Review: Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds (DLC)

Review: Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds (DLC)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (8.4 GB)
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Guerrilla
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Review of the Original Game:

Gameplay:
If you are reading this review, odds are very high that you have already played Horizon Zero Dawn, enjoyed it immensely, and are wondering if there is anything more to life after you complete the game.

The answer lies in the The Frozen Wilds, the first DLC.

I really missed this game. I played the hell out of Horizon Zero Dawn. No other games existed for a good month and a half. After I completed it, I took a long break. So, jumping back onto this new adventure felt like coming home.

This new DLC takes Aloy into the frozen north, the region the Banuk people call their home. The Banuk are a tribe of humans that is briefly touched upon in the original game. They are involved in one of the more interesting side quests, but for the most part, mystery still surrounded their culture.

The Frozen Wilds lets you spend quite some time with the tribe and it opens up a completely new area to explore. We’re talking about a pretty substantially large environment. For the asking price, this DLC gives you quite a bang for your buck.

When I first read that the new environment was the snow-filled north, my initial reaction was, “well, but I’ve already explored an environment like this in the game.” I was right, but I was also pretty damn wrong. The environment here is harsher than that of the original game. This is an endless winter, with violent winds and thick layers of snow. It’s so bad that sometimes visibility is almost nonexistent.

I won’t delve too much into the narrative, but it’s fairly clear that the Banuk have issues of their own and you will meet new machines to combat, including some that present completely unique challenges requiring inventive strategies.

This add-on also continues the original’s unique take on the world, where our future is their past and our machines and technology are their religion. It’s always great to hear an NPC talk about some magical device and to try and decipher what modern tech they might be speaking about.

But a new locale is not the only thing that The Frozen Wilds provides. The Level 50 cap has been removed and you’ll be able to unlock new abilities. I entertained adding a screen grab of the new skills, but even that is worth learning about for yourself. Additionally there are new Banuk-themed weapons and armor including a weapon that I used quite often, due to its badassdom.

There are new items to collect, and once again, I will not spoil what they are or how they fit into the future/past aspect of the universe, but I thought it was pretty damn neat.

Ultimately, the gameplay in is familiar to veterans of the prime game. It should be noted that the it recommends, or maybe requires, you to be level 30. It’s with good reason, as some of these machines are brutal.

Furthermore, the narrative takes place prior to the endgame, so don’t expect to see a continuation of the story, though the DLC does delve into the life of one supporting character from the main campaign.

In all, expect The Frozen Wilds to give you about fifteen hours of solid gameplay, though I could definitely see myself spending more time with it, as I did with the original, exploring and finding new ways to fight enemies and pit them against each other since the hacking ability works here as well.

Visuals:
What was achieved with Horizon Zero Dawn echoes into the The Frozen Wilds in terms of visuals. While Aloy’s adventure might not be the best open world experience I’ve had, though it’s pretty damn close, the visuals for an open world like this are unmatched. Developers often have to take shortcuts in order to provide the gamer with a vast environment to explore and that’s not evident here.

The visual fidelity is on display with incredible snow particle effects that swirl in the wind and assault the screen in every direction. Even Aloy’s animation reflects the frozen nature of the Banuk’s world, as she is constantly shielding herself from the cold. I swear the combination of the visuals and sound often made me feel cold.

In addition to the excellent particle effects, the game also has some of the best on-the-ground climate effects, with long trails of broken snow left as you traverse the deeper frigid areas.

The cinematics – and accompanying facial expressions – are also unmatched, with only the occasional glitch breaking the suspension of disbelief. Otherwise, Aloy’s sassy nature comes through with her dialogue and the excellent work done on the facial animation.

It’s no secret that I spent some of my playthrough taking pictures. But it’s the fault of the developers for making this game so damn beautiful.

Audio:
Horizon Zero Dawn had my favorite video game score this year. The DLC follows suit with some fantastic tunes. Some pieces subscribe to a more electronic sound, contrary to the orchestral nature of the original score but it is no less appropriate.

Since this is a single player game that’s heavy on story, expect a lot of dialogue and exposition. That said, the voice work here is as good as anything in the prime narrative. Aloy complains about the weather and challenges the male chauvinism in some of the Banuk folks: primarily folks from the mainland.

This is all coupled with some of the most amazing sound design in video game bad guys. Those machines are accompanied by some significant sound effects, and combat is perfected due to some frantic metal-on-metal sound composition.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
I was pretty upset when the credits rolled on Horizon Zero Dawn. Next to The Witcher 3, it was some of the most intense gaming I had done in a long time. Every evening, every weekend, I spent time with Aloy in this post-apocalyptic unique take on the future. When The Frozen Wilds was announced, my heart skipped a happy beat at the promise of more adventures with this beautiful game.

This is its own little game, existing independent of the main storyline, but also tying to it in some sense. Furthermore it expands Aloy’s level cap and skills. For the asking price, it’s worth more in content than many other full-priced games. If you owned and loved the original title, you will no doubt find an absolute great time in The Frozen Wilds.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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