Difficulty selection screen when starting a new game

Difficulty is a game setting in Horizon Zero Dawn that allows the player to tailor their gameplay experience to their skill level and desire for challenge.

Levels

From lowest to highest, the difficulty settings are:

Story The Story difficulty setting eases combat, allowing the player to focus on exploration and learn the mechanics and narrative of the game
Easy An accessible difficulty level for those who simply want to explore the world and story
Normal A difficulty level that balances the journey with a challenging combat experience
Hard A more demanding combat experience throughout the journey
Very Hard A tough combat experience for those who really want a challenge
Ultra Hard The toughest combat experience, this mode increases enemy aggression and damage as well as rebalances Aloy's weapons and equipment. Merchant's wares are more expensive

Detailed Comparison

Story Easy Normal Hard Very Hard Ultra Hard
Damage taken 10% 50% 100% 125% 150% 200%
Damage dealt 400% 150% 100% 90% 80% 70%
Elemental & tear damage 200% 100% 100% 100% 100% 50%
Healing herb value 100% 100% 100% 80% 60% 60%
Aim assist optional off

The Ultra Hard difficulty also introduces the following changes:

  • Enemy health bars are disabled.
  • Multiple enemies can attack simultaneously.
  • Enemy perception range (both visual and auditory) is greatly increased. 
  • Machines and humans are harder to knock down using the heavy spear attack.
  • Vendor prices are up to five times higher.
  • Vendors no longer offer free sample boxes.
  • The Machine resources merchant no longer sells hearts.  In addition, they only sell 4 types of lenses.
  • The Thunderjaw's Disc Launchers are no longer especially vulnerable to Tearblast Arrows.
  • Using Lure Call while enemies are actively searching for Aloy will immediately reveal her location to them, even if she is hiding in tall grass.
  • Machines that were more inclined to flee will now prefer to fight. This applies to Striders, Broadheads, Chargers, Grazers, and Lancehorns.
  • Humans will attack more frequently.
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