In Horizon Zero Dawn, humans, taxonomic designation Homo sapiens, are a sentient, self-aware, formerly technologically advanced species that has reverted to a technologically primitive state. Like all forms of life, humans were exterminated due to the rogue swarm of Chariot robots known as the Faro Plague. The terraforming system developed by a project known as Zero Dawn reestablished humans along with other forms of life, mostly flora. The system was intended to provide the new humans humans with all of its pre-extinction knowledge. However, sabotage led to the species’ reestablishment without this knowledge, resulting in its current primitive existence.
Homo sapiens had undergone consistent technological advancement from the time of its ancient civilizations until the mid-21st century. Two of its most rapid and influential areas of technological advancement were in computer technology and automation. Indeed, advances in the first directly spawned advances in the second. By the mid-21st century, computer technology had advanced to the point where artificial intelligences had been created. Computer technology had become an indispensable part of virtually every human’s life, from housing, domestic chores, cuisine and entertainment to medicine, industry and agriculture.  Advancements in robotics had led to the complete automation of necessities such as transport, though holographic communication frequently made the need for human travel anachronistic. Robotics and technology corporations such as Faro Automated Solutions were at the center of these all of advancements.
However, technological advancement did nothing to lessen the species’ moral failings, such as avarice, narcissism and recklessness. This was most evinced by the complete lack of responsible use of finite environmental resources, causing catastrophic climate change. Corporations in the military technology market such as FAS were unscrupulous in their thirst for profit, going so far as to aggravate conflicts to sell combat automatons. Additionally, corporations gained increasing political and economic power to the point of controlling nations.  Military technology was also advanced by automation; indeed, the mid-21st century, virtually every military in the world was completely automated, and corporations had their own standing automated militaries and fought wars against each other like nations.
It was against this backdrop that Faro Automated Solutions developed the most advanced military combat platform ever developed: the Chariot line of combat robots. These robots operated in units called swarms, similar to insect swarms, consumed biomass as fuel, replicated themselves in overwhelming numbers, and could instantly take control of any enemy robot. But due to the avarice and recklessness of its founder and chairman Ted Faro, FAS also incorporated technology into the robots that inadvertently ensured that a swarm could not be brought back under control if control was lost. In 2064, a swarm owned by a corporation called the Hartz-Timor Energy Combine stopped responding to commands and went catastrophically out of control, becoming an independent entity that relentlessly consumed any and all biomass, including that of humans. Attempts to destroy the swarm militarily were futile, as it commandeered all robots sent against it and replenished its numbers far faster than they could be reduced. The swarm became known as the Faro Plague. In approximately 15 months, it consumed the entirety of the Earth’s biosphere. Humans and all other forms of life became extinct, and Earth was rendered sterile.
However, before the end came, Project Zero Dawn was implemented to eventually deactivate the swarm, terraform the Earth back to fertility and reestablish life, including humans. Part of this system was a vast archive of all the knowledge that the species had accumulated over the course of its pre-extinction development. However Ted Faro, who had become unstable, presumably due to the crushing guilt he harbored due to having caused the global extinction, developed the obsessive belief that this knowledge was a plague that the new humans must be spared from. He deleted the archive and murdered those who could rebuild it. The new humans are therefore bereft of all pre-extinction knowledge, and thus the societies they have spawned are primitive and tribal, though some societies are more advanced in some areas than others.
Meanwhile, Zero Dawn produced large numbers of non-biological organisms resembling pre-extinction fauna, to conduct the terraforming process. The new humans refer to these synthetic forms of life simply as machines. As there were many more machines than humans and any that were destroyed were easily replaced by the system, the machines replaced humans as Earth’s dominant form of life. Just as the primitive societies of pre-extinction Earth hunted animals, these new human societies began hunting machines for parts and resources. The scale of hunting grew larger and larger. Initially, this was not a problem, as the system simply replaced the destroyed machines. However, due to as-yet unknown circumstances, Zero Dawn’s governing artificial intelligence, designated GAIA, lost control of all of the nine Subordinate Functions that had been responsible for conducting each specific part of the terraforming and life reestablishment process. All became artificial intelligences themselves. HEPHAESTUS, the former sub-function responsible for machine manufacture, attempted to discourage the hunting by increasing the machines’ aggression toward humans and weaponizing the abilities of some machines. When this failed, it began producing more dangerous machines specifically design to combat hunters. This too failed, and thus it has most recently been engaged in efforts to produce large numbers of hunter-killer machines to cull the human population. All known tribes refer to the appearance and proliferation of increasingly more dangerous machines as the Derangement. Apart from two individuals, the Nora huntress Aloy and the wanderer Sylens, no known human is aware of the true cause of the phenomenon.
While humans still hunt, and hunting remains a necessary practice for needed resource acquisition, the practice has entailed considerable danger since the onset of the Derangement. Even traveling, invariably done on foot, is risky due to the strong likelihood of encountering a machine. Additionally, some machines fly and thus can see humans from afar and attack, and some machines exist underground and can attack upon detecting their footsteps. In some areas, such as the Banuk region known as The Cut, machines have been augmented by HEPHAESTUS, increasing the already considerable danger they pose, and there exist machines that perform limited repair of damage that a machine may sustain.
As outlined, the new human civilization is tribal in nature. Currently there are six known tribes. Each tribe has its own distinct culture. In alphabetical order, these are:
The Banuk, Carja, Nora and Oseram are the tribes about which the most information is known. Relatively little is currently known about the Tenakth or the Utaru.
As previously stated, all known tribes are primitive. They have none of the advanced technology of pre-extinction humans, and are without the knowledge to develop it. However, tribes have begun to rediscover and re-accumulate knowledge that was discovered and accumulated by primitive pre-extinction societies. All known tribes, for example, use bows, arrows and spears. Additionally, some tribes have rediscovered technological breakthroughs that occurred during pre-extinction humans’ technological development. The Carja, for example, have rediscovered principles of architecture and have advanced architecturally beyond any other known tribe. The same can be said of the Oseram with regard to metallurgy and engineering. The Utaru have advanced agricultural production.
The human capacity for violence has remained the same as it was pre-extinction. Humans still engage in violent conflict, including atrocities akin to the massacres committed in the history of the Old World. The starkest example of this is the brutal reign of the 13th Carja monarch Sun-King Jiran, culminating in the atrocities known as the Red Raids.
Humans act as NPCs in the game, serving as either passive, background, or hostile units.
Humans that can engage in combat can either be friendly or hostile towards Aloy, depending on their alignment and the context of quests. Compared to machines, humans lack resilience, as a shot to the head can kill the majority of humans instantly on most difficulties; however they back up this weakness with numbers, frequency of attacks, and a vast array of weaponry that can overwhelm their foes.
Like machines, humans are vulnerable to context-sensitive attacks like Critical Strike and Stealth Strike, which in most cases will instantly kill them. However, some boss level and elite humans require Aloy to acquire the Leader Strike skill for them to be susceptible to such attacks, and even then some do not immediately fall.
Humans are also susceptible to most statuses that can be inflicted on machines, although their resistance is wholly dependent on the toughness of the particular type instead of variable like machines. Humans can be shocked, burned and frenzied with Corruption with similar effects to machines, Freeze will slow humans down, while Tear damage is useless against them. Humans can trigger tripwires like machines, but Tearblast effects will only momentarily stagger them and they are immune to the binding effect of Ropecaster.
The faction humans come from determines the toughness and weaponry that they carry. For example, Bandits can be expected to be of moderate resilience with weapons ranging from torching staves to Firespitters, while Eclipse soldiers are much tougher with more advanced weapons like Blaze-coated axes and Deathbringer Guns.
Humans often carry loot that is not obtainable from machines, such as Desert Glass, Slagshine Glass, Traps, and even potions. Elite human units often carry more valuable loots, with some yielding more shards than most machines when killed and looted.
Humans can sometimes be encountered in the world on varying situation; Sometimes a random group of human can be encountered in the wild battling machines, and will reward Aloy should she help them survive. On other occasions, Carja soldiers of either faction may help Aloy fight off hostiles should the fight happen within their patrol route. Bandits can also be found clashing with machines in the wilds, creating a potential chaotic situation for Aloy to take advantage of.
- The player is unable to fight human enemies until the main quest The Proving.
- There are considerably fewer human enemies in The Frozen Wilds; they are only encountered in Stone Yield Bandit Camp and the quest Frontier Justice.
- Aloy can loot dead friendly NPCs who are killed by enemies.
- Unlike Aloy, most human NPCs are unable to switch weapons. One notable exception is Helis.
- ↑ Reiker Building?
- ↑ Get Ti-D-O Started!
- ↑ DO NOT IGNORE!
- ↑ Supplier
- ↑ VertiVIP Program
- ↑ History: FAS
- ↑ Refugee museum opens
- ↑ Re: Complaint
- ↑ Schott v. Frost
- ↑ Reception Log
- ↑ FAS-ACA3 Scarab (Datapoint)
- ↑ FAS-FSP5 Khopesh (Datapoint)
- ↑ FAS-BOR7 Horus (Datapoint)
- ↑ Entangled Waveforms
- ↑ Biosphere Degradation
- ↑ Emergency Recording
- ↑ GAIA's Dying Plea