life has likely been annihilated. The disintegrated biosphere has led to a desolate, toxic, and sterile Earth that lacks any wildlife seen in Horizon Zero Dawnand eventually, the Faro Plague swarm becomes dormant. It is not until the 22nd century that GAIA decrypts and shuts down the swarm using MINERVA transmission rays.

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GAIA spends the next few centuries attempting to restore the Earth's biosphere and terraform the planet to be habitable for humans again, but after three successive failures the subordinate function, HADES, is activated to wipe everything and reset the process. Finally, in the 24th century, Project Zero Dawn was successful in restoring the planet to be minimally capable of supporting life. Human tribes began to repopulate the world by 2381.

Fast-forward to 3020: a mysterious signal was sent to GAIA that causes her subordinates to become erratic and self-aware. Notably, the subfunction HADES attempted to seize control of GAIA's terraforming systems. GAIA initiates a self destruct of her prime reactor to prevent HADES from taking control as she knows she is unable to actually beat HADES by herself. The mountain containing GAIA Prime exploded, and the effects of the event were seen across the land by various tribes, taken as an ominous sign by those in the Carja tribe settled in Meridian. Following this, the Derangement beings: the machines under GAIA's control lost command and became hostile, and more dangerous combat machines began to appear.

However, HADES managed to survive the destruction by implanting himself into a computer core. In his isolation, HADES planned to wipe out life permanently by reactivating the Faro Plague, but he could not do it alone. HADES' signal was answered by a traveler, Sylens, who proceeded to exchange knowledge with the AI on the Old and New Worlds. After teaching HADES about the civil war within the Carja tribe, Sylens introduces HADES to the extremist Shadow Carja faction as a deity, the Buried Shadow, and HADES uses their zealousness to transform the group into a cult known as the Eclipse.

While players that did not play Horizon Zero Dawn before Horizon Forbidden West should not feel compelled to play the first installment, Zero Dawn contains much important lore and events that feed into the second game. The events of Horizon Zero Dawn kick off in April 3021 as a newborn baby is found on the altar of the All-Mother by the Nora tribe; this is, of course, the franchise's protagonist Aloy, born in the ELEUTHIA Cradle Brood 1 Facility. Aloy is shunned by the matriarchal Nora tribe as a 'no-mother' and sent to be raised by her surrogate father, Rost, another Nora outcast. In 3027, little Aloy stumbles into a ruin of the Old Ones (21st-century humans) and discovered a Focus - a strange object that displayed information and images to Aloy. Hereafter, Aloy becomes obsessed with her past and who her mother is; Rost tells her the only way to find out is to win the Nora's coming-of-age Proving ritual.

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During Aloy's childhood, Jiran, the 13th Sun-King of the Carja - one of the returning tribes in Horizon Forbidden West - begins a series of brutal invasions into neighboring tribal lands, known as the Red Raids. By 3031, Jiran is sacrificing human subjects within his kingdom, and in 3038 he executes his son, Kadaman, for demanding an end to the raids and sacrifices; this earns Jiran the epithet of 'Mad Sun-King'. Later in 3038, Jiran is overthrown and slain by his younger son, Avad, with the help of the Oseram tribe. Avad becomes the 14th Sun-King, and the Carja civil war ensues with the Jiran loyalists fleeing and becoming the Shadow Carja under their leader, Helis.

By 3040, Aloy is old enough to compete in the Proving and she leaves for Mother's Heart town after saying her last farewell to Rost. Although Aloy is victorious, Eclipse warriors appear and massacre the Proving participants. While Aloy manages to defend herself in melee combat, Horizon Zero Dawn's first tragic event occurs as Rost saves Aloy but loses his life in the process as the mountainside explodes. Three days later, Aloy wakes up in All-Mother Mountain and learns key facts about her past from an Eclipse Focus she took: the cult was tasked with killing her as she is an "Entity", and she has a near 100% DNA match with a mysterious woman that could be her mother (but is, of course, Dr. Elisabet Sobeck).

Determined to discover more about her past and the Eclipse massacre, Aloy is appointed a Seeker of the Nora tribe, allowing her to travel and leave the Sacred Lands freely. First, Aloy travels west to Meridian, the Carja capital. There, she reunites with Erend, a returning character in Horizon Forbidden West, whom Aloy previously met at pre-Proving festivities. Aloy's goal is to find Olin, another man she met at the Proving who was acting suspiciously before the attack and bore a Focus. Erend helps lead Aloy to Olin at an excavation site in the desert, where Olin is helping the Eclipse to exhume Faro robots, known as Corruptors, in order to wage war on the Carja. After defeating the Eclipse and the Corruptors, Aloy discovers that Olin is being blackmailed by the Shadow Carja, and they want Aloy dead due to her resemblance to the ancient Old One (Dr. Sobeck).

After foiling a plot by Oseram terrorist, Dervahl, to destroy the city of Meridian and assassinate Sun-King Avad, Aloy travels North to Maker's End, which is actually the ruins of Faro Automated Solutions facility. Here, Aloy learns of the source of the Faro Plague from hologram conversations between Ted Faro and Dr. Sobeck. Aloy also meets Sylens in Horizon Forbidden West, who directs her to travel to the Old World ruins known as Grave-Hoard under the Eclipse stronghold of Sunfall, which turns out to be the base of Project Zero Dawn. Here, Aloy learns of Operation: Enduring Victory, which was portrayed to the public as some kind of super-weapon to help defeat the Faro Plague but was actually buying Dr. Sobeck enough time to complete Zero Dawn.

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In Grave-Hoard, Aloy enters Dr. Sobeck's office and attains a key to allow her to enter the All-Mother's door in Sacred Mountain. But before leaving, Aloy is ambushed by Helis and awakens in a colosseum in Sunfall pitted against machines as a blood sacrifice. However, she is rescued by Horizon Zero Dawn's Sylens and proceeds to travel to the Sacred Lands, where she helps the Nora fight off the invading Eclipse soldiers. With the Eclipse fended off, Aloy enters the All-Mother which is actually the ruins of yet another Old Ones' facility, where Aloy learns of the unknown signal that sparked these events and GAIA's sacrifice.

A recorded message from GAIA reveals to Aloy that HADES can be defeated with a Master Override obtained from the remains of the GAIA Prime facility. It is in Grave-Hoard that GAIA confirms that Aloy is an exact genetic clone of Dr. Sobeck created when HADES went rogue with the intention of defeating the AI with Aloy's intelligence. With all this on her shoulders, Aloy travels north to GAIA Prime and retrieves the Master Override, only to run into Sylens and discover that he was in league with HADES and founded the Eclipse. However, Sylens reveals HADES' evil plan to Aloy in preparing a signal to revive all Faro robots currently dormant under the earth and wipe all life from planet Earth permanently. The Eclipse cult is attempting to infiltrate Meridian to utilize a data tower, known as The Spire, to broadcast this activation signal of their false deity.

After gaining her upgraded spear, Horizon Zero Dawn's final chapter begins with Aloy traveling to Meridian where she warned everyone and anyone about the Eclipse's impending invasion. Aloy sides with any allies made throughout the course of the game and defended the city from the Shadow Carja. Aloy defeated Helis and impaled HADES' computer core vessel, bringing an end to the nefarious AI. With HADES defeated, the Faro Plague remained dormant, but instead of celebrating with her allies, Aloy goes on a pilgrimage to the final resting place of Dr. Sobeck. Aloy gently touches the helmet and reveals a hologram of Elisabet's face, taking the pendant from around Elisabet's neck and holding it, silently contemplating before the credits roll.

Occurring before the battle in Meridian, the Horizon Zero Dawn DLC, Frozen Wilds, took Aloy north into the mountain region known as the Cut. Here, Aloy helped the Banuk tribe in defeating a Daemon that has been causing machines to go haywire. Aloy, after briefly becoming the chieftain of the Banuk due to tribal lores, discovered that the Banuk shaman, Ourea, had been communicating with a 'spirit' that is actually an AI known as CYAN, responsible for stabilizing the tectonic activity below Yellowstone National Park.

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Further, the Daemon plaguing the Banuk is actually a subordinate function of GAIA - HEPHAESTUS - whose original purpose was to create more machines and is now creating an army of dangerous killer robots. After a sacrifice from Ourea, Aloy is able to destroy the facility of HEPHAESTUS' corruption. After relinquishing her position as Banuk chief, Aloy returns to Meridian to defend the city against the Eclipse, yet it is revealed that HEPHAESTUS is not wholly destroyed.

The after-credits scene of Horizon Zero Dawn sets up the sequel as it is revealed that HADES was not totally destroyed when Aloy stabbed the computer core. Instead, an aspect of HADES escaped as an ethereal red light that is trapped by Sylens in a lantern-like cage. Here, Sylens revealed that someone else corrupted the HADES AI, and he wants to find out who. These unanswered questions and Sylens' persevering questionable morality set up possible events for Horizon Forbidden West.

The complex events of Horizon Forbidden West begin after the conclusive battle at Meridian in 3040, and players quickly learn that Aloy has spent six months searching for a backup of GAIA. Players are also immediately informed of a blight that has been killing plants and crops, making swathes of land uninhabitable. Aloy is searching for this GAIA backup in order to detoxify the Earth, but Faro deleted all the copies. This section will not be recited in strictly chronological order due to its complexity and is rather recounted in thematic groups.

Aloy is accompanied by Varl, a major side character who connects Horizon Forbidden West to the original game, as they entered the Far Zenith facility - a scientific group that pioneered a space colonization mission that ended in disaster. Here, they discover that Zenith had planned to take GAIA to use on their colonies, but Sobeck out-smarted the group and installed a fake GAIA for them to steal and corrupt their data. Aloy realized that it is Sylens she must talk to to find GAIA due to his knowledge of the Old World. After searching in Meridian, Aloy comes across HADES, a shell of his former AI-self as Sylens interrogated the AI for its knowledge for 10 days. HADES' last words reveal only that the mysterious signal that caused GAIA's malfunction was sent by 'The Masters' and that GAIA's subfunctions had scattered thereafter.

Out of everything players need to know from Horizon Zero Dawn before playing Forbidden West, the importance of GAIA's subordinate functions and their purposes should be remembered, as Aloy's main goal of Forbidden West is to collect these scattered functions after successfully finding two GAIA backup kernels. MINERVA has already been successfully merged with GAIA, reviving the AI, but AETHER, POSEIDON, and DEMETER must be located. Responsible for detoxifying the air, waters, and reintroducing floral species respectively, these functions would be perfect for combating the blight.

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Aloy is ultimately successful in locating all three. AETHER is collected after assisting the chief of the Tenakth, a savage tribe that inhabits the Forbidden West, who wants to restart their ceremonial Arena event. Around this time, Aloy encounters the rebel group led by Regalla in Horizon's Forbidden West, a splinter group of the Tenakth that are able to ride machines as mounts and have seemingly advanced technology - taught to them by Sylens. POSEIDON is recovered in Las Vegas, where Aloy helps a group of performers light the city up again, destined to become a hot spot for travelers. Finally, DEMETER is recovered from a new tribe, the Quen, who hail from across the Pacific ocean on a mission to save their homeland from the blight. Aloy teams up with Alva, working together to recover DEMETER.

The final subfunction to obtain is HEPHAESTUS, the aforementioned cause of the Derangement in Faro's machines. HEPHAESTUS is an improved AI like Horizon Zero Dawn's HADES, so GAIA hatches a plan to catch the complex subfunction. After running into an off-screen immortal - but presumably monstrous - Ted Faro, Aloy gains Omega level clearance from Ted's personal bunker to enter the Gemini facility. Here, HEPHAESTUS is captured and merged with GAIA due to the dual data cores, though Varl sadly dies in the ensuing fight.

While Aloy has been obtaining GAIA's subfunctions, she has also been facing the threat of a new enemy: Far Zenith. The space colonization mission launched a millennium before was actually successful, and Zenith colonized a planet in the Sirius system. Here, they evolved exponentially gaining the ability to fly, developing advanced technologies, and even becoming immortal. Returning to Earth in Horizon Forbidden West, Far Zenith wants to obtain a copy of GAIA in order to colonize a new planet as their homeworld has been destroyed by an evolved AI of their own creation, called Nemesis.

Aloy first encounters the Zenith when she finds the GAIA kernels, and it is revealed that the Zenith has another genetic copy of Sobeck: a clone named Beta, who steals the GAIA kernel from the Zenith and is later rescued by Aloy. In the final act of Horizon Forbidden West, one of the Zenith, Tilda, sides with Aloy and helps the group plan to take down Far Zenith. During a rebel assault on the Zenith base, Aloy challenges and beats Regella in a fight. Together, if players spare Regalla, Horizon Forbidden West's final battle ensues with Sylens' technology aiding the rebels in assaulting and destroying the Zeniths and their base.

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Horizon Forbidden West concludes as Tilda's ulterior motives are revealed in wanting Aloy to join with her to form a new space colony, as a replacement for Elisabet due to Tilda's guilt surrounding leaving Dr. Sobeck to die on Earth while she prospered with the Zenith. The final boss fight ensues following Aloy's refusal to leave Earth, and the protagonist is triumphant once more.

Much like Horizon Zero Dawn revealing HADES' survival, Horizon Forbidden West ends on a cliffhanger with the impending threat of Nemesis coming to Earth to eradicate the last of Far Zenith. As the whole story is not yet wrapped up, it seems that Horizon Forbidden West could receive a DLC concerning Nemesis' assault of Earth, or even a final game in the Horizon series.

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