Aloy is finally back! I forgot how much I was craving for another slice of my favorite apocalyptic hero that slays robots for breakfast, but she is definitely back in full force with Horizon Zero Dawn’s DLC – Frozen Wilds.
The story for Frozen Wilds surrounds a northern mountain tribe called the Banuk. They are a group of primitive tribes folks, who mirror the tribe that Aloy came from in the original story. The main crux of the Banuk surrounds taming an angry volcanic mountain that is somehow spreading an infection amongst the monstrous machines in the Banuk region, which is also threatening the livelihood of their people. Aloy must journey through the great frozen borderlands and, with help, make her way to the mysterious cause of the potential volcanic cataclysm. It’s a solid storyline that fits right into the mix with the main game, which is great because it’s supposed too (duh).
Outside of the main story, you’re also going to have quests to play through. While certainly not as engrossing or exciting as the main story, and that’s not a surprise, there are some great quests to run through to obtain other things and material that will improve your gameplay experience. There are also some tragic short stories that will bring your heroic state of mind firmly back to the ground, but as a whole the quests are fun to play. I hate to tip-toe around quests, but I just absolutely hate giving away too much, especially since this is DLC and you’re looking at around shortened amount of additional hours of gameplay to wrap everything up. Just note that most of the side quests are worth your time and none of them, and I mean NONE, feel like they’re just going through the motions. They are quite good.
Along the way through story and quests, you’ll happen upon new creatures that add a new layer of difficulty during fights caused by a new infection from a mysterious source. The infection is noted by purple wavy wires coming from the machines and are good indicators to back the hell away from the machines before running in with arrows blazing. On top of the infection, the new machines introduced with the DLC are vicious as hell. One in particular is called the Fireclaw. If you think of a giant robotic bear that is permanently pissed at you for burning down the forest, then you get the idea. The bears throw fire projectiles at you, raise fire from the ground and do a butt-flop on you, if you’re standing too close. Best method for disposing of them? Far away shots and patience. They’re really quite difficult, but a fun challenge nonetheless and welcome addition to the HZD hazardous family of machines. The bears are spread out everywhere on the way through the game and there isn’t an easy way to dispose of them, which makes the DLC more than challenging. The game comes packed with several quests that involve these bears, which includes taking down five of them (and that isn’t an easy task). The game does feature other creatures, but this one will be the one you remember the most, well, maybe outside of Scorchers (why ruin the fun).
Outside of the main story, quests and bears (OH, MY!), the game also features giant machines called control towers that help infect the other machines and also heals them after they take damage. There are several control towers around the Banuk region that are usually surrounded by loads of machines. In addition to making the machines stronger, while at the same time healing them, the infection signal also takes down Aloy’s shield (if you have the nice armor from the first go around in the game) and causes any machine she is riding to suddenly lose its balance and fall to the ground. The towers are a bit of a pain in the ass to navigate through, but putting them out of commission isn’t all that difficult. The towers can be taken down by hitting small energy containers that crop up on their back in-between intervals of infection blast to the surrounding population. The blasts are patterned, so you just need to decide how to hit those containers and with what (bevy of arrow choices). Once taken down, the machines surrounding it, while still infected, can no longer regenerate energy, which means it’s easier to take them out. I will say that there are a couple of control tower sites that are methodically built to not easily be destroyed, but for the most part it’s a far away shot without much interference. I’ll stop there to avoid spoiling anymore for you.
As for other obstacles in the game, you also will run into fun puzzles that are more Tomb Raider-esque than typical HZD. For example, close to the middle portion of the game, you will run into a trapped entrepreneur who is trying to retrieve a certain object in order to retrieve information. You have to drain a dam in a particular way to get to that object, as well as take out some enemies. It’s a slow burn of a playthrough and puzzle, but the reward is worth the effort and it does change up the point/shoot gameplay that most of HZD is about. It’s definitely a welcomed addition to the gameplay design.
Sticking with design, the DLC also introduces new weapons/armor and abilities to improve Aloy’s adventure, which are fun as hell to use in older missions in the game. I mean, this might be the reason you do a New Game+ after beating the original (not that you needed another reason). Starting with weapons/armor, you will find a bevy of powerful bows and armor through Banuk traders. If you beat a portion of the story, then you will receive some really nice goodies, which should be additional motivation for completing the story. Anyway, the main new weapons included with the DLC, which are pivotal when trying to earn trophies, are as follows:
Icerail: It’s an ice cannon that is a beauty of a weapon against fire-related things. Those things MIGHT stand up on their hind legs as well. Those things might be called Fireclaws, but whatever. It’s a great weapon of choice.
Forgefire: You’ll find this on the story mission. If you think of a flamethrower that will light anything on fire quickly (no more waiting for your arrows to do that), then you’re hitting what the Forgefire is right on the head. The additional upgrade to the weapon will make it incredibly powerful. Enjoy that when it happens.
Stormslinger: This will be the first item you receive in the game and it’s a dozy. It’s essentially a rail gun that shoots giant gobs of electricity. While completely upgradeable (and you’ll want to do that) it will dispose of new and old enemies quickly. It’s a gorgeous gun with small amounts of ammo to go with it.
These three weapons mixed with a certain type of armor, which you will have to press forward in the story to obtain, make for a pretty powerful Aloy during the entire HZD experience. Again, you’re going to want to start over again with all of the material gained from Frozen Wilds. All of the above are fantastic items to use in earlier missions.
On the abilities side of the tracks, there is a new category added called ‘Traveler’. This category allows improvement to your traveling experience. Such things, and I’m not naming them all because you’ll want to uncover them yourself, include picking up material while mounted on your horse-thingy and repairing your horse-thingy should it get damaged (I’m sure you have some sentimental value to your riding companion, so don’t let it perish). The traveler, while not incredibly exciting when compared to the original category of abilities in the game, add some abilities you didn’t know you wanted in HZD. I’ve found the ability to pick-up material while riding my metal horse to be incredibly invaluable. It’s a good ability to have when obtaining medical herbs while running away from giant fire bears.
Outside of giving anything major away to you, I think I’ll leave the rest of the gameplay to your discovery.
Overall, the gameplay for Frozen Wilds fits perfectly within the original content from Horizon Zero Dawn. The new weapons make for a better, more motivating experience. On top of this, the story expands upon the mythology that the original HZD built, making it a bigger world with more worthwhile content to live within. It’s quite remarkable how well Guerrilla built this game and how perfectly the DLC fits within it. I’m still at awe at the girth and life Horizon Zero Dawn brings with it during every storyline and every quest. This is still very much my GOTY, especially with the Frozen Wilds now a firm reminder of how great this gameplay experience can be and is from beginning to end.
Now, having said all of the above, there is a bit of a downer to the game. If you ended up completing it, and I’m not sure why you wouldn’t have if you owned it (seriously, there isn’t a good excuse, so be ashamed if you didn’t), then gaining abilities is going to be easy for you. I had 13 ability points available for use when I started out in Frozen Wilds. These were points gained from trying to platinum the original game, which I almost did (95%), but I couldn’t use them because I had nothing else to open. These points allowed me to open up nearly all of the traveler abilities, which was anti-climatic. Don’t get me wrong, I earned those points through HZD and I’m happy they were actually used, but I wanted more time to be surprised with the new abilities and keep gaining levels (currently 58). Anyway, that’s really the only downer for the game, as apparently I played the original way too much (not really).
Anyway, for $14.99 you’re getting great gameplay, a good story and a superb amount of additional content. In addition, the game somehow gets more beautiful with Frozen Wilds with great snow effects and beautiful lighting (and draw distance). It’s just a firm reminder that GG knows how to make a pretty title, and with substance no less.
If you love HZD, then you’re going to adore the Frozen Wilds DLC. It’s everything you might hope it would be.
*Digitalchumps received this code from SIE for review purposes.