Like many things, leveling up in Horizon Forbidden West works a bit differently compared to other games. You’ll receive Skill Points, which can be used to unlock some very awesome abilities in the different Skill Trees, and a slight boost to health on leveling up. But that’s pretty much it – the amount of damage that Aloy receives and deals is dependent more on her gear and weapons respectively.
So while you will see numerous quests (particularly the Main Quests) which may be slightly out of reach from your current level, their requirements are not super-strict. Nevertheless, for those who want to level up quickly, there are more than enough ways to do so. The first and most obvious is Side Quests – these can easily provide a few to several thousand XP and some Skill Points depending on their requirements.
Any time you venture to new settlements like Chainscrape or Plainsong, there will be a number of new Side Quests that open up. Side Quests can also confer benefits like new weapons and outfits so they’re well worth pursuing. Always check the rewards for each before undertaking the same.
It’s also a good idea to liberate Rebel Camps, which are your typical open-world outposts teeming with enemies, and take on Salvage Contracts. The latter requires collecting specific Machine parts so on top of the XP earned from completing the Contract, you’re also earning resources and XP from slaying Machines.
You could also venture to Cauldrons and override Tallnecks though keep in mind that they’re limited in number. As such, some Tallnecks may require other tools in order to reach and override them but they’re easy to come back to later. Cauldrons are beneficial for providing more Machines to override so prioritize them whenever possible. Just remember that you’ll need to craft that specific Machine’s Override separately later.
Finally, if you’re hankering for some challenges, pursue the various Hunting Grounds and Trials throughout the landscape. On top of providing lots of materials and Shards, they also confer plenty of Skill Points.
Head on over to The Maw of the Arena when it opens up as well. Its various battles require Shards as an entry fee but they also provide a good amount of Skill Points. You can also use the various Hunting Medals earned from Hunting Grounds and Trials to unlock some Very Rare weapons that are extremely strong. Grind out the Arena for Medals and these can be traded for Legendary Weapons.
It may seem pointless to return to certain Side Quests and activities later on, since you’ll need more XP for each level gained (and there is a max level cap of 50). However, Skill Points are still worthwhile since later Skills in each tree will require more to unlock. It’s also ultimately the different Skills which will make the difference between life and death for Aloy. Regardless, if you’re playing through for the first time, it’s a good idea to do a few activities and Side Quests before progressing to the next Main Quest along with purchasing and upgrading any new weapons and outfits along the way.