If it feels like Horizon Zero Dawn is an adventure you undertook ages ago, it’s just a testament to how great this year has been with dolling out amazing titles faster than you could possibly hope to keep up. But with the new year around the corner, Sony and developers Guerrilla Games want to remind everyone of their great their new IP. Because when it comes down to it, that’s exactly what The Frozen Wilds is. A reminder about how incredible (and sometimes, disappointing) Horizon Zero Dawn really was.
As seamless as DLC can get, The Frozen Wilds gives protagonist Aloy a rather sizable new chunk of land to explore, covered in the white blanket of the coldest winter she’s ever experienced. There she makes contact with the Banuk tribe – one of the many tribes in the game, but oddly absent from being explored in the main game. Beyond their wooden horse collectibles, the Banuk and their split tribes have settled around a dormant volcano, which holds some more secrets for Aloy to uncover regarding the near extinction of the human race.
If corrupt robotic animals being controlled by a rogue AI sounds familiar, then you probably beat Horizon earlier this year. But it’s going to sound extra familiar then with Frozen Wild’s interesting but short main narrative. It plays out like a best hits version of the main story, giving Aloy a new AI antagonist to look forward to properly facing in the future. New enemies and a different type of corruption to existing ones just drives home the deja vu, which you will either welcome or lament based on your mileage with the original story.
What is somewhat different are the characters. Months down the line I can’t really recall a handful of characters that left a lasting impact on me and my journey with Aloy, but The Frozen Wilds introduces at least two more. The two sibling leaders of a Banuk tribe make for a fiery combination, with their idealistic and spiritual ideals often clashing, letting a love for each other simply bubble underneath the surface. Having Aloy take a backseat to their relationship allows for it to blossom in an endearing way, and lends weight to the otherwise familiar narrative treading.
Familiarity seeps through to most of Frozen Wild’s gameplay, but that’s a little less egregious given how outstanding it remains. Horizon Zero Dawn features some of the best combat this year has mustered up, and it shines brighter still coming back to it after months off. New enemies flex your dexterity and combat ingenuity even more, coming at Aloy quicker and with far more bite than the majority of those you had encountered before. They sometimes get you locked in chains of being knocked to the floor, but each encounter with a frosty robotic bear or flame launching scorcher gets the blood really pumping.
Frozen Wild recommends that you’re around level 30 before starting, but even on Normal I struggled with some of its encounters with my level-capped Aloy from the end of my main adventure. The Frozen Wilds feels a lot more like endgame content than the game gives it credit for. It’s the toughest the game has felt yet, and is even more so if you haven’t picked up the bow since March. Its tale also lends itself to the ears of those who have bested the events of Horizon before, especially if you’re clamouring to learn more about Zero Dawn and the mysterious Sylens.
But outside of that, this is very much just more Horizon Zero Dawn. It remains almost unbelievably gorgeous, with the white, blizzard-prone locale bursting with Banuk colours at the seams. Its sound design remains top notch too. The sights and sounds of the living wildlife contrast nicely with the howling winds, only to let Aloy’s chattering teeth cut through the cold. This is the Horizon Zero Dawn you remember, and it remains a technical and visual showcase for PS4 owners to tout above everyone else.
But if you were hoping for something slightly different from the established quest structures and tone of the original game, Frozen Wilds doesn’t offer that. This isn’t Guerrilla’s Left Behind to their Last of Us. It’s simply a neat diversion for Aloy and you to get lost with, while broadening the horizons further for Guerrilla to dig into with the inevitable sequel. And clocking in at over ten hours to finish (with even more to undertake), you’re certainly getting a lot more of a good thing.
Last Updated: November 7, 2017