Hunting in a Winter Wonderland

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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Not too long before the final battle, the young huntress Aloy hears some interesting talk that catches her ear. Apparently, something is happening up north of the Grave Hoard, where the Banuk tribe reside. They tell of new types of ferocious machines in the snowy drifts and other such discoveries that cannot be found within the lands of the Carja or the Nora. Her interest piqued, Aloy makes her way back towards the Grave Hoard, despite Sylens’ insistence that she has more important things to focus on, and finds that a new path has been opened up, though it is not long before she comes across one of the new types of machines present, already proving to be a more difficult adversary compared to the ones she is familiar with. Eventually making it to the main Banuk camp, she learns of the hardships they have recently endured at the hands of the “Daemon”, some sort of being that is responsible for the local machines’ increased ferocity. Within this new, harsh environment, Aloy must save the Banuk and solve this new mystery that has presented itself, though much like the rest of the setting, things are much more than what they initially seem…

The singular expansion available for Horizon: Zero DawnThe Frozen Wilds was released in early November of 2017. Taking place within the Cut, part of Banuk territory that was once Yellowstone National Park, the player and Aloy must explore this dangerous new environment and solve the crisis that threaten the Banuk living here. Featuring new equipment, quests, collectables, and machines to encounter, the expansion adds plenty of new content on an already expansive game. It is also the most challenging area in the game, as it is meant to be tackled near or after the final battle. Even a fully leveled up Aloy will have some difficulty with the powerful machines that inhabit the Cut.

While Aloy has been in various climates throughout the main game, the Cut is where she gets her first taste of an absolutely frigid environment, something she is not afraid to voice her ever growing discomfort and annoyance about. It is also where she is able to truly experience the culture of the Banuk people, having only ever interacted with a few wandering groups and individuals during her travels. A hardy people that put great value on being able to overcome adversity, the Banuk live for the hunt and seek the glory of brining down the toughest of the machines. For the Werak, a large hunting party, living within the Cut however, that has not been the case as of late. Most, if not all of their greatest warriors have been felled by particularly ferocious machines being controlled by a “Daemon”, leaving them without much protection. On top of this, their Shaman, Ourea, has not been seen since the disastrous attack near the Yellowstone super volcano, leaving the Werak with only Aratak as its sole leader. Throughout the region, Aloy will come across more intriguing characters that help expand both the nature of the Cut and the wider world, and much like the base game, the relics and ruins of the Old Ones prove to be a treasure trove of technology and knowledge that will help aid Aloy on her newest adventure.

There is no sign of the Eclipse cult here in the Cut, so the machines are front and center as the main antagonistic force. While a number of familiar types roam the snowdrifts of Yellowstone, there are few new kinds such as the wolven Scorcher and the ursine Frostclaw, which are perhaps the toughest machines in the game outside of the Thunderjaw and Stormbird. However, something has affected the machines in the area and turned them even more ferocious and durable than before, almost akin to the Corruption in the base game. As such, this has given rise to “Daemonic” variants that are noticeably tougher than the normal models. Behind all of this is the Daemon, the being responsible for the daemonification of the local machines and the defeat of the Banuk warriors at the super volcano. It certainly hates humans and seems to be aiming for their complete eradication, but aside from that, not much else is known about. Towards the end however, it eventually becomes apparent just what it is, and players that have completed the original story and explored the various Cauldrons will know the full ramifications of its true identity.

The basic gameplay still remains the same, but the new culture and environment of the Cut gives players a chance to get better versions of armor, new weaponry, and an absolutely gorgeous area to explore. Alongside the main quest that will see Aloy work alongside the Banuk in order to stop the Daemon, several other side quests are open for the player to complete, with many of them offering more insight into Banuk society, something that was barely discussed originally. As stated before, the DLC is meant to be tackled by endgame players that have completed the main story and/or have completely maxed out Aloy’s skills and level. Even so, this is the toughest challenge in the game and will take everything the player has to overcome the dangers of The Frozen Wilds. Regarding that levels and skills, the level cap has been raised from 50 to 60 and a couple of new skill columns have been added, with one offering more benefits to overriding and controlling machines as mounts. Completing the expansions means that, outside of New Game Plus and the hardest difficulty, the player has completely conquered the game.

The Frozen Wilds is a good example of an expansion done right. It offers plenty of additional content on a game that was already complete on its own, as well as giving those that care about the story more insight into one of the minor tribes that were in the base game. While it is a little disappointing that it is the only major piece of DLC that Horizon: Zero Dawn will receive, it still is a great add-on for an already excellent game. For those that already own the game, the DLC is definitely one to consider, and for potentially buyers that have been on the fence or waiting for a price drop, Guerrilla has released the Complete Edition that contains both the base game and the expansion. It is safe to say the Horizon has been a smash hit for the Playstation family and I cannot wait to see what else the series has in store for future installments.