Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds Review - Good But Familiar - Dread Central
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Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds Review – Good But Familiar

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The Frozen Wilds

The Frozen WildsDeveloped by Guerilla Games

Published by Sony Interactive Entertainment

Available only on PS4

Rated T for Teen


At the end of my Horizon Zero Dawn review, I concluded by saying, “Congrats Guerilla Games on your new successful franchise! Now get to work on the next one, I want to play it.” I had to go back and read my whole review to figure out why I gave it a 4/5, as I’m highly considering it for Game of the Year. I really relished the chance to jump back into Aloy’s fuzzy boots and stab, shoot, trap, and leap my way to more dead robots.

I haven’t played again before The Frozen Wilds, and after a bit of research I found that they had dealt with some of my nitpicks about the combat. Booting up The Frozen Wilds, the gameplay improvements combined with the new skills make for a much smoother experience. So, is The Frozen Wilds just an upgrade for Horizon Zero Dawn, or the new chapter for this world that I crave?

The Frozen Wilds

Teach me the ways of your mystic cave paintings…

In earnest, it’s a little bit of both, but not enough of either. What The Frozen Wilds adds is good, but is ultimately just more of the same. Story wise, The Frozen Wilds focuses on the Banuk and their icy homeland, “the Cut.” A hunter/gatherer tribe similar to the Nora but more practical, all that matters to the Banuk is survival of the fittest. Aloy arrives in the middle of a funeral ceremony, and learns that these hearty people and their inhospitable lands are under threat by a new form of corrupted machine.

The Frozen Wilds

As if murder machines weren’t enough, now I have to add being super chilly into the mix…

Cultural superstitions and reality weave and clash in Horizon Zero Dawn, and that’s even moreso the case with the Banuk and their hyper-spiritual societal structure. As always, what they see as mystical has a logical answer that only Aloy can discern with her Focus. It fits into the world, but is isolated enough that you can still play the main game without needing The Frozen Wilds to understand what is going on. It added just enough to intrigue me, but with that signature DLC quality of nothing you do actually mattering in any longterm way. People that do play it will undoubtedly know more about the games to come, but those that don’t won’t be lost when Horizon 2 drops.

I will say that emotionally, the limited exposure I got with the Banuk made it a bit hard to care about them. The Banuk chieftain Aratak was a cool dude, genuinely just wanting what was best for his tribe without a lot of needless plot contrivances. New shaman lady Ourea was okay, and more ready for action than her Nora religious counterparts. But the fact that I can’t even remember any other names should tell you something.

The Frozen Wilds

None other could be chief, for it is my hat that is the silliest and dress most heavily adorned with tails.

As for gameplay, The Frozen Wilds shoves in a whole new chunk of familiar content. There’s a new bandit camp to clear, a new Tallneck to climb, a new hunting ground, three new collectibles to scavenge, and various other sidequests and rewards. As familiar as these tasks are, each of them comes with a little twist to make The Frozen Wilds’ additions unique. The Tallneck first has to be put back together before it can be scaled, and the bandit camp ends with an intense bossfight and new weapon. The new version of the Corrupted Zones have a pulsing towers that heal enemies (and knocks out your shields, if you have them) until you are able to disable or destroy them.

The Frozen Wilds

Huh, I wonder if Mt. Doom over there has something to do with all these corrupted robots…

The various tasks feel more direct and purposeful this time around. There’s a certain amount you have to do just to get on with the story (I think it’s 3?), but for the most part the task/reward is much clearer and more impacting. There are three entirely new weapons you can get, and three new versions of the bows. The bows are all just upgraded version of the other combat/hunting/marksman bow, but with the added bonus that charging your shots now actually causes your arrows to hit harder.

The Frozen Wilds

Which is great, because this game throws Chillmaws at you like they just got taken off of the endangered species list.

The real fireworks come from the three new unique weapons, the Forgefire, Icerail, and Stormslinger. Each dishes out massive amounts of damage in their respective element, and you can go ahead and intuit which is which. In their basic form they essentially all boil down to just element sprayers, but once upgraded each receive a devastating secondary ability. Particularly destructive was the Stormslinger, which deals such massive damage that it can actually overload and kill you if you aren’t careful. These juggernauts consume a massive amount of resources (it’s like 20 Blaze/Chillwater/Spark a craft), which means I finally had an outlet for all of my extra junk.

There are also three new machines, and newer corrupted variants of all of the basic ones. The Frozen Wilds is intended for high level players (the suggested review level was 30), although it can be accessed at any point after the second half of the map opens up. As someone who was already level 50 going into it, the challenge was a welcome one. The new Fireclaw machine was a particularly fearsome foe. There was also only a blessed single spot where Glinthawks spawned, so praise be to The Frozen Wilds.

The Frozen Wilds

As annoying as they are, at least these kicking and screeching bundles of fiery rage don’t fly.

Overall, what The Frozen Wilds adds is good, but familiar. The plot was interesting, but it didn’t integrate meaningfully into the main story. Seriously, your Banuk friends don’t even show up for the final battle. The jerks. If what you really wanted was another 6 hours of hunting for trinkets and shooting respawing robots, then The Frozen Wilds is for you. I liked a lot of the new skills and raised level cap, but honestly should quality of life improvements have to be paid for? For new players that missed it the first time around and are getting into it for the holidays, it’s well worth checking out as part of a package deal. I personally don’t think it’s worth $20, but then again Sony gave it to me for free.

  • DLC
3.5

Summary

So, is The Frozen Wilds just an upgrade for Horizon Zero Dawn, or the new chapter for this world that I crave? In earnest, it’s a little bit of both, but not enough of either. What The Frozen Wilds adds is good, but is ultimately just more of the same.

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User Rating 3.77 (13 votes)

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