Game Ramblings #36.1 – Horizon: Zero Dawn – The Frozen Wilds

More Info from Guerrilla Games

Original Ramblings

  • Genre: Open World Action/Adventure
  • Platform: PS4

Horizon: Zero Dawn – The Frozen Wilds does do a lot to generally continue what was great about the first one.  The setting is still fanastic and drop dead gorgeous.  The moment to moment combat is still a lot of fun with a lot of variety in ranged weapons.  Exploration is still always worth it, with things to find all over the place.  Basically, they didn’t screw up what was good.  Luckily, they also fixed my two biggest gripes with the base game, and that’s what I’ll talk about here.

This time around you’re running around Yellowstone and the surrounding areas. It’s definitely seen better days.

The end of HZD really annoyed the hell out of me, and it was because of two reasons.  The first was the lack of progression with the main melee weapon leaving the end hours of the game focused on much stronger ranged attacks, and the second was the design of many of the boss fights being an effective circular arena fight where you could generally stay safely at range the entire time.  While neither of these problems really ended up being a killer in the game’s overall result, they were definitely annoying problems that left me scratching my head a bit.

The melee weapon itself is definitely helped this time around by having an end game upgrade path.  One of the first side quests you come upon when entering the new area of the game ends with you upgrading your spear to support the modification system that the ranged weapons all had.  While I could definitely gripe about this being hidden behind a side quest, and I could gripe about the spear still not having inherent stat upgrades, this change alone is huge in changing how late game melee combat worked for me against higher level enemies.  Now I could build the staff to my play style, whether that’s a pure damage build, one focused on debuffs, or one focused on getting some ticking damage out on enemies.  While this was simply using a system that already existed for the ranged weaponry, gaining this system for melee was a huge change for the better.

While boss fights are still in relatively obvious arenas, they are much more varied landscapes, and the bosses themselves are significantly more aggressive against the player.

The handful of bosses in the expansion are also much improved over the base game.  While they still take place in relatively obvious arenas, there’s a much better variety in how the arenas are laid out.  In the example above, the player is sort of ducking in and around little outcroppings, giving a lot of line of sight breaking when fighting the boss.  In general, that is pretty common, allowing the player to fight in a much more stealth-based way.  This is really important based on a change in overall design of the boss AI.

The original game suffered from bosses that could generally be kept at range, letting the player just kind of tick away at them with the bow with very little danger.  The bosses here feel a lot more like large versions of the world machines instead.  They move around a lot to keep the player from being grounded.  They do a lot more melee and charge attacks, keeping the player’s dodging finger ready.  Even when the bosses are doing ranged projectile attacks, the danger of being hit and knocked down is a lot higher due to the ability of the bosses to close the gap and melee the player while they are down.  Overall the fights just feel a lot more dynamic, rather than the circle strafe grinds that the original game suffered from.

Since this is Yellowstone, lava is the name of the game. It looks even better in motion than it does in screenshots.

Overall this was really just a solid expansion.  It took what was great about the original and gave you more, and fixed a few of the larger problems while it was at it.  The new content was a lot of fun, the new weapons felt impactful and slid naturally into my arsenal (super bonus mention to the energy projectile cannon you get about half way through the expansion), and the handful of new enemies fit into the existing roster really well while giving some new mechanics to watch out for.  In general, this one leaves me wanting more of the series than the original game even did, and that leaves me excited for the future of the series going forward.