Horizon Zero Dawn The Frozen Wilds is an excellent expansion to an already impressive game and what’s more, it’s incredible value for money in a time when many publishers are trying to nickel and dime their players.
2017 was a year in which terms like “increased engagement”, “monetisation” and “games as a service” increasingly permeated the mainstream gaming collective conscious. It was a year that saw an increase in the use of often predatory business models that had previously been reserved for free-to-play titles, such as microtransactions, paid unlockables and loot boxes, in big budget productions. It was a year in which some publishers posted record profits in part due to expanding additional digital expenditure from players. From the maps in Assassin’s Creed Origins that could be only be purchased with Helix credits, the season pass exclusive DLC for Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Destiny 2 and it’s Eververse unlockables to the loot crate controversies surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Overwatch, it was difficult to find a AAA production that wasn’t trying to squeeze their players for more cash.
Then, there’s Horizon Zero Dawn.
Guerilla Games’ latest was my GOTY in 2017 and for good reason. The dutch studio have always created fantastic looking games (say what you want about the Killzone series but they’ve always pushed the envelope with their visual prowess) but Horizon Zero Dawn went beyond that. A complex but nuanced story line met with ever-so-satisfying combat mechanics in an open world setting that was never anything but interesting. Since launching back in February 2017, it has sold more than 4 million copies and it’s finding its way into a lot more homes this year now that there’s a lull in new releases. There has been continued support for the game since release too, with a new difficulty mode and a New Game+ option joining a host of visual upgrades that have released over the past year for free. Gratis. No additional purchase required. The continued support culminated in the release of “The Complete Edition” and the release of the DLC expansion The Frozen Wilds.
To the point then – in a year when traditional downloadable expansions were becoming rarer in favour of micro-downloads and loot crates, The Frozen Wilds is a breath of fresh air. It would have been easy for Guerilla Games and Sony to cut this DLC into chunks and sell it as DLC – “Pay £0.99 and unlock this new Banuk weapon” or “discover all the icons on this map for £1.99” – or package it up as a season pass exclusive which comes with other gubbins that most players don’t want or need. Instead, they released an expansion in the traditional sense for the paltry sum of £15.99.
What’s more, The Frozen Wilds is of the highest quality and is on par with the content from the main game. In the DLC, Aloy can explore a new, snow covered area called The Cut, face off against deadly new machine types and bandit enemies, utilise 3 new weapons, learn more about the harsh existence of the Banuk tribe and uncover more details that flesh out the main plot of the game. There’s new side quests, new trials and new characters to meet and for the price of a takeaway pizza, it’s fantastic value for money.
Now, I’m under no illusion that The Frozen Wilds was the only great DLC expansion released in 2017 (shout out to XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, ESO: Morrowind and The Surge: A Walk in the Park). What is encouraging is to see a game as popular and as financially successful as Horizon Zero Dawn be allowed to have traditional DLC at a low cost in a customer-centric way. While Microsoft were continuing with their VIP “pay to earn” pass in Forza 7 and Nintendo were bundling up their Zelda DLC so that you have to buy the season pass, even if you just want one part of it, The Frozen Wilds feels like a relic from the past which gives you more of a great game without trying to nickel and dime you. A true oddity in the age of microtransactions and loot crates.
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