The end of the year is a special time in gaming. The holidays are crammed head to toe with highly anticipated AAA releases, and everyone seems eager to tell you their personal picks for the game of the year. It’s extremely easy to forget about all the high quality games that came out earlier in the year, like Resident Evil 7 and Nioh. I had completely forgotten Horizon Zero Dawn came out this year, and it took Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds for me to remember how much I liked it.
Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds is the first expansion made available to 2017’s premiere game for robot dinosaur hunting and Bluetooth earpieces. This expansion increases the map side to include the frostbitten lands to the far north and their strange, sometimes alien vistas. Players will be able to access the new content as soon they’re loosed on the open world beyond Mother’s Heart, however, new players should put a little hitch in their get-a-long before they attempt those icy peaks. The Frozen Wilds are recommended for characters around level 30. While that isn’t a hard and fast number, I can tell you from experience that a level 11 Aloy is going to need to be on her A-game if she wants to punch a robo-polar bear.
Beyond the tentacle looking architecture of the Grave-Hoard lies The Cut, a wild, frozen expanse inhabited by hardy Banuk hunters and dotted with steaming hot springs. It turns out there’s some weird “daemon” about and it’s been infecting the local machine with its funky mojo. Mind you, this is completely different funky mojo than the corruption getting into the southern regions, a decidedly more angry and shadowy. Additionally, this daemon seems to be silencing the spirit, a mysterious voice that the local shaman has taken to praying to. All of this madness seems tied up with the grumpy looking mountain spewing black smoke in the distance, but the local tribes don’t seem to be terribly keen to check it out any further.
Through the course of this expansion, players will not only explore these savage lands and their frigid bounty, but also challenge a local tribal leader, explore a deserted dam, and track some not so great hunters trying to skip out of a bill. The Frozen Wilds offers what may be the best thing an expansion to Horizon Zero Dawn could offer; more to do in an already excellent game with stunning graphics, top-notch voice acting, and fun gameplay, and thankfully it’s not all just more of the same. The Frozen Wilds offers some significant quality of life additions that affect the base game experience as well. Mostly, a new skill tree is available from the start that allows for the deconstruction of resources and materials for cash, more options for mounts, and ways to repair overridden machines. Additionally, it is now possible to add modifications to Aloy’s trusty spear, and even a new weapon type to be found out there.
Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds is a great expansion to an already stellar game, but it is certainly not without its faults. While the side quests are a bit more diverse than the base game, the fun side activities, hunting grounds, set collections, get lumped into the main quest line. Now, I would have probably done this anyway, but these sorts of activities are best served at the players own discretion, rather than having them forced upon them.
If you enjoyed the initial release of Horizon Zero Dawn then you have nothing to lose going into this downloadable content. It’s a fairly significant time investment and, while it doesn’t do anything new with the patented Horizon formula, The Frozen Wilds is jam-packed with side quests, ravenous machines to hunt, and an interesting story. The new enemies are interesting to fight and the new region is a joy to explore.