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Horizon Zero Dawn: get the best weapons by completing the Hunting Grounds challenges

Horizon Zero Dawn locks its best weapons behind a series of challenges - but don't worry, the Hunting Grounds arenas are good fun.

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Horizon Zero Dawn boasts five challenge called Hunting Grounds, which are key to unlocking the best weapons in the game. As part of our Horizon Zero Dawn guide, we've got details on how to get them for yourself.

There are three weapons available through the Weapons of the Lodge quest and each of them is the best in their class in the whole of Horizon Zero Dawn. While they may not add any new ammo types to the mix, their handling (reload and aim speed) is vastly improved over even the Shadow variant weapons, meaning you can free up a mod slot for extra damage instead.

To begin your quest for the best weapons in Horizon Zero Dawn, visit any Hunting Grounds arena - there's one on Nora lands, just outside the starting area of Mother's Embrace - and ask the Keeper about the Hunting Lodge.

This unlocks the errand-class quest Hunting for the Lodge, which requires you to complete a modest collecting of challenges across multiple Hunting Grounds locations to secure entry to the Hunting Lodge in Meridian. Once you can get in, you'll be able to access a chain of story side quests, most importantly Weapons of the Lodge.

Weapons of the Lodge is available from the bar-like enclosure just to your left as you enter the Hunting Lodge. The NPC here will explain the deal: collect a full set of half suns, full suns and blazing suns (explained below) to receive one weapon per collection. These are the best weapons in Horizon Zero Dawn - until you hit the Bluegleam weapons in The Frozen Wilds DLC.

By the way, you don't need to do any further Hunting Grounds side quests besides Weapons of the Lodge to get the weapons; just the challenges themselves.

How to complete Weapons of the Lodge

To complete Weapons of the Lodge, you'll need to tackle all the Hunting Grounds challenges. Each of the five Hunting Grounds arenas offers three challenges, with three tiers of completion depending on how long it takes you. Finishing the challenge in 20 minutes or less nets you a half sun. Do better and you'll earn a full sun. The ultimate reward is a blazing sun. 15 blazing suns marks you as a master of Horizon Zero Dawn.

You'll unlock a new weapon in Horizon Zero Dawn when you collect 15 half suns, 15 full suns and 15 blazing suns; don't worry, earning a blazing sun automatically awards you the lower tiers, too. But if you want all the best weapons, you need to go for the gold in each of the arenas.

Working out how to complete these challenges is great fun and will teach you a lot about how to play Horizon Zero Dawn, but in the interests of efficiency, we've outlined all 15 challenges below as well as the strategies we used to complete them. After all, you're in this for the best weapons, right? Yeah, we thought so.

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Nora Hunting Grounds

Find this arena just north east of the North Embrace Gate in the Sacred Lands. You'll need the Carja tripcaster to pass all three trials, and a blast sling of any sort will be a big help. The merchant here sells both.

Parts Alone Trial

  • Blazing Sun - 1:30
  • Full Sun - 2:00
  • Half Sun - 20:00

For this trial you must knock Blaze canisters off Grazers – and that does not mean blow them up, so put your blazing arrows away and switch to bog standard hunter arrows.

This challenge seems difficult at first, but is helped along by the Grazers’ tendency to gallop away from disturbances in a relatively straight line. If you are standing facing their direction of travel and slightly behind them, it’s very easy to send arrow after arrow into the cluster of canisters on their backs.

Slide down the left rope and quickly work your way around the herd so you’re standing to one side of the path they run down when freaked out, then lob a bomb behind the herd to send them panicking. Alternately, if you don’t have a sling and are quick enough not to worry about the Watchers, just run straight into the herd.

If you're cleaning this challenge up later in the game, tearblast arrows from the Carja sharpshot Bow, or even the Tearblaster itself, make short work of this challenge. Harvest arrows also work well.

Logpile Trial

  • Blazing Sun - 2:00
  • Full Sun - 5:00
  • Half Sun - 20:00

It’s easy to overlook logpiles if you don’t try this challenge, but you’ll see them all over the place, especially in dangerous machine zones.

The key to this challenge is manipulating the Grazers so they run as a group near a logpile trap, which you’ll then set off on top of them. If you have a Blast Sling, this is very easy: position yourself where you can watch the herd run past a trap, then use bombs both to spook the herd and to drop the logs on top of them when they pass it.

If you don’t have a sling, try setting a web of Shock Wires just past a logpile trap. Spook the herd so they run into the wires and are stunned, then dash up and smack the trap with your spear to send the logs tumbling down.

You may need a few tries to get this right; if you struggle, try chasing the herd from behind and hit a trap in advance of them.

Blast Wire Trial

  • Blazing Sun - 3:00
  • Full Sun – 6:00
  • Half Sun – 20:00

The only “trick” to this one is that you must own the Carja tripcaster – not the original Nora version you buy in the opening missions. The Carja tripcaster is capable of setting blast wires, which will kill Grazers on impact.

This challenge isn’t very hard if you know how to manipulate the herd, which after the last two challenges should be easy as pie. Quickly set a series of blast wires in the canyon you’re going to chase the Grazers down, and set them off. For best results, set more as you chase the Grazers, in case they reverse direction.

After initiating this challenge, open your quest journal and select the Carja tripcaster tutorial, and you can tick both off in one go.

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Valleymeet Hunting Grounds

Find this arena north west of Mother’s Crown as you proceed towards Daytower on the critical quest path. Concentration+ and Fast reload skills are a big help in this arena, so you might want to come back later.

Fire Fight Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 0:40
  • Full Sun – 1:20
  • Half Sun – 20:00

The trick to this one is to use Focus to highlight the Striders' blaze canisters at a distance so you can get your shots off really quickly. Ideally you’ll find a position where you can see three Striders, including one at some distance from the others. From stealth, shoot the most distant of the two grouped Striders first, then use concentration so you can grab the second one as it turns to see what the fuss is about. Quickly deactivate concentration and then nab the third Strider, using concentration again if necessary.

Positioning and stealth are really important here because of the two Bellowbacks in the arena, and you might need a couple of practice runs. If you have a good stealth rating (don’t forget to change your outfit!) taking the left rope and sneaking quickly to the second area is easiest.

Shock Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 1:00
  • Full Sun – 2:00
  • Half Sun – 20:00

The hardest challenge in this arena requires you to stun Bellowbacks – easy enough with the Carja sling and shock bombs – and then knock off their elemental canisters, which is the tricky bit. The canisters are under their tails and you can only just see the edge of them, so precise shooting is required.

Time your rope slide so you land right by the closest Bellowback at the nearest point of its patrol, take a step back so you don’t get caught in your own bombs, and blast it to heck with shock bombs immediately. If you have modified your sling for extra shock damage it only takes one hit, but otherwise you’ll need two. As soon as you fire the second bomb start circling the Bellowback, as you need to be at its side to hit the canisters. Slap Focus on and then off again so the canisters are highlighted, switch to your Carja sharpshot bow with tearblast or harvest arrows, activate concentration and aim for the very bottom edge of the middle canister. Rinse and repeat; you should be able to knock a few canisters off in one stun session.

The complicating factor in this trial are the Striders and second Bellowback, as they’ll join the fray once you start making enough noise. That’s why we recommend hitting the first Bellowback close to the rope, and thereby further from the other machines – but you have to move fast regardless. If you’re quick enough you can also use shock bombs to stun the Striders nearby and get some more breathing room for your sniping.

Freeze Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 1:30
  • Full Sun – 2:30
  • Half Sun – 20:00

Although you can use the war bow for this challenge, the sling is a better option because you can hit multiple targets with it. Modify it for extra freeze damage for best results.

What you want to do is lob a freeze bomb into a pair of Striders who are bunched up together, and then immediately hit concentration and throw some blast bombs in after it to kill them. This allows you to get it done without aggroing the nearby Bellowback, and you can quickly move off to hit another Strider and complete the challenge, hopefully before everything comes gunning for you.

Another option is to do it all on the run, just lobbing Freeze Bombs into groups as you run towards them, accepting that you’ll take some Freeze damage and aggro everything, and wail around with your spear; one heavy attack will insta-kill a frozen Strider.

In any case, managing Bellowback aggro is key here, but you will want to leg it when you’re done.

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Spurflints Hunting Grounds

Find this arena south-east of Meridian. All the challenges here are about stealth, so select and modify your outfit accordingly.

Watch Out Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 2:00
  • Full Sun – 3:00
  • Half Sun – 20:00

For this trial you have to kill three Watchers without them spotting you, and the time limit is much shorter than stealthy types may appreciate. It’s really important to be proactive in moving to the Watchers rather than sitting back in cover and calling them to you with rocks or Lure, or you’ll just run out of time.

Start by using your Focus to tag all the Watchers before you slide down the rope. We found it easiest to wait till two Watchers on the right were relatively close together, then slide down and silent strike them both in quick succession before rolling into cover to avoid attention from nearby machines. We then made our way over to the left, going behind the Stalker, to take down a third Watcher at the far end; you might also risk using Lure to draw the Watcher from among the Shell-Walkers if you have time.

Stalker Kill Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 2:00
  • Full Sun – 3:30
  • Half Sun – 20:00

The trickiest part of this trial is killing the first Stalker without all hell breaking loose. Luckily, you don’t need much time for the second Stalker as it doesn’t matter how much aggro you draw taking it down.

We managed this one by sliding down the left rope while the Watcher was close by and silent striking it, then using silent strike on the nearby Stalker, smashing it with the Tearblaster to stop it going into stealth, then just hammering it; no other Machine was close enough to hear the commotion. We then just sprinted to the second Stalker and let fly with everything we had, and legged it out of the ensuing chaos. Much stealth, very sneaky.

Sleight of Crate Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 0:50
  • Full Sun – 1:30
  • Half Sun – 20:00

Before you start this trial, explore the arena thoroughly to locate two groups of three crates – thankfully, you don’t need to remove all your targets from Shell-Walkers to succeed!

We did this one by taking the right rope, sprinting to the closest crates and looting them all quickly before anyone saw us. We then hit the nearest Shell-Walker with the Tearblaster and stole its crate while it skittered about in confusiog, rather than running to the other crate pile. It wasn’t exactly precision surgery.

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Greatrun Hunting Grounds

This arena is right by Daytower. The challenges here are all about speed and managing aggro, but freeze resistance is a help.

Parts Wrangling Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 1:30
  • Full Sun – 2:30
  • Half Sun – 20:00

Bring the best Ropecaster you can get your hands on to make this challenge easier, but in general, all you need to do is choose a Trampler as far away from the Watchers and Glinthawks as possible, tie it down and just go ham on it.

Tearblast arrows (or indeed the Tearblaster) make it easier to knock parts off without doing do much damage the Tramper dies. Using melee attacks will decrease the time it takes for the Trampler to break free of the ropes.

If your Trampler does break free but you have more parts to knock off it, simply tie it down again; it still counts.

Pace Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 1:30
  • Full Sun – 2:00
  • Half Sun – 20:00

This challenge is easier once you have explored the arena and learned how to climb each of the mesas to reach the Watcher corpses on top, so feel free to zip down and have a poke around before you start the trial proper.

Once you are confident, here's the best approach: start at the left end and sprint around the arena from mesa to mesa in a clockwise pattern. If you are quick enough you won’t suffer for the aggro you pull, but wearing your best stealth outfit can help, too – as can the quiet sprint skill.

In any case, speed things up by dropping straight off each Mesa once you have the loot, rather than climbing down – there’s no time for that, and you don't take much damage.

Tie Down Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 2:00
  • Full Sun – 4:00
  • Half Sun – 20:00

The Keeper gives you a huge clue here by saying you need to lure Glinthawks to you; if you have the lure skill, this is really easy.

Slide down the right hand rope and move into cover. Target the lone Glinthawk on this side and use lure to make it approach, then tie it down with the Ropecaster. Hit it with normal arrows so the ropes fall off (if you try a spear attack there’s a chance you may inflict a critical, and you don’t want to kill the Glinthawk!), then tie it down again. Repeat until you win.

If you’re quick enough with the Ropecaster, the Glinthawk won’t get a chance to attack between bondage sessions. You should be far enough from other baddies that nothing else attacks.

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Sun Furrows Hunting Grounds

This final arena presents the toughest challenges, and you’ll want to have the best possible gear and plenty of skills unlocked before you challenge it. Don’t ignore resistance and health boost potions, and consider changing your outfit and modifications: this is the ultimate test

Ravager vs. Machines Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 1:10
  • Full Sun – 2:00
  • Half Sun – 20:00

There are two Ravagers in the arena but the one on the right is miles from anything, so focus on the other one to start with.

Start by sliding down the middle rope when the left Ravager is standing facing it; it takes a few seconds to get down there, so you should land as the Ravager turns away. Override the Ravager, then turn behind you and ping an arrow in the body of the nearby Watcher so it comes running to fight the Ravager and alerts other nearby enemies.

Run clockwise around the Arena and ping the next Watcher you see for extra aggro, leading it to the Ravager if necessary. Done and dusted: now leg it before the Thunderjaw smashes you both.

Alternately, if you're confident, zoom down to the left Ravager as suggested, but use a tearblast arrow or the tearblaster to knock off its cannon. Hit it a few more times to knock off its armour, then murder it with its own gun and turn on the Watchers who should be attacking by then.

Thunderjaw vs. Ravager Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 2:00
  • Full Sun – 2:30
  • Half Sun – 20:00

The trick with this one is to help your ally out. Slide down the right rope when the Ravager is moving away, then sneak over to the Thunderjaw and override it. Immediately aggro both ravagers with distance attacks – triple shot blazing arrows will do decent damage as well as upsetting them. They should roar down into the arena and begin battle with you and the Thunderjaw.

Roll to get out of the Ravagers' way and they should become distracted and ignore you. Continue to help your big pal by taking out the Watchers that come in, and when they’re clear, attack the Ravagers, being very careful not to kill them. Tying them down or stunning them is a big help.

Although the trial description says the Thunderjaw’s disc cannon is the key, it doesn’t matter how the Ravagers actually die as long as the Thunderjaw is responsible.

Ravager Control Trial

  • Blazing Sun – 2:40
  • Full Sun – 4:00
  • Half Sun – 20:00

Again, you need to help your allies out to get this one done in time. Start by sliding down the middle rope when the left Ravager is standing facing it; it takes a few seconds so you should land as it turns away. Override it and immediately ping an arrow into the Thunderjaw so that it comes to investigate and the battle begins.

Meanwhile, sprint around the outside edge of the arena in a clockwise direction, avoiding the Watchers here, until you reach the other Ravager. If you can take it down fast, immediately shoot off its cannon and then put it down, then use the cannon on the Thunderjaw, reserving a few shots for the end of the fight. Otherwise, override it, then dive into the fray.

Hit the Thunderjaw with everything you have while avoiding its attacks, then when its health gets nice and low, rapidly tie it down so the Ravagers can finish it – or finish it yourself with the cannon you stole.

If this is your first Thunderjaw fight, here are a few tips: tearblast its cannons and tail to make it less deadly, then hit it with freeze bombs from your sling to make it take extra damage. Follow up with blast bombs from your blast sling while it is frozen to do plenty of damage, and repeat as necessary.

Now that you have the best weapons, go after the best outfit in Horizon Zero Dawn by collecting power cells - or get started with tough new content in The Frozen Wilds expansion.

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