Reviews PlayStation

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds Review - A Masterstroke

Horizon review main.jpg

When Marco reviewed Horizon Zero Dawn in February this year and called it “perfect in every way”, I just had to give it a shot. A few weeks later, and I was sure of one thing, that Guerrilla Games created fresh new IP that would in all likelihood win multiple Game of the Year awards.

Now, more than eight months later, I have the immense pleasure of reviewing The Frozen Wilds. After roughly 17 hours with the expansion, the only way I can describe The Frozen Wilds is that it is a giant masterstroke on the canvas that is Horizon Zero Dawn.

Cutting through expectations

Everyone and their mechanical cat knows that Horizon Zero Dawn is an amazing game already, so how do you go about improving on it? Guerrilla has answered this question by delivering an expansion the size of most full games, but they went much further than just throwing in new quests and snowy textures.

The developer exceeded all my expectations by creating an expansion that is so big, so detailed and intriguing that I can say with confidence all fans of Horizon Zero Dawn are in for an absolute treat. The expansion plays off in The Cut, a war-torn, frozen wasteland.

Horizon Zero Dawn™_20171104093246.jpg

You can play The Frozen Wilds if you have reached roughly level 30 in the main game, but I found it extremely challenging even at level 40 and up. The machines are fiercer than ever and every encounter could mean death if your aim is just a little off.

The difficult and rewarding combat (when a giant machine finally falls at your feet), is one of the big things that made Horizon Zero Dawn so great in the first place and there is, of course, a lot of fighting machines.

Scorcher fight.jpg

Then, the expansion also has an additional skill tree, called “Traveller”, that has some really cool skills to choose from. The Traveller skill tree focuses on quality of life improvements, for the most part. For example, you can loot things while on a mount, which makes things a lot more convenient in the long run. You can also upgrade your carrying capacity for certain items, repair your mount and even do a sweet dismount strike that feels incredibly good to use.

Although there is nothing really game-changing in the skill tree, I felt like after using some of the perks for several hours, I could never go back to a time without it. Thankfully, the skill tree is available throughout the whole game if you own the expansion.

old world.jpg

The Frozen Wilds has new weapons, for example, the Banuk Stormlinger, that fires stormbolts to weaken and damage foes, as well as bows that you can charge up by holding off on a quick shot. This mechanic opens up more choice in the game’s already brilliant and addictive combat, as I found myself making split-second decisions while fighting machines in the form of waiting that extra moment before firing. It took a while to get used to it, but it feels even more rewarding when you hit that perfect shot at the maximum damage and see how parts fly off your foes.

There are also new enemy types and Daemonic Corruption types of machines you have faced in the past. My favourite is the Daemonic Scorcher, a new predator that breaths fire, deploys explosives and rushes at you. The machines are all challenging in some way or another, and finding their weaknesses and spots that you have to hit is as fun and engaging as ever.

fight 2.jpg

It is always such an amazing experience to see a new enemy and The Frozen Wilds delivered some of the greatest moments in gaming for me, with the gigantic Frostjaw reigning death and destruction in the frozen lands being my absolute favourite. It was, for all intents and purposes, a jaw-dropping encounter. Then, there is a whole new tribe to meet with a unique culture and belief system to experience.

Defrosting the Banuk

Warning: Minor early story spoilers ahead

I made my journey to The Cut, a war-torn, frozen wasteland at the north of the game’s map and entered Song’s Edge, the biggest settlement in the area. The Banuk tribe, which you might have heard about during the main game, inhabits the lands and leaves shining blue markers around for others to follow, as the cold and harsh environments might leave even the greatest warriors trapped in a snowstorm.

Tribe.jpg

The game’s snowy environments and dynamic weather effects show off just how harsh the cold of the cut can be on the populace and I was instantly enthralled with the characters who made this place their home. The tribespeople talks about a shaman, Ourea, returning to them and you can feel the tension building as she disappeared recently, looking for a “voice from the blue”.

The Banuk’s greatest warriors have already been lost, but still, Aloy once again does not get a lot of information at the start, as she is an outsider to them. Aloy has to prove herself in these environments, survive the cold and help everyone she can to gain the Banuk’s respect and favour. The Banuk want to fight the new corruption, brought on by what they call the Daemon, as machines become even fiercer than have where before.

Tower.jpg

Strange, almost tentacle-like towers from the Daemon appears throughout the frozen wilds, rallying machines, repairing them and sending out shockwaves. These towers are extremely difficult to deal with, as the purple shockwaves they send out also dismounts you and deal a tonne of damage. It is up to Aloy to once again push back the corruption and discover the secrets of not only the Frozen Wilds but also discover new information about the old world.

There are plenty of data and audio logs to collect, as well as some intriguing puzzles that Aloy has to use her scanner to figure out. Although no puzzles where particularly difficult, the technology and lore behind it was satisfying.

Tallneck.jpg

There is a new resource called Bluegleam, which you use to purchase new weapons and armour from merchants in the area. The substance grows on the body of old machines and is fused with ice, as the Banuk believe it is a piece of the Blue Light, something that seems to be part of their religious beliefs. The Banuk and their nomadic, mostly peaceful traditions are so well crafted that I truly felt as if I was meeting a new type of people and I wanted to study them, learn all their traditions and really go deep into the lore of the third tribe.

Overriding Tallnecks and repairing one almost destroyed by the frost and predators was as epic as ever, but the thing that impressed me the most was the massive volcano and how it looked in The Cut.

Horizon Zero Dawn™_20171104082347.jpg

As you can see from all the screenshots in this review (taken on the PS4 Pro), the game looks glorious and stunning. There are also new facial animations while participating in dialogue and Aloy looks better than ever before, but the biggest improvement for me is that of the other people she talks to. It felt like I was talking to real people, as I could see their reactions and the synchronization of their expressions and mouths moving while taking in the expansion is on the level of, dare I say it, Uncharted 4. It is an extremely big step up from the original game and there are also some other graphical improvements, specifically enhanced water effects.

Convo.jpg

The only graphical issues I had where minor, for example, there are some clipping issues when Aloy does her climbing things and sometimes, a machine just clips through a tree as if it isn’t there.

The side quests are spectacular and have a lot of depth, from puzzles inside these quests and figuring out more things about the old world, every task I undertook felt like a miniature campaign on its own.  

One example is where I decided to help a Banuk woman who wanted to continue making music on her instrument, which turns out is the pipes of a massive water pumping facility from the old world.

rope.jpg

The facility became flooded and in an effort to reverse the process, I met and rescued a trader, who helped me overcome some obstacles, cracking some jokes along the way and solving two great puzzles. When I fixed the water pumping system, I could see the effects in the world around me and then I realized I spent the last hour and a half on just one side quest…

The Verdict

If you weren’t completely convinced that Horizon Zero Dawn is a frontrunner for Game of the Year awards, The Frozen Wilds will get you there, and then some. The game, as well as the expansion, is a must-play for everyone who owns a PS4. The Frozen Wilds is more Horizon Zero Dawn and that is a really awesome thing, but the expansion also delivers so much more than I expected. The Banuk tribe and the entire story is masterfully crafted, the new dialogue animations make it feel like you are talking to real people and every side quests are expansive.

Horizon Review summary template.jpg

New enemies, weapons, an entire extra skill tree and more come together as a perfect whole. Not to mention that the game is still the best-looking title I have ever seen and there are even some graphical improvements, for example, even more, beautiful water effects and realistic facial animations.

In the end, I think The Frozen Wilds could be a separate game and stand its ground against some of the biggest titles released this year. It is challenging, expansive and downright gorgeous. Apart from a few very minor graphical glitches which I mentioned in the review, there is nothing else I could find to criticize in the slightest.

Well done Guerrilla, well done. You have managed to improve on a masterpiece.

This review was based off a review key provided to us by Ster-Kinekor Entertainment

Available On: PS4 | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 7 November 2017 | RRP: R319 (R287.10 with PS+)

Sillicur Twitter / MWEB GameZone Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube  


"every task I undertook felt like a miniature campaign on its own"

Other news from around the NET:

Recent Comments

Community on Disqus

Latest Reviews

Super Lucky's Tale Review

Super Lucky's Tale Review

 

Super Lucky's Tale suffers from the typical camera issues and sluggish controls found in platformers...

Call of Duty: WWII Review

Call of Duty: WWII Review

 

Call of Duty: World War II proves that the series does best when it creates the magic of the classic...

comments powered by Disqus

Survey

Vote for your favourite November 2017 releases:





Submit Survey  View Results