Horizon Zero Dawn, one of my favourite games this year, gets its first and reportedly only expansion today in the form of The Frozen Wilds. I've had my hands on it for a couple of days, and while I haven't completed the new storylines I've played enough to tell you what to expect from the new $29.95 DLC.
A Mid-Game Expansion
Sorry to all those who thought the DLC would expand on the world beyond Aloy's big endgame revelations -- The Frozen Wilds isn't an endgame DLC. As long as you have the DLC downloaded it's accessible from any time after you complete the quest A Seeker At The Gates, though it's recommended for levels 30 and up.
For what it's worth, I played with my level 50 endgame save file anyway, and still found some of the early battles challenging. I wouldn't recommend tackling this one under-leveled.
An Expanded Game World
The Frozen Wilds isn't a specific quest, or an option in the main menu that takes you into a separate place like some game DLCs. Instead, the expansion simply opens up a big round area at the northeastern reaches of the map, north of the Grave Hoard.
The new area is called The Cut, a Banuk territory about the size of the Nora lands down south. While the expansion includes its main storyline, it also opens up a whole new area to explore, complete with plenty of side quests and errands.
New Game Mechanics
If you've finished the main game, or explored the entire map, you may be familiar with how the game goes -- find a tallneck, override the tallneck, finish the hunting grounds, etc etc. In The Frozen Wilds, old mechanics are changed up and new ones are added.
One element that's added fairly early on are machine towers -- defensive, stationary machines that bolster enemies around them with bursts of signals. You'll have to disable these kinds of towers to make your passage through The Cut easier.
Tallnecks still exist in the north -- though the one I've encountered early on in the expansion is refreshingly different strategy-wise to the rest of the tallnecks in the game.
The Frozen Wilds has added both new machines and new types of regular machines for the dangerous northern territories.
First, there are the 'daemonic' machines -- think corrupted machines, but different. The Banuk speak of being haunted by a Daemon, and the machines under its influence have a purplish kind of energy around them. Daemonic machines can be both old and new types.
There are a couple of completely new machines added to the mix -- the first one encountered in the game is a Scorcher, a fire-spewing wolf-like machine exclusive to the Banuk lands. While I haven't encountered any others yet in my game, I believe there are a couple of other completely new machines as well.
New Outfits, Weapons, Skills And Currency
Of course to fight all these new threats, we need new gear. The Frozen Wilds offers both completely new gear, and upgrades (think 'master-tier' levels of your existing gear). There's one big difference with the new gear, however -- most of it is only purchasable with a new type of currency called 'bluegleam'. Yup, you'll have to collect this stuff within the DLC itself, no matter how many riches you've accumulated in the main game.
The Frozen Wilds also unlocks the 'Traveller' skill tree. Most of these are just simple quality-of-life gameplay perks which will be much appreciated by a lot of players -- the ability to loot from atop your mount, for example, or being able to instantly deconstruct inventory-hungry items for shards.
Info On One Of The Game's Big Enigmas
Story-wise, The Frozen Wilds has many of its own mysteries for you to explore -- the volcano, the Banuk, the Daemon -- but those of us curious about Sylens and his particularly Banuk-looking body modifications might be in for a treat. In fact, Sylens is one of the first characters to speak to you in the DLC, if only to scold Aloy for going off on a tangent to the north. Looks like he's got some secrets to hide among the Banuk lands.