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SummaryA great expansion for a great game
The Good* Incredible graphics and sound
* New weapons are fun to use
* New challenges for high-level players
* Expands on the world of the base game, both geographically and culturally
The Bad* Story is mostly disconnected from main game and makes virtually no advancements on the main narrative
* New skills are mostly useless and boring
The Bottom LineHorizon: Zero Dawn was one of my favorite games of 2017, with incredible graphics and satisfying combat wrapped up in an immersive world and compelling storyline. It didn’t necessarily break new ground, but it did deliver in just about all areas it could. When i learned that DLC was in development for the game, I was ecstatic. Sure, the original game had a few minor blemishes, but at the end of the day the only thing I really wanted more from Horizon was more of it. That’s exactly what Guerrilla have given us with The Frozen Wilds, the game’s first (and only) expansion.
The Frozen Wilds adds a new area to the northeastern part of the map which contains its own self-contained story and sidequests. It also introduces a new skill tree and new weapons, armors, and machines, some of which are among the toughest that the game has to offer.
In The Frozen Wilds, Aloy travels north to The Cut, which is the area where the eskimo-like tribe called the Banuk reside. Initially drawn to the Cut seeking answers to mysteries related to events during the main campaign, she ends up getting involved in a new adventure, investigating why The Cut has been overrun with Daemonic machines. Although the Banuk did make some appearances in the base game, they weren’t as well-developed as the other major tribes (Nora, Carja, Oseram). The Frozen Wilds fleshes them out considerably. They are revealed as a tribe who is firm in tradition and relishes the challenges of survival and hunting, even at the expense of safety. In general, the plot of the Frozen Wilds doesn’t necessarily advance the story so much as expand on the already intriguing world the game takes place in. There are some minor tidbits revealed about a couple of characters from the base game, but nothing really juicy. Aloy’s motivations for traveling to the Cut in the first place are also pretty weak. Otherwise its pretty much self-contained. These issues make The Frozen Wilds a slightly lesser experience on its own, but it complements what was already there very well.
The Frozen Wilds is intended as a more challenging expansion for high level players. Guerrilla recommends the expansion for level 30 players and above, but I’d honestly wouldn’t dare attempt it until after finishing the campaign. I myself was level 47 and had all but one of the base game’s skills unlocked. I didn’t get the best armor from the base game, so even on Normal difficulty the fights were surprisingly demanding. I burned through resources much quicker, and found myself relying on health and resistance potions far more compared to the base game. I even ended up using shards to help restock my ammo, something which I practically never did in the base game. I wouldn’t call The Frozen Wilds uber-hard, but it’s a welcome step up from what was offered in the base game nonetheless.
Arguably the most exciting additions in The Frozen Wilds are three new enemy types. These include the fast, canine-like Scorcher, and two giant elemental bear machines. These machines hit hard and will catch even experienced hunters off-guard. The new machines are tough, but even the old machines get a boost thanks to the Daemon, a new force that has taken over the Cut. Daemonic Machines look very similar to corrupted machines but have purple wires rather than red wires sticking out. They can’t be overridden, are strong against elemental ammo, and hit harder and faster than the original versions. Throughout the Cut, you’ll also find Daemonic towers. These send out pulses which repair nearby daemonic machines, meaning you’ll have to either destroy them or override them to shock nearby machines and set up an ambush.
To compensate for these new challenges, new weapons have been introduced. In The Cut, a new currency called Bluegleam is used to purchase new weapon types and special items from vendors. Bluegleam can be found in the world or earned through completing quests and challenges. The new weapons and armors are great fun to use and are basically more powerful versions of weapons from the base game, which allow for even stronger shots when fully drawn. There are also new elemental staff weapons, which hurl the three different elements (fire, shock, freeze) at enemies but take quite a few resources to use. You’ll have to complete quests to find these. These weapons can also be upgraded to offer alternate firing modes. You can even unlock the option of modding your spear, allowing it to do even more damage.
The new skill tree, “Traveler” is a minor disappointment. The tree is orientated towards players who like to use mounts for traveling and combat, but since Horizon’s mounts are frustrating to use the skills are mostly useless for players like me. The best skills in the tree are the ability to break down unwanted items into shards and inventory expansion.It feels like Guerrilla was struggling to figure out good skills to put in this tree.
Platforming has been improved. Many areas still only offer one path to get through, but the paths are much more interesting since more climbable objects are included, and there are sometimes more than one way to get up certain areas. There are also several areas with moving and rotating objects, making for very interesting platforming sequences. The puzzles have also been given a boost. They aren’t exactly brainteasers, but they’re not trivial either.
Graphically, The Frozen Wilds looks just as amazing as the base game, as you would expect. The snow looks incredible. I especially love the way it deforms when Aloy or other characters move through it. It’s probably the best looking snow I’ve seen in a game. At times, the snowfall was so dense I could barely see what was on-screen, especially at night. Performance on PS4 Pro is very good, though there were a few times when the frame rate would dip a bit, but this was generally when a ton of activity was happening on-screen.
The soundtrack definitely feels a lot more electronic compared to the base game, which balanced digital and analog instruments very well. There is a lot more synthesizer in the Frozen Wilds, which seems to emphasize the iciness of the expansion’s setting.
Overall, the Frozen Wilds stands as a great addition to what was already a great game. The storyline isn’t quite as strong as the main campaign’s, but all of the new enemies, weapons, and challenges make it a more than worthy expansion, nonetheless. If you’re picking up the game for the first time, then I highly recommend getting The Frozen Wilds along with the base game.