Crafting a rich, engaging and above all original experience is one of the hardest things to do in gaming these days, but earlier this year Guerrilla Games did just that with their ambitious action role-playing adventure Horizon Zero Dawn. Lauded by players and critics alike, the game told the tale of Aloy, a fiery young woman trying to save the day in a post-post-apocalyptic landscape shared by dinosaur-like machines and human beings living in primitive tribes. In response to fans crying out for more, this week sees the release of the DLC expansion Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds which adds whole swathes of new content to the already massive world including new quests, weapons, enemies, skills and environments.
In The Frozen Wilds, Aloy travels farther north than ever before and into The Cut, an icy wasteland inhabited by the enigmatic nomad people of the Banuk tribe. A dangerous new machine menace has risen and threatens the fragile existence of not only the Banuk but also all of humanity. Using her unique skills and trusty spear, Aloy must do what she does best and put a stop to the peril before it gets out of hand. The Frozen Wilds blends seamlessly with the rest of the game and becomes available to play after reaching a certain point in the main campaign, although sadly it is set before the events at the conclusion of HZD, so we’ll have to wait for a sequel to find out more of Aloy’s exploits following the thrilling final battle. The expansion adds around seven or eight hours of new story content and the writing team have done a marvellous job adding fantastic new characters and compelling narrative into the already complex tapestry of the game’s lore, including further insight into what caused the collapse of civilisation as we know it. I love that humanity treats technology in HDZ with a combination of reverence and naivety and The Frozen Wilds does a great job at showing how the Banuk deify that which we would find almost mundane in the present day.
AC/DC’s Thunderstruck plays in the distance
The Cut is a brand new location within the world of HZD, filled to the brim with all new adventures to undertake, enemies to overcome and collectables to find. Just like the main game, The Frozen Wilds lets players run free in a gorgeous and populated environment where there is always something to do. Whether it’s rescuing an exile in the middle of a mountaintop blizzard, clearing out a bandit camp near boiling sulphur pools, hunting a herd of machines for parts or simply finding paint for a friend, players will find hours of enjoyment outside of the DLC’s story content. If you’re a completionist like me, you’ll love searching every beautifully rendered nook and cranny of The Cut to uncover every secret and unlock all the new PSN trophies for your friends to marvel at.
Although The Frozen Wilds is not technically end-game content, it has been built with higher-level players in mind and most of the quests and enemies have been scaled to suit level 30 and above. There are dangerous new machine types to contend with (and old favourites with a serious buff) and even though my Aloy was level 50 with the best available gear when I walked into The Cut, I still found it challenging to take down these fearsome metal beasts. One of my favourite things about Horizon Zero Dawn is that even with the best equipment, you still need to be skilled in order to survive an encounter with the bigger machines and when I finally defeated a terrifyingly unfamiliar Frostclaw, it felt just as spectacular as when I squared up against a massive Thunderjaw for the first time.
Honestly, these guys are incredibly frightening
Thankfully, there is an arsenal of fresh, high-powered weapons, outfits and skills to unlock and upgrade throughout the course of the expansion, which helps to even up the odds a little. You’ll want to keep an eye out for the rare Banuk currency of Bluegleam, which you can use to purchase incredibly deadly bows, a slick new wardrobe or the fun new weapon type, which I can only describe as a flame-thrower but for ice and lightning too. These things absolutely shred through enemy armour and have awesome hunting missions in their upgrade path. Also, you can finally upgrade and modify Aloy’s trusty spear to augment its damage, which means that by the time you wrap up your dealings in The Cut and head back to the main map, you’ll descend feeling like some sort of mythical huntress of legend.
For me, the only downside to The Frozen Wilds is that there has been very little change to the gameplay mechanics. Of course, this could be joyous news to you as it’s just more of the game you love, but considering how much emphasis the game places on the unforgiving new landscape and the harsh lives of the Banuk, it could have been awesome to see that translate into the game via some kind of survival mechanic. Throughout the expansion, Aloy complains about how cold it is and needing to constantly manage her temperature could have made for an interesting twist on the adventure. Perhaps I’ve just been playing too much Ark: Survival Evolved though.
Relaxing in a hot sulphur pool, or as I like to call them, fart ponds
I absolutely adored Horizon Zero Dawn and thoroughly enjoyed my time with its first and (sadly) final expansion. The Frozen Wilds adds hours of story content and activities to an already massive world and is a must-have for fans of Aloy and the beautifully dangerous environment she inhabits. Whether you’re in it for the interesting and original narrative elements or just want to hunt more giant dinosaur robots with a bow and arrow, I highly recommend picking up this DLC and spending as much time as you can with it. After all, this is the last chance you’ll get to adventure with Sony’s new favourite heroine before the painfully long wait until Horizon Zero Dawn 2 drops.
Reviewed on PS4
A copy of this content was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe for review purposes