Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds
Aloy’s journey in Horizon Zero Dawn was one of the most exciting of 2017. As the player, we saw her grow from birth, to becoming a very young hunter with her surrogate father Rost, and then growing to not only become her own person – but also finally be a part of the tribe she was shunned from. One downside of being raised by Rost was his being outcast from his tribe before her birth, and this causing her to be bullied and attacked as a youth. The biggest upside is that she gained a sense of independence and boldness that served her well not only in the main adventure – but now in the Frozen Wilds expansion area where Aloy explores the world of the Banuk and its mystical ways.
Aloy meets a whole new cast of characters and once again, finds herself on the outside looking in. This may seem a bit odd given Aloy’s story in the initial game, but it does fit into the narrative here since she still has to prove herself to an all-new set of people. The group is split due to new, gigantic machines that have overtaken the land. The Frozen Wilds gives you more of the existing map to explore while also acting as a partial campaign and a near Souls-esque experience at times. The key to succeeding in this expanded area is to be at a solid level – around 30 or so to avoid being trounced. However, there’s nothing stopping you from going in underpowered to add some challenge.
The expansion begins with a bit of exposition about the plight and then throws you right into a gigantic boss battle with an entirely new type of machine. His flames fill the screen and require swift movements. Attacking with just melee attacks won’t get the job done here – and making use of an extensive amount of blast types is going to be the key to surviving. Winning this battle is a thrill and showcases just what kind of a step up in challenge this expansion pack is going to wind up being. You will need to be on your A+ game to excel, so if you’re rusty at the core game, definitely knock out some side missions to get the hang of things once again before diving headfirst into it.
The skill tree has been expanded a bit with an all-new traveler area that focuses on one area the first game could have been improved upon – the mount system. Beyond being a great way to get around, mounting an overridden machine allowed you to kill rival machines without depleting Aloy’s own resources. Much like mounting something in Golden Axe though, they are glass cannons to some degree and being efficient and avoiding damage while on one are keys to victory while also minimizing your own harm.
The new leaping one-hit kill spear attack is awesome and speeds up the pacing of the mount system quite a bit. What’s really cool is that you can take these upgrades into the main game as well – so you can use the expansion to build up Aloy to new heights and then tacking things like machine compounds or bandit camps with a greater level of ease than you ever could have in the main game before. It’s rare that DLC like this actually makes the core game better and worth going back to, but that’s the case here. It sucks a bit for completionists who may have already beaten everything the game had to offer – but if you left some stones unturned before, then the Frozen Wilds offers up a new reason to go back and conquer those parts of the game.
The revamped gameplay elements mean that even those who loved the original game have a reason to check out the Frozen Wilds. The new campaign is enjoyable – but doesn’t take you on quite the emotional journey the original one did. That is fitting though since you can’t count on everyone playing this having beaten that – so the developers were stuck trying to make a new campaign that is essentially a side-mission with a bit of drama that focuses on expanding the world and not just telling Aloy’s tale in a new way.
Visually, the snowy area looks stunning and results in some of the best-looking environments in Horizon Zero Dawn. The core game itself was seemingly made with the in-game photo mode in mind as it was already hard to find a part of the game that you couldn’t get a dazzling shot out of. Now, with the addition of even more snow to the mix, it expands what you can do with that part of the game even more. New animations have been made for Aloy’s new attacks, offering up a sense that a lot of effort was put into this expansion and PS4 Pro users can look forward to more detailed areas – while basic PS4 users are still in for an impressive-looking experience as well.
The new voice work is solid and makes you care about the characters involved. The more realistic approach to the acting helped the main game and does the same here, while the soundtrack remains one of the most subdued, but beautiful in gaming. It may not be something you will have blaring during a party, but when you want something relaxing that also has a bit of blood-pumping excitement in it, the songs featured in Horizon Zero Dawn and this expansion do the trick. The sound design is impressive too, with more snow-drenched footsteps adding an extra layer of importance to acting with stealthy movements than the main game, which didn’t require you to be quite as careful during stealthy portions.
Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds is an outstanding expansion that not only tells its own story, but makes the main game better and more rewarding to play as well. Lapsed fans should make sure they’re at a solid level of at least 25 or so if they want a good challenge, and going back into the world of Horizon Zero Dawn is a blast. Aloy’s new abilities greatly expand her riding skills and the new cast of characters provides another set of people for Aloy to interact with and continue a bit of her journey. It controls wonderfully, looks gorgeous and has some top-notch acting as well. At $20, it provides a hefty amount of content and never feels like a cash grab – it’s a rare piece of DLC that makes the core game better.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
This review is based on a digital copy of Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.