The further north you go, the colder it gets – just ask a Londoner who’s moved to Scotland – and it’s just as true in the world of Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games’ hit new game that wowed many a PlayStation 4 owner earlier this year. Launching next week on 7th November, The Frozen Wilds will let you head even further still, venturing into a new part of the world known as The Cut. There’s new mysteries for Aloy to uncover, new machines to battle with, and an opportunity for Guerrilla to take their game to new heights.
At its heart is the new story, as Aloy follows rumours of a Daemon that’s able to control and influence the machines, taking her to these frozen wastes and into contact with the Banuk tribe. All of this is set alongside the events of the main game, with The Cut opening up for you to visit and explore a little bit from relatively early on in the story, but with the difficulty and challenge that you’ll face keeping you away until later in your adventure.
The snowy wastes look fantastic and the wilderness is filled with new wildlife from squirrels and badgers to owls and mountain goats. The large snow drifts in places make Aloy’s movement look more laboured as she wades through them, deforming the snow around her feet. The way that the wind kicks up particles of snow looks great and it’s bound to see players dipping into the game’s fantastic photo mode time and again, and one cute little addition is getting Aloy to make angels in the snow.
As picturesque as the environments might be, they hold yet more terrible dangers to the humans trying to live in these harsh conditions. The Daemon has kicked the robotic beasts into a frenzy, making them even more dangerous through control tower machines that have sprouted all over The Cut. Robots within their aura will be stronger, they’ll automatically be repaired, and if you venture too close while on a captured mount, that mount will be disabled. It’s all part of increasing the challenge and making this area most appropriate for players in the mid to late game.
There’s also new machines that will be fearsome in their own right, such as the Scorcher that brings a ton of new fire and explosive-based attacks, while having a familiar predatory look to the Sawtooth. As it leaps to attack Aloy, the Scorcher will leave a huge trail of flame in its wake, while the weapon mounted on its back lets it send waves of bouncing mines her way.
Naturally, you can try to employ the exact same tactics as before, perhaps drinking a fire potion to dilute the damage taken, tethering the beast the to floor and trying to knock of pieces of armour and the mine launcher, which can be picked up and give the Scorcher a taste of its own medicine. That’s not all though, as new weapons like the Storm Slinger electric weapon can be leant upon, and Aloy’s abilities in general have been expanded.
Alongside the three existing skill trees is the new Traveller category that look set to streamline certain parts of the game. You can unlock the Mounted Pickup skill, which is pretty self explanatory, the ability to scrap items yourself and turn them into Shards, instead of having to visit a vendor each time, increase the chances of finding rare gear, and so on. It can culminate in the ability to perform a Dismount Strike, with Aloy leaping from the back of her mount to deal a lot of damage to an enemy.
The Banuk are a nomadic tribe that roams the region, but they’ve been whipped up into a kind of fervour by their shamans, told tales of the Daemon and sending their very best warriors forth to do battle with the metallic beasts. It’s as these warriors have been wiped out that Aloy comes to their camp, first learning of their culture and how they commemorate their dead in ritualistic fashion. A foreign culture to Aloy, she’s given context by another outsider to the Banuk, the Oseram trader Burgrend.
Talking to him is a fine opportunity to see that Guerrilla have tried to make their conversations look more dynamic and engaging. As one of my main complaints of the main game, it’s great to see them address this going forward, perhaps aided by the narrower scope of this expansion – that said, it’s still aiming to be at least 15 hours, with tons of new side quests alongside the main narrative threads. It’s a shame, but entirely understandable that this added polish and refinement is only applicable for the new expansion.
One thing to try and get people to engage more with the side quests are improved rewards, so that you can earn new weapons, gear upgrades and new outfits from completing quests as opposed to simply buying them. Additionally, where certain activities return from the original game, they’ve been given a new twist wherever possible. Encountering a Tallneck in this region doesn’t see Aloy simply trying to climb up to its top, but tasks her with trying to salvage the derelict of a fallen machine that’s being torn apart by machines reclaiming its carcass. You’ll have to defeat or avoid those robots to reach the Tallneck’s head, but once you get there, you’ll need to have found parts to get it working again before you can trigger its region revealing pulse.
Not that you should need an excuse to do so, but The Frozen Wilds will give a lot of people a great reason to return to one of the best exclusives of the year. It’s great to see that Guerrilla haven’t been content to simply add more content and a new region to play in, but also considered how they can improve the game that was there before. Obviously, the real point is that if you enjoyed Horizon Zero Dawn, then this will give you another dose of one of the best open world action adventure games of the year.