Not long into “The Frozen Wilds,” the first expansion for one of the best games of this year, “Horizon Zero Dawn,” I realized the content’s potential.
I was in a new locale: the icy, sub-alpine forests and steamy geysers of Yellowstone. Fat flakes fell as I moved through realistic, waist-high piles of snow, and in the background loomed a lightning storm amid the thick, black smoke of a threatening volcano. The setting of “The Frozen Wilds” is just as beautiful and diverse as the base game.
With a new area comes a new story and some interesting characters and side missions. But a different location and some new quests aren’t the only thing the downloadable content adds; the expansion includes new enemies, skills, weapons and outfits, making it a worthy addition to the base game.
All three new machines are difficult foes, making combat fun for “Horizon” veterans. The Scorcher looks like a big wolf and, as the name implies, it likes to burn things. It has a mounted mine gun you can shoot off and use against it, which is always a blast. Frostclaws and Fireclaws look like bears and, again, use elemental attacks.
“The Frozen Wilds” also adds daemonic machines, which are like corrupted machines, only stronger. Those who have mastered fighting every machine and their corrupted variants might get a kick out of daemonic machines, which seem stronger and more resistant than their brethren.
A new, welcome twist on combat is control towers that heal machines close to them. Encounters are a bit different when a machine-repairing element is thrown in, but the towers can be destroyed or, better yet, overridden to stun machines to give you the upper hand. It was mostly fun and sometimes frustrating trying to sneak to a tower to override it before a machine spotted me and thwarted my efforts.
I’m happy to say “The Frozen Wilds” doesn’t include human combat, which is easily the weakest part of the base game. Instead, the expansion plays to its strengths.
There is a new skill tree for those who have maxed out player character Aloy’s many skills. One branch is useful, allowing Aloy to find more rare items when looting enemies and salvage unwanted scrap for half its merchant value. The other branch makes Aloy more versatile when mounted on a machine. Considering I never ride the robots, I found the skills largely useless.
“The Frozen Wilds” includes some very nice upgrades to Aloy’s three bows. I especially loved my Banuk Striker Bow, which does extra damage when fully charged. There are also three entirely new weapons that deal heavy elemental damage, but I never found much use for them. “Horizon Zero Dawn” already had an abundance of versatile weapons, but it doesn’t hurt to have more options.
The expansion also includes spear upgrades, a first for the game. It’s nice to be able to upgrade your sole melee weapon for once. Of course, there are some new and useful outfits with passive abilities, such as health regeneration, which make them possibly better than the base game’s outfits.
All the additional goodies are a nice bonus to an abundance of quests, side missions and personal stories that expand on an already fleshed-out and fully realized world. “Horizon Zero Dawn” has delivered again.
“Horizon Zero Dawn” is one of the year’s best games, and “The Frozen Wilds” is a worthy addition to an already incredible experience. With new missions to complete, new beasts to conquer and new gear and skills to acquire, all in a beautiful location, “The Frozen Wilds” is something every “Horizon Zero Dawn” fan should experience. It comes at a great time, too, giving fans a reason to return to the game eight months after its initial release.
Final score: 9/10
”Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds” was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 with a digital copy provided by the publisher, Sony.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing email@example.com, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.