Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds Game Poster Image
Expansion offers new map, missions, intense robot combat.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Encourages strategic thinking but glamorizes combat (though without explicit graphic depictions). Themes include courage, responsibility, perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Aloy is a strong, clever, capable heroine. She helps people in need, fights humans only when forced, is respectful of creatures and machines she must hunt.

Ease of Play

Machine hunts are difficult but become easier as players learn enemy weaknesses and how to exploit them with substantial, diverse arsenal.

Violence

Players fight robots, wild animals, humans (infrequently) using melee weapons, bows and arrows, traps. Machines explode, collapse when defeated; organic enemies release small splashes of red blood.

Sex
Language

Infrequent mild profanity, including "bastard."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to alcohol, tobacco.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds is a downloadable expansion pack to a third-person action adventure game set in a distant future in which a strong and capable heroine battles intelligent and powerful animal-like machines using a mix of melee weapons, bows and arrows, and intricate traps. Combat against machines is intense but results in little more than explosions. Hunting small wild animals and occasional fights against humans involves small splashes of red blood. Combat is challenging and may turn off less experienced players, but it rewards perseverance and encourages players to think strategically and plan ahead. Parents should also note that dialogue includes occasional references to alcohol and tobacco, as well as a little mild profanity.

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What's it about?

HORIZON ZERO DAWN: THE FROZEN WILDS is an expansion pack to Horizon Zero Dawn, a third-person action role-playing game set in an open, postapocalyptic America in which tribes of humans have created primitive new societies. The base game is needed to play, and it's recommended that players reach at least level 30 before attempting the new content. The Frozen Wilds' story is set not after but rather concurrently with that of the main game. It provides access to a large and snowy new map in the northeastern-most reaches of the game's world that's filled with new settlements, missions, and objectives revolving around a machine threat to the Banuk people. The Banuk were only a minor part of the base game, which focused instead on understanding and resolving a recent rise in aggression exhibited by machine-based wildlife. The Frozen Wilds' story centers on the Banuk's struggle against a fragment of the larger threat called the Daemon. It offers over a dozen hours' worth of original quests, new machines to fight -- such as the mine-throwing Scorcher -- and a powerful new customizable weapon called the Stormslinger. It also provides new character growth options, including added abilities and original costumes.

Is it any good?

If a game studio releases just a single expansion for a great game, this is the way to do it. Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds' gorgeous open world, intense and strategic combat, and strong storytelling provides somewhere between 12 and 15 hours of play that ought to remind most people of everything they loved about the base game. The new enemy types force players to figure out new ways to fight, using tools like Aloy's fire-resistance elixir to reduce elemental damage while learning to recognize attack patterns and how to exploit weaknesses with the proper weapons and traps. And the snowy new map -- called The Cut -- is just as bleak and pretty as anything in the original game, featuring gorgeous lighting, snow blowing effects, and a massive volcano that belches out plumes of mesmerizing smoke. The new characters we encounter in this land -- whose expressive facial animations have been tweaked to seem more lifelike -- provide Aloy with original quests which, even if they don't reveal much more about the game's central mysteries, are fascinating in their own right.

And there's more than just new people to meet, machines to fight, and places to see. An entirely new branch on Aloy's skill tree gives players a chance to learn abilities that address some of the (few) problems players had with the original game by increasing players' inventory and allowing them to pick up loot without dismounting a machine. These quality of life enhancements will prove especially handy for players who are only midway through the main game, as they carry over to everything players do there. Add in some new outfits and weapons designed to make taking down the new machines a little easier -- including the shockingly effective Stormslinger, which might actually make some battles too simple -- and Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds provides plenty of reasons for players to return to Aloy's world for a little more of its distinctive and dazzling action.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about gender in the media. Horizon Zero Dawn's Aloy is depicted as a smart, strong, and extremely capable hunter, fighter, and problem-solver, but can you think of other video game heroines who have similar qualities?

  • Talk about artificial intelligence. Do you think robots could ever think like humans? What are some of the differences in the way we might understand, interpret, and react to the world compared to the way a smart machine might?

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