It’s hard to believe that in February, Horizon Zero Dawn arrived on PS4 and gave us an unforgettable experience in a future world overrun by machines. As you may recall, I was a big fan of the game and put in a good 50 hours to achieve Platinum (before the update that added more trophies). I was sad that the game ended and I had completed everything it had to offer but when The Frozen Wilds DLC was announced, I was glad to have the excuse to go back for some adventures with Aloy and get back to it.
A new location becomes available to you on the map once you start up the game with the DLC installed. If you took the time to visit every nook and cranny, you may recognise the area you’ll go through to reach The Cut, a snow-covered land for you to contend with while you explore the new space and battle the machines contained within it. The game doesn’t really ease you in gently and throws some of the new beasts at you almost straight away. These machines are more aggressive and tougher than those you have encountered before and this is due to a new enemy, similar to HADES, which has caused these mechanical creatures to be this way. Story wise, this is all very familiar and perhaps not the most imaginative approach when it comes to drawing us back in, however there is still a Daemon to overcome and many fights to be had along the way.
Other than the new machines, there is a new tribe and area. There are also some new weapons which are interesting to play with with the Fireforge and the Icerail to add to your inventory and outfits that may help in the cold climate but combat wise there isn’t anything overly different. I was glad to have the opportunity to upgrade my spear as I tend to end up using it a lot when I end up in close combat with the machines. Getting the additional damage helps out a lot when you take on something a little bit bigger than you… actually, make that a lot bigger. I like that the game doesn’t let up as for players returning to the game, or just picking it up for the first time, you would expect it to stay at the level of difficulty you had become accustomed to. If you find yourself surrounded by daemonic machines, you are going to have a tough fight on your hands and if there are Control Towers around, be sure to take them out first before you engage otherwise it could cause some issues. I still suffer from the issue of sticking to the same weapons and it wasn’t until I was almost at the end that I realised that I really needed to try new weapons and approaches to taking on some of these new machines. Fights seemed harder because I was reluctant to try new things out and as I still have a couple of side missions left to complete, I most certainly will be swapping weapons around a bit more to make the most of them.
Aloy is still the funny and slightly sarcastic warrior we know and love and with the new tribe in the mix, she’s certainly got some people to bounce the quick quips dialogue with. One of my favorite side missions follows Aloy as she locates and helps a trio of hunters. Not just for the battles for the machines, but the dialogue as it moves from serious to funny bringing a great dynamic to the game. She still maintains her authoritative position as she understands the history behind the machines, but these new ‘daemonic’ machines present a challenge for her to overcome and of course, discover more about. You can continue to level Aloy beyond level 50 and acquire some additional skills which may come in handy. I’m particularly fond of the repair skill which allows me to repair my mount or machines I have overridden seeing as I am a fan of watching machines destroy each other while I relax in some bushes.
This game still remains a graphical masterpiece. It is beautiful. Not only because of the landscapes, but the weather effects and music make it an impressively immersive experience. The details of the outfits, weapons and even the camps where the Banuk reside are fantastic and always catch my eye. During the cutscenes, I would find myself looking at the characters clothing rather than the subtitles. Still, the only graphical issue is Aloy’s hair which has a mind of its own! The environment is a character itself as it provides beauty and a challenge as the bitter cold and snow can make it difficult to see or slow Aloy down. Aloy comments on the cold frequently but if you leave her standing for a moment, she will hold her hand out to the snow which is just a lovely touch if you ask me. But among the snowy landscape lies Thunders Drum, the volcano, which is a focal point of this story and the scenery as it pours out thick smoke and provides some fantastic photo mode opportunities. When we finally got to go there, I was interested to see the purpose it would have and I was pleased with what the developers came up with as they mixed nature with technology to produce a new cauldron for Aloy to take on.
Overall, The Frozen Wilds is a very enjoyable expansion to the original game. You get a good 10-15 hours of game play (depending on whether you take your time exploring and complete all of the side quests) and a fun, thrilling experience which only adds to the content of the core game. While the ‘new’ story is very similar to the main campaign, it adds to what Aloy has discovered and I actually enjoyed piecing it all together at the end. If Guerilla Games were to say another chapter was in the pipeline, I would be pleased as I certainly don’t feel like we have seen the last of Aloy or the people we have encountered so far throughout the game but I would like a new approach to the story, perhaps also a new take on the machine tech so we don’t get bigger, badder machines to fight but maybe make humans the enemy of the piece. It could be interesting, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I’m even tempted to start a new game just to be able to play the whole thing again because I still think it’s one of the best games of the year.
The Frozen Wilds is available to buy now and if you still haven’t given Horizon Zero Dawn a look, it certainly is worth it and I look forward to returning to The Cut to finish those side quests just for an excuse to continue playing.