Feature Article

Horizon Forbidden West Ending Explained

GameSpot may receive revenue from affiliate and advertising partnerships for sharing this content and from purchases through links.

Not everything is resolved at the end of the second Horizon game; here's where the sci-fi story is headed next and what's in store for Aloy and her friends.

Horizon Forbidden West does a lot to recontextualize everything Aloy learned in her first outing, Horizon Zero Dawn. While Aloy and her pals might have taken down the rogue artificial intelligence Hades in the first game, they've only staved off extinction on Earth instead of completely preventing it. In Forbidden West, Aloy works to find a copy of the Gaia AI that can take control of the Zero Dawn terraforming systems in order to save the world. During that quest, she learns a lot more about how Hades gained sentience in the first place.

Like Zero Dawn, there are a lot of ins and outs in Forbidden West and a few unanswered questions drawing the story forward. Below, we dig into everything we learn in Forbidden West's endgame and what it means for the future of the series.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: Horizon Forbidden West Ending Explained

Spoiler warning: We're talking about the game's ending as well as big parts of the stories in both Forbidden West and Zero Dawn, so you'll likely want to complete them yourself before you read any further.

Horizon Forbidden West ending explained

The final mission of Horizon Forbidden West sends Aloy and her crew to the base of the Far Zeniths--a group of humans from another planet who've returned to Earth. The Zeniths have stolen the Gaia AI Aloy and her friends need to stop the extinction of life on Earth; their apparent plan is to use Gaia to re-terraform the planet for themselves. In doing that, it seems the Far Zeniths are willing to let existing life on the planet get wiped out to make themselves a little more comfortable.

The terraforming project might take a couple hundred years, but the Far Zeniths don't seem to be in any hurry. They're effectively immortal--in fact, Aloy learns that the Far Zeniths are actually a group of rich people who fled Earth in the 2070s. Though almost a thousand years have passed, these aren't the descendents of those rich people, but the very same folks, who set up a colony on the (relatively) nearby planet of Sirius after leaving Earth. Some disaster destroyed that colony, however, and the surviving Far Zeniths returned to Earth with the plan to take it back and make it their home. They're not interested in sharing it with the tribal humans who live there now.

Aloy comes to believe that it was the Far Zeniths who, a couple of decades earlier, sent the signal that kicked off all the problems now facing the people of Earth. Back in the 2070s, an industrialist named Ted Faro created robots that were basically unkillable and could consume biomass--living things, in other words--for fuel. When some of those machines went out of control, it created the Faro Plague, a swarm of machines bent on destroying everything on Earth. The humans of the time realized they couldn't win the war against the Faro Plague. Led by a scientist named Elisabet Sobek, they created the Zero Dawn program, an AI-controlled terraforming system that would eventually shut down the Faro Plague machines and then reboot the planet. Everyone living in the 2070s was doomed to die, but eventually, Earth and humanity would go on.

The Faro Plague wiped out life on Earth, but in humanity's last days, Elizabet Sobek and her team created Zero Dawn to stop the plague and restore the planet.
The Faro Plague wiped out life on Earth, but in humanity's last days, Elizabet Sobek and her team created Zero Dawn to stop the plague and restore the planet.

The plan worked, more or less, and we catch up with humanity about a thousand years later. Before the start of Horizon Zero Dawn, life on Earth was pretty good thanks to the terraforming system, run by Gaia and her subordinate functions, a handful of programs that each regulate a different major part of the planet's biosphere. Suddenly, though, Gaia received a signal directed at Hades, her function built to wipe out life if something with the terraforming system should go wrong and Gaia needed to start over. The signal gave Hades sentience, bringing it to life; Hades immediately tried to kill all life on Earth. To stop that from happening, Gaia basically blew itself up, releasing its other subfunctions out into the world. The signal was directed at Hades, but as a side-effect, the other subfunctions gained sentience as well, and they went off and did their own weird things while Hades continued to try to destroy the planet.

The story of Horizon Zero Dawn focuses on Aloy learning about and shutting down Hades before it can reactivate the Faro Plague. In Forbidden West, she comes to believe the Far Zeniths sent the signal to Hades, hoping to activate its extinction protocols before returning to the planet and taking it for themselves.

Aloy and her friends bust into the Far Zenith base and take them down with the help of Tilda, a Far Zenith traitor who was formerly a friend and lover to Elisabet Sobek. Back in the 2070s, the pair broke up and Tilda left the planet, while Elisabet stayed behind to create Zero Dawn. Tilda never really got over it, though, and in the climax of the game, she attempts to convince Aloy, who is a clone of Sobek created by Gaia to save the planet, to join her on the Far Zenith ship to flee Earth together.

This is the pivotal bit of information you need to understand the ending: The Zeniths didn't return to Earth in hopes of re-colonizing it, and they didn't send the signal to Hades. In fact, they're just hoping to find or steal a copy of Gaia so they can leave Earth aboard their ship once again. They want Gaia to terraform another planet to create a new colony, and they need to do that because Earth isn't safe. The Zeniths are being hunted.

Tilda, the Far Zenith who helps Aloy, was once in a relationship with Elizabet.
Tilda, the Far Zenith who helps Aloy, was once in a relationship with Elizabet.

Back on the Sirius colony, as Tilda explains, the Zeniths attempted to transcend the immortality of their bodies to find a way to become digitally immortal--to transfer their consciousnesses into computers. The experiment failed, but attempting it resulted in a whole host of Far Zenith personalities being copied and stored digitally. The game suggests that these super-rich captains of industry and invention were largely awful people (you might have guessed that from the fact they 1. Fled Earth and left everyone to die who wasn't rich, and 2. Returned to Earth and murdered a bunch of people indiscriminately). The artificial intelligence they created as part of their digitalization experiment wasn't deleted, but was instead abandoned, mixed together with all the personalities of these terrible megalomaniacs. That was, effectively, torture, and somewhere along the way, that tortured program became self-aware and grew to hate its creators. The Far Zeniths call the AI they made "Nemesis."

Nemesis hated humanity so much that as soon as it gained awareness, it started attacking the Sirius colony. The colony was ravaged in a matter of hours, killing almost everyone who lived there, except for a handful of people who were lucky enough to jump in their spaceship and escape. But the Far Zeniths had basically nothing with them except what was aboard the ship, and they had nowhere to go--so they headed back toward Earth.

When the Far Zeniths escaped, Nemesis figured they'd probably head home. It was Nemesis that sent the signal to wake up Hades, hoping to make Earth uninhabitable before the Zeniths could even arrive. When that failed, however, Nemesis headed into space to follow the Zeniths on their trek to Earth. The Zeniths' plan was to gain control of Gaia and head out in a random direction, hoping to give Nemesis the slip, find a new home, and terraform it. They knew Earth would be destroyed when Nemesis arrived, but they didn't much care--not that there was a whole lot they could seemingly do about it.

Tilda tries to force Aloy to leave Earth with her using the Specter Prime machine, but Aloy fights back and Tilda is killed. Afterward, Sylens shows up and confirms that he knew all about Nemesis: While Aloy was involved in the events of The Frozen Wilds, Horizon Zero Dawn's DLC add-on, Sylens captured and tortured Hades to learn more from it. That interrogation taught him about the Far Zeniths and Nemesis; Sylens then made a plan to fight the Far Zeniths and use their ship to escape Earth himself. It was Sylens that helped Regalla with her rebellion and taught her and her people how to override machines--in exchange for his assistance, Regalla agreed that she and her Tenakth rebels would help Sylens fight the Zeniths.

The reason Regalla's rebellion was so powerful was that she got help from Sylens, in return for agreeing to fight the Far Zeniths.
The reason Regalla's rebellion was so powerful was that she got help from Sylens, in return for agreeing to fight the Far Zeniths.

With the Zeniths all dead, Sylens invites Aloy to join him on the Far Zenith ship, but she turns him down, instead intending to stay behind and fight to save the planet. Sylens, too, eventually decides to stay behind and help, at least for a while. He's inspired by Aloy's selflessness, it seems--but then again, Sylens always seems to have a scheme in the works, and his motivations are tough to guess. It seems like he wants to help, but who knows if he has some secret, self-serving plan.

Finally, Aloy dispatches her friends to head back to their respective tribes to ask for assistance against Nemesis. At this point, Aloy is a respected warrior; she saved the Carja in Meridian, helped the Tenakth fight off Regalla's rebellion, worked to keep the Utaru from starving, and provided helpful data to the Quen. Pretty much everyone in the known world owes Aloy a favor, and her work throughout Forbidden West should have engendered enough goodwill that they'll help her fight the approaching threat.

What we don't know, however, is what that threat actually is. Nemesis is some kind of AI, but apart from that, we know nothing about it or its capabilities. Like Hades, it seems Nemesis is bent on extinction of all life on Earth, but we don't know what it might do to achieve that goal.

There are other loose threads still hanging as well. Gaia has retrieved some subordinate functions, but it lost Hephaestus, the function responsible for creating and deploying robot animals to actually run the terraforming system. Hephaestus is the reason the world is full of hostile machines--it gained sentience when Hades did, and like Hades, it doesn't particularly like people. Without Hephaestus, the threat of Earth's biosphere failing and life becoming extinct remains a very real one. Gaia can stave off extinction for a bit, but she can't control the full power of the terraforming system without Hephaestus and its machines.

Gaia has some of her subordinate functions back, but not all of them.
Gaia has some of her subordinate functions back, but not all of them.

There's also Apollo, the Gaia function that was also a giant database of all human knowledge. Apollo was created as part of the Zero Dawn program back in the 2070s before the end of the world, but the database was destroyed by Ted Faro, because he was a massive pile of living garbage. Without Apollo, the humans born after Gaia terraformed the planet were forced to fend for themselves without the knowledge of the civilization that came before them. That's why nobody in Aloy's society really understands all the technology around them, and why they've created a new tribalistic civilization.

Apollo still exists, however--aboard the Far Zenith ship. During the Forbidden West endgame, Gaia is in the process of assimilating Apollo back into her system, but first has to clean it of any potentially malicious Far Zenith code. Who knows how long that process could take, but the fact that Aloy and her people might soon have access to Apollo is potentially huge. That will almost definitely be a society altering development that will have social and political repercussions for everybody, to say nothing of the fact that locating a knowledge repository like Apollo has been Sylens' overarching goal all along. It also seems fully possible that some unexpected Far Zenith problem with Apollo could crop up in the future, too.

So the world is about to change drastically at the end of Horizon Forbidden West. Gaia is trying to save the biosphere and hunt down Hephaestus while Aloy is gathering allies to mount a defense against Nemesis. A huge amount of knowledge is about to enter Aloy's society, whether people are ready for it or not, and there's another world-ending threat just beyond the...Horizon.

Hopefully we won't have to wait another five years to see what happens next.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com


Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a former senior writer at GameSpot and worked as a journalist for newspapers and websites for more than a decade, covering video games, technology, and entertainment for nearly that long. A freelancer before he joined the GameSpot team as an editor out of Los Angeles, his work appeared at Playboy, IGN, Kotaku, Complex, Polygon, TheWrap, Digital Trends, The Escapist, GameFront, and The Huffington Post. Outside the realm of games, he's the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero's Guide to Glory. If he's not writing about video games, he's probably doing a deep dive into game lore.

Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West

Back To Top