Yesterday, I finished the Frozen Wilds DLC of Horizon Zero Dawn. I was truly impressed by how far the developers had gone to build a story that works with the main quest. In the end, it made sense that this was not after the events of the main game but more like an addendum, a side quest before the end of the main storyline. However, the story also works in a certain sense as a standalone from the main story as the main antagonist in this case is Hephaestus and his Daemons (a smart wordplay on the programming term, daemon)
Guerilla Games knows how to take the player on a ride, when the introduce the mysterious Daemon machines that are way more aggressive against humans. They are also impossible to tame as they seem to part of a newer set of machines, unlike the ones that populate the planet for terraforming.
Along with the Daemons, there are also the Control Points, which have been setup for field repairs. These towers, heal machines in the vicinity and make every fight a challenge, unless overridden or totally destroyed. Frozen Wilds also features a new set of weapons and outfits. I did not find much use for the outfits as the Shield Weaver outfit was OP and the best. I had unlocked it in the first game and every other outfit was a mere aesthetic change.
The weapons, on the other hand, are a bit more useful and varied with an icethrower, a flamethrower and a shockthrower. These weapons are useful in building up elemental damage and wearing down the enemy's health.
The Daemons are a tougher breed of machines, who are way more buffed when compared to their counterparts. They are a worthy challenge to the level of character I was at when I ended up fighting them. As I figured out their weaknesses, it got a lot of fun to take them out one by one.
An interesting wordplay on the word daemon, we learn later on that they were created by Hephaestus, who was formerly a part of GAIA.
a daemon is a computer program that runs as a background process, rather than being under the direct control of an interactive user.
The newly introduced Frostclaws and Fireclaws were challenging to take down. I did figure out to make use of the new Icerail to freeze them and chip away at their health. Blast bombs from the Sling help as well. It had been a while since I played HZD and it took some time to get into the groove of the fighting. I enjoyed myself trying to figure the perfect combination to take down the Frostclaws (Icerail + Frost bombs to freeze them + Hard point arrows + Blast bombs worked well).
The Frozen Wilds is dominantly occupied by the Banuk. A variety of their paintings and art dominate the area, where they have made a mark.
The Banuk were a traditional tribe, who believed that the blue light and the machines were divine. You could see how belief had trumped over logic in their tradition. They were ready to forgo their lives for their werak if they weren't found worthy. It seemed in certain ways survival of the fittest to weed out the weakest and yet, they seemed to care more about tradition than emotion.
CYAN (Caldera of Yellowstone Analytic Nexus) is the AI imprisoned by Hephaestus' Daemons. The AI was in charge of preventing the eruption of Yellowstone Caldera and maintaining the operations of the base. CYAN was in contact with Ourea, the Banuk warrior and sister to the werak leader. CYAN was under control of Hephaestus and was rescued by Ourea, who sacrificed herself in the process.
CYAN is the first AI we interact with, who isn't dead or a villian. Through her, Aloy learns of the technology of our time and how it has evolved over the years. AI was very common at the time and it seems we are heading to a similar future. It is times like these that remind me that Horizon Zero Dawn is set in a possible future to our timeline and not in the past, despite the world and people reverting to tribal ways.
Hephaestus is a part of the Zero Dawn project and was released from GAIA's control, when she (it?) give her life (as much as an AI has a life) to stop HADES. Hephaestus was responsible for making the machines that populate the earth and he went haywire, when humans started hunting the machines. This affected the balance between the newly terraformed planet and hence, he created the more aggressive Daemons to hunt humans and reform the balance.
Hephaestus makes for a good antagonist in Frozen Wilds and his motivations to create the Daemons seem sound. The AI seems to be working purely out of logic and creating a solution to the problem of humans.
Apart from the main questline of Daemons, Frozen Wilds also features some interesting side quests. I found Gildun, the treasure hunter, a more grounded Indiana Jones, who requires our help to escape from the dam where he has trapped himself.
It was fun to help the Hunters Three take down machines to buy their way out of Ban Hur. My favorite was the quest to help absolve Inatut for the murder he did not commit. It was a proper murder mystery quest.
Another worthy mention is the quest with Ikrie in the White Teeth. The extremes to which Banuk will go for honor and tradition is evident from that mission.
It was well worth the 20 odd hours I put into the game and I was satisfied with the story and how the game played out in the end. As with my usual playing style, I did not completed this expansion in one sitting but in chunks and I had a load of fun playing it. Part of it was even during the Gametography charity stream and you can read my thoughts about it here.
All in all, I can't wait for Forbidden West and the next adventures of Aloy. Until then, I will be lost with Aloy in the Metal World...