'Horizon Zero Dawn's new patch adds New Game+ and Ultra Hard difficulty

Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games’ robot dinosaur-hunting action RPG, was one of our favorite games so far this year. Sony’s E3 announcement of DLC incoming later this year got us excited to saddle up with Aloy again, but the game’s latest update may give us enough of an excuse to jump back in and brush up until The Frozen Wilds arrives later this year.

Patch 1.30, which launched today, adds two new features (in addition to the usual bug fixes) that will be especially interesting to experienced players. First is New Game+, a classic feature (first introduced in Chrono Trigger) that lets players who have completed the game start from the beginning, but with all of their gear and abilities intact from the previous play.

This will allow you to crank up the difficulty and get more creative with your hunting strategies from the get-go, mixing in the trickier weapons and elemental effects that are usually only available in the mid to late game. Aloy’s level still maxes out at 50, with no new skills into which you can dump further points, but she can apparently still collect experience. This may become useful later, depending on whether the upcoming DLC introduces a higher level cap and new skills.

A related addition for players that want more of a challenge (although frankly the game is already quite tough at its higher difficulty levels), is Ultra Hard mode. This extra-punishing difficulty level will enhance the senses and behaviors of the machines, while also limiting Aloy’s health regeneration. According to Eurogamer, you also won’t be able to switch out of Ultra Hard mode without starting over, so think carefully and try the existing difficulty levels first before committing.

In the previous higher challenge settings enemies already took much longer to bring down, making smart use of all the tools at your disposal much more essential. Accordingly, all but the most skilled and/or masochistic players will probably want to wait until New Game+ before cranking the game up to Ultra Hard when they will really have to “git gud.”

The Frozen Wilds will arrive later in 2017, continuing Aloy’s story as she explores the territory of the Banuk people, the elusive, tribal mountain hunters that had the smallest minority of the main game’s five cultures. Some have speculated, given the appearance of the hot springs and several other landmarks in the trailer, that it is set in the former bounds of Yellowstone National Park.

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