Some 8 months ago, a little-known tribal badass named Aloy arrived on the gaming scene. And when I say “arrived” I really mean crashed through that scene like a ferocious, snarling thunderjaw, hellbent on tearing apart everything in its path. Records were smashed. New IP was launched. An iconic hero was born. The cosplay world exploded. And in seemingly one fell swoop, Dutch Developers Guerrilla Games went from “The guys that made those Killzone games” to “The guys that make Horizon.” Their Robot Dinosaur sci-fi battler was – out of the gate – a bonafide hit.
Fast forward to now, and the first Horizon DLC – “The Frozen Wilds” is upon us. And so I found myself eagerly picking up the PS4 controller once again, curious to see what else Guerrilla Games had to offer. And what they have to offer is good stuff. Several minutes of watching the universal downloading bar later, and I was back where I left off my game (I believe just before the final mission). At first I was a little confused as to where I would find the DLC section (there was nothing in the menu). After opening the map I found a new icon that said “new mission” and so headed there. I didn’t attempt a ‘New Game Plus’ with Frozen Wilds because I have no guarantee that I can skip the obligatory training levels (often an NG+ in an open world game doesn’t open up until you reach a certain point – ain’t nobody got time for dat!). Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt did this better, adding the new DLC option directly into the menu selection. A very minor nitpick, but one worth noting for anyone who, like me, haven’t played the game in a while and might be a little confused about how to activate the DLC.
Aloy’s path has always been one of hardship. She has struggled all her life to fit in, yet was shunned by the society that raised her. and yet through sheer tenacity, she pushes herself through the prejudice and fear of her dogmatic tribal “superiors” to become something else entirely: a modern woman. In Frozen Wilds, Aloy journeys north, into the cold, harsh lands of the ‘Banuk’ tribe. There, she must solve a mystery that is affecting machines differently in the area. Her journey will lead her to a mountain that holds a secret, one that could hold ramifications for the wider world. Though Aloy’s hardships have equipped her with a sardonic sense of humour, I have to admit I’d forgotten how much of a chatty Catchy our girl is, but her comments still tend to be a nice mix of off-the-cuff character commentary and handy survival tips. It’s her empathy that shines through in the end, something highlighted by the strong writing and the warmth that Ashly Burch’s brings to the character. To the nomadic Banuk, Aloy is once again seen as an outcast, and is treated as such. She must prove her worth to the leaders of the tribe to progress further into the story (those familiar with the first game will sense some familiar ground here). Overall I enjoyed the new story, and it fits seamlessly into the larger narrative while moving it forward.
Gameplay-wise, there are some new additions to the world that will definitely keep you on your toes. Firstly, the machines have been leveled up to much beefier version of themselves via a virus that makes for some nail-bitingly tense encounters. Even the hardiest maxed-out player will have their hands full here. There are a couple of new machines too, which I’ll let you discover for yourself, suffice to say they’re not to be trifled with. There are 2 new skill trees that open up called “Traveller”; most of them are concerned with either improving your looting abilities or repairing your mount. Now, it’s nice to be able to loot from horseback, but surely that’s a tweak that could have been worked into the game as an update, rather than forcing the player to spend a skill point in developing. Something tells me that a warrior who can shoot a shaft into the eye of a swooping glinthawk – from horseback – should have no problem bending down to pick flowers from the saddle. There are a small handful of new weapons to buy, new outfits to collect, new side-quests to go on and new puzzles to solve. It’s all expected, but all good stuff. I would caution players not to play this DLC before reaching level 30, however, because it felt harder (one boss battle went quickly from “This is f-ing hard” to “I want to punch the creator of this level”), so you have been warned.
I hope you like snow. A lot. Because once you get into it, you’ll be seeing a lot of snow-capped mountains, and white forests and be pelted with thick, blinding white rain for most of the adventure. Guerrilla have doubled-down on the title’s promise and have laid out a number of chilly environments for you to explore. You’ll be adventuring through frozen canyons, crossing iced-over lakes and trudging over snowy hills. There are some nice additions to animation too, as Aloy will wrap her arms around her shoulders, shivering, and even adjust her gait to accommodate thick blankets of snow in her path. Nights are especially gorgeous, with vibrant polar lights that glow and flicker in the starry sky. If you’re rocking the PS4 Pro and a 4K TV, Guerrilla has your back once again. Each cavern I entered was a marvel of hand-crafted beauty, chilled to pixel perfection.
Horizon Zero Dawn, The Frozen Wilds
If you’re a veteran of Horizon, The Frozen Wilds is an enjoyable new adventure for gaming’s coolest new heroine, and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it certainly adds some shiny new rims to it. We don’t expect DLC to offer up anything revolutionary (hell, sequels rarely do that!) but this one is recommended for fans of the game that are looking for an extra challenge, or just more of Aloy and the richly detailed world Guerrilla have crafted. Horizon: Winter Edition is available for download now for PS4.
Horizon Zero Dawn, The Frozen Wilds