Understand that I’m filled with jubilee on Horizon Zero Dawn’s continuing story. The Frozen Wilds DLC was one of my most anticipated Fall releases and would cement what I’ve already known for months: Horizon Zero Dawn is unquestioningly my game of the year. Plus, it’s always fun to drag Chris Harding’s good name through the mud over his low, low, low, low, so very low, low opinion on Guerrilla’s newest baby. Feel free to call him out like me! Unfortunately, this piece isn’t on one man’s utter disdain for art. It’s about how good The Frozen Wilds is as a companion piece to Aloy’s adventures. There’s no disappointment on all fronts.
The Frozen Wilds picks up our heroine’s tale before the end of the main story quest in the base game. Aloy travels further into the Banuk mountains and territory, also known as the Cut, and discovers that these tribe people are also suffering from a system gone rogue. Docile machines have acquired a taste for blood and predatory ones are even angrier and more aggressive. The appearance of new purple structures that repair and control the metal creatures certainly doesn’t help. Aloy arrives on the scene right after a particular Banuk tribe has suffered massive casualties and one losing a very personal friend.
While investigating Aloy determines what has befallen these people relates to her current situation with Sylens, Hades, and Project Zero Dawn. (Look this game is amazing and if you haven’t played it in the nine months since release, worrying about spoilers are the least of your problems.) The further she goes the more she discovers how little is actually known about anything in this post-apocalyptic world. Even better is the fact that The Frozen Wilds adds appreciative supplemental lore to what you’ve already experienced and what we will, inevitably, experience. This is just world building done right. Unexpectedly, side missions and collectible hunting give us quite a detailed look inside this new culture.
The size of Frozen Wilds is enjoyable as well. The new snowy expansion is probably just over a third the size of the main game’s area and offers more beautiful diversity, albeit covered in snow. Just like before I was exposed to wonderful sights and vistas. Again, I tapped into the photo mode to capture how gorgeous everything was. An important shoutout to the snow and particle graphics though. The first time the sun set in a blizzard on this land filled me with an indescribable feeling of dread and beauty in equal measure. I couldn’t see much in front of me, but was incredibly accepting of the show around me. It’s just something you need to experience for yourself. Character interactions have also been improved as conversing with people is much more fluid and animated.
Gameplay at it’s core remains the same (trust me that’s still a high compliment) and adds a few new weapons, abilities, and unlocks. Better yet they didn’t feel like an afterthought and some I’ll even take over into the base game as a permanent addition. First and foremost are the Stormslinger, Forgefire, and Icerail. These new weapons are quite powerful and something many will be proud to have in their arsenal. The Stormslinger essentially fires out balls of lightning to devastating effect and probably Horizon Zero Dawn’s strongest weapon. Forgefire and Icerail are two sides of the same coin. One spits fire like a flamethrower and the other sprays ice like Mei’s gun from Overwatch. Your base spear can also finally be upgraded with modifications too.
The new skill tree unlocks are a little disappointing as most of them focus on mounts and healing machines you control. I never really used anything than Aloy’s two feet to travel and the new perks didn’t interest me. The game was just that beautiful what can I say? Those strong new weapons I mentioned though are equally met with formidable new foes. The Scorcher in particular is one nasty butthead. It takes on the appearance of a hellhound who is frighteningly quick and can easily ruin your day. The Frost and Fireclaws look like a bear/gorilla and have numerous ways to take you out with their elemental abilities or quick physical attacks. They were enough of a threat that I avoided them for a while if possible. Sorry Thunderjaw, you’re no longer scary to me.
Ashley Burch and the rest of the voice actors/actresses once again bring a stellar performance to life and I couldn’t be happier. You wouldn’t be able to tell they stopped recording at anytime. The rest of the technical side was mostly positive, but a few things kept The Frozen Wilds from reaching metaphorical perfection like the base game. More than a handful of times frames dropped or assets popped in a little late. I know because there were an unhealthy number of times I just took in the sights. Some of the snowy mountains in this world also had almost transparent climbing spots and some minor difficulty scaling their peaks in general. These issues were a nuisance, but far from anything that could ruin this journey.
Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds DLC PS4 Review
Overall - Must Buy - 9.5/10
Horizon’s The Frozen Wilds story DLC does nearly everything to make the work of art that was the full game proud. The story is interesting and adds to the main plot while also comprehensively introducing us to a brand new area and its people. The graphics and views are nothing short of snow capped amazement and the fun is here for a full ten or more hours. Only a few, super minor technical hiccups keep this expansion away from reaching a perfect score.
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Reviewed using base PS4.