Aloy-tering with intent…
Game: Horizon Zero Dawn – The Frozen Wilds DLC
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review code provided)
Horizon Zero Dawn is, without question, one of the best games of the year. Guerrilla Games leapt out of their comfort zone of being “The Killzone Guys” and produced something a little magical. The world-building and everything else on top of it was second to none, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting through the world. It was with excitement, then, that I took on the code for The Frozen Wilds, the first major piece of DLC for this epic tale. It absolutely does not disappoint.
First off, it’s clear that Guerrilla have supported the game to a fantastic degree since the game’s launch. Patches have been frequently pushed to my PS4, without any real inclination for me to jump back in, but the devs clearly have a lot of passion for their vision, and the groundwork put in before The Frozen Wilds has meant that the DLC has the perfect jumping off point.
Visually, The Frozen Wilds has a lot to live up to. Horizon is easily one of the most visually striking games that has ever been released, and its first expansion holds absolutely nothing back. With flurries of snow obscuring your vision from time to time, and a bunch of new graphical effects to accompany it, The Frozen Wilds looks nothing short of breathtaking in almost every scene. The attention to detail is fantastic as well, with even small details like Aloy’s animation when she runs through a deep snow drift. Sulphur pools and other ponds are dotted through the lands, and are a great injection of colour in the ice and snow covered areas that are on display here.
The story in TFW draws from one of my favourite threads in the main game. With the “ancient times” essentially being our vision of an elaborate future, the mysticism of the technology is somewhat spiritual to the tribes that inhabit the lands. This religious element is something that fascinated me during the main game, and it was somewhat easy to see how it could happen. Hyper-advanced AIs being seen as gods by those who don’t understand, it’s a really intriguing concept, and I’m glad The Frozen Wilds expands on it a little more in the ways it does.
Of course, Aloy doesn’t believe in the likes of the religious and mystical mumbo jumbo given everything she’s already seen, and instead just wants to rid the land of its corrupted machines, and bring harmony to the tribes. Standing in her way in the Frozen Wilds are a series of new mechanical enemies, including the devastating Scorcher, and the terrifying Frostclaw. I found myself using a lot more environmental attacks throughout my time with the DLC than I did in the main game, and tactical combat was definitely a requirement to get through some of the trickier areas. Of course, if you want an extra challenge, you’re more than welcome to throw the difficulty slider all the way up to the highest level, but that’s not a challenge I can see myself besting any time soon.
I’d thoroughly recommend checking out the rest of the side content in The Frozen Wilds as well, as it’s as varied and involving as the main game’s was. An array of new characters flesh out the sub-zero plains as you hunt down the cause of the latest corruption to hit the machines, and these range from the stoic to the outright funny. Burgrend, one of the merchants you meet in the early going, is a particular favourite of mine, with his dry wit and heart-warming soft spots for humanity proving to be a decent source of comic relief from the relentless threat of machine-fuelled destruction.
In addition to the new enemies and areas, there are also a couple of new weapons to try out. These are essentially spears that shoot out your chosen type of elemental attack, and can prove extremely handy when you encounter a machine with a particular elemental weakness that you want to exploit. There are also new skill tree options, including one that allows you to unleash a devastating melee attack immediately after dismounting your chosen steed. It’s a well thought out set of upgrades that Aloy genuinely benefits from.
The Frozen Wilds is a pitch-perfect example of what DLC can be when it’s done right. Building on an extremely solid foundation of possibly the most technically accomplished game I’ve ever seen, Guerrilla Games have introduced some fearsome new enemies, a few new weapons, plenty of collectibles, and a story that some full games would be envious of. Seamlessly integrated into the main world, The Frozen Wilds offers up an entirely new area to immerse yourself in for at least 10 hours, if not even more. For under £15 (if you’re on PS Plus), this is a no brainer. A wonderful add-on to one of the best games of the year.