Horizon Zero Dawn is easily one of the best games to release this year, so it is such a pleasure to be able to dive back into this gorgeous sci-fi world with the new Frozen Wilds expansion. While not as robust of an expansion as say The Witcher 3’s Blood & Wine, The Frozen Wilds still gives us more of the robot-dinosaur hunting goodness we already love and brings some needed challenge back into the game. With the new expansion comes a slew of new additions to the world of Horizon including a new area to explore called “The Cut,” more side-quests and story missions based around the Banuk tribes, terrifying new robot enemies, and special Banuk outfits and weapons.
While each of these additions don’t necessarily bring drastic changes to the Horizon’s formula, they do enhance the lore and overall experience of the game in exciting ways. My favorite part of The Frozen Wilds is the core story-line which adds to the understanding of how Horizon’s world came to be and the god-like entities that Aloy will continue to go up against. I won’t say much more than that since I’d like people to experience the incredible depth and intrigue of this Banuk-centric tale for themselves. The only thing I will add is that the great story also contributes to my one disappointment with it… The fact that this is the only DLC expansion for Horizon. After finishing The Frozen Wilds I was left wanting so much more. I know that there will be a sequel given the overwhelming positive response this game has received, but that sequel won’t be coming anytime soon.
And I cannot even say that is even a criticism of the expansion itself. If anything that is more of a testament to how well Guerilla Games has constructed the world of Horizon and its lore. Outside of the story, The Frozen Wilds is mostly more of what is already present in the base game. There is a bandit camp to take over, a tall neck to override, exhilarating robot fights, and collectables galore. Thankfully, Guerilla Games ups the challenge with the inclusion of the new Scorcher, Frostclaw, and Fireclaw enemies. These beasts provide some of the most heart-pounding battles Horizon has to offer and come equipped with extremely dangerous move-sets. Scorchers can charge up and dash several yards in instantly while leaving a burning trail in their wake. They can also fire explosive mines and perform distance closing claw attacks. The Frost and Fireclaws on the other hand can hurl ice and fire balls; do repeated claw strikes which allow them to cover ground at surprisingly fast pace; cause ice or magma pillars to spout from the ground; and perform a devastating, flying body-slam attack. Seriously, these things are brutal to fit and it feels like you are fighting mini-boss after mini-boss. The added control towers also help to heighten the tension of combat situations since they can disable the Shield-Weaver’s energy shield and heal all robots within range. Overriding a tower will stun all robots in range temporarily, leaving them vulnerable, but Aloy still needs to be cautious because multiple towers are usually within an area.
It is definitely a welcome challenge given that the base game gets much less challenging once you hit level 50. Speaking of levels, The Frozen Wilds does increase the level cap to 60 and provides a whole new skill tree called “Traveler.” Most of the skills in this tree are appreciated additions that enhance Aloy’s abilities while riding and gathering resources such as “Hoarder,” which increases inventory capacity by 20%. There are a couple skills within the tree, however, that felt a little lackluster. The one I’m thinking of in particular is “Mounted Pick-up” which lets Aloy pick-up items while riding a mount. That’s a very useful thing for Aloy to be able to do, but that feels like an ability Guerilla could have just granted Aloy through a patch as opposed to making it a part of a skill tree. I would have rather had access to another level of “Hoarder” or “Dismount Strike” than to use a point on something I feel I should have already been able to do. Overall, the Traveler tree adds some pretty useful skills to Aloy’s repertoire.
Aloy’s arsenal gets an upgrade as well with the introduction of Banuk weaponry such as the Banuk Striker Bow and Banuk Stormslinger. The Banuk bows are pretty much the same as the Sharpshot, War Bow, and Hunter Bow you find in the base game, but with the added addition of a charge shot ability for extra damage. A nice touch, but nothing to run home screaming about. The elemental weapons on the other hand are really fun to play around with. The upgrade quests for the Stormslinger, Icerail, and Forgefire must be completely in order to unlock there full potential, but once that is down these three weapons can be used to take down enemy robots in spectacular fashion. The Stormslinger is literally a lightening shotgun, the Icerail spits icicles like a harpoon gun, and the Forgefire is a flamethrower-rocket launcher combo. I highly recommend doing the upgrade missions for those weapons as soon as possible because they are pretty freakin’ awesome!
And to finally answer the burning question that I know is one your mind… Is Horizon Zero Dawn still one of the most gorgeous games ever created? Yes, yes it is. And somehow The Frozen Wilds looks even more gorgeous with its use of immaculate snow effects, beautiful shimmering pools of water, breath-taking mountain ranges, and so on. This game still remains a sight to behold:
The animations in the game have also been given noticeable improvement allowing the characters to display a more dynamic emotions and giving enemies a wider, more menacing, range of motion. This conversation with Banuk musician Laulai is one of my favorite examples:
Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds is the perfect excuse to jump back into this beautifully rendered world. While it doesn’t do anything ground-breaking to the Horizon formula, this new expansion provides more than enough challenging, robot-hunting fun and juicy sci-fi lore that will leave you begging for the sequel.