Guest Writer Gabriel Marcoccia on ‘Horizon: Frozen Wilds’ DLC Review
All of the best game play moments and machine fighting action from the hit open world game Horizon returns in Guerrilla Games’ latest add on – Frozen Wilds. This DLC comes packed with more high-stake quests, intriguing side missions and a load of new weapons, armours and abilities to help you square off against some of the baddest machines birthed by GAIA prime. In this new chapter of the game, Aloy returns to explore a demonic plague that appears to be corrupting the machines surrounding the Banuk tribe in a snowy covered, heavily forested area known as ‘The Cut’. While Frozen Wilds is a self-contained stand-alone story, the episode itself ties in seamlessly with the tight knit story arc of Zero Dawn – throwing gentle nods to familiar characters and events from the main story. As most fans of the game likely finished Horizon earlier this year, the tight integration with the main story arc really kicks off the adventure while still rooting you in Horizon’s lore.
After completing the game in February, I resigned my war bow thinking my machine hunting days were over. However, once I went toe-to-toe with my first demonic machine, my blood lust for fighting corrupted mechanical monsters quickly lured me back in. Little did I know that I was in for an unexpected awakening. The new bad-guy machines introduced in Frozen Wilds are legitimately no joke. Despite my over powered character (level 50; maxed out skill tree) I completely underestimated the impending battles that laid ahead. I was shocked at the level of effort I still needed to invest into defeating these new, near boss-level machines. Even with my regenerating shield armour equipped, (secret item found in the main game) I surprisingly found myself hitting the “heal” button seconds into the nail biting encounters. This is not to say the machine fights are impossible, but they definitely leave you gripping controller rather tensely for the majority of the rumble. The harsh, raging snow storms that arbitrarily kick up also add a clever interference to the challenges at hand, as you are faced with decreased visibility while trying to take down these monstrosities. This gave me a renewed sense of danger while traversing the snow covered tundra of the Banuk lands.
Sticking to the Horizon accolades, Frozen Wilds is nothing short of opulent. Gorgeous scenery, visually stunning landscapes and environmental set pieces pull you into this new off-shoot of the Horizon map. The environment offers great interactive details, up to and including the ability to leave footprints in the undisturbed snow and if you feel like taking a breather, you can even create snow angels for fun.
Merchants selling items in The Cut will offer you new and exciting armours, weapons and abilities that you will need as you venture around the snow covered neck of the woods. While it’s quite evident that Guerrilla Games doubled down on this DLC to ensure that it was packed with new features, some of the weapons and skills seemed a bit lack lustre. New bows and armour left me somewhat unexcited (unlike the baddy machines.) The new hunting bows seemed to be only marginally better than the standard bows found in the main game – almost to the point where you may not want to invest the time to purchase them. The abilities offered in the new branch of the skill tree (called, “The Traveller”) somewhat improve your item gathering and machine overriding prowess, but act more as icing on the cake rather than game enhancing upgrades. They barely improve Aloy’s ability to collect and store pickups in your inventory. At best they are nice-to-haves, but not critical to your in-game performance. That said, one might be better off applying newly awarded skill points to any outstanding abilities of the main game’s skill tree instead. What I did find interesting however, is new ability to improve the strength of Aloy’s spear. The spear can now be upgraded with machine coils that allow Aloy to take advantage of the same elemental attacks that were once only available on the hunting bows. This opens up a new spear attack strategy for Horizon gamers and ultimately makes the powerful spear even more powerful.
Despite its chilly title, Frozen Wilds is a warm welcome back into the world of Horizon. The DLC is a great add on for both casual Horizon fans, as well as the completist (like myself), offering a whole new open world to explore with tons of text and audio data-point pickups to find. Bolstering a solid 12 hours of challenging gameplay, this DLC is well worth the time investment, as it promises to reinvigorate the thrill of the hunt for all Horizon fans.