During Sony's #E3 presentation, Guerilla Games revealed a tasty piece of #HorizonZeroDawn DLC in The Frozen Wilds. The original game took place in a distant post-apocalyptic version of Utah and Colorado, including many landmarks both natural and man-made.
The Frozen Wilds leaves the American southwest behind, venturing north to Wyoming. Though we're never explicitly told it's Wyoming, we've seen enough to make an educated guess.
From an in-universe perspective, The Frozen Wilds takes our hero Aloy into the territory of the Banuk tribe. The Banuk are a shamanistic people who dwell in a sacred land to the north described as relatively untouched by the Old Ones. The Old Ones, of course, are people like us who lived before the apocalypse. Old ruins are few and few between and, from their perspective, the land is unspoiled. Perhaps, once upon a time, the Old Ones viewed the Sacred Land as cursed, or likewise viewed it as a sacred place.
In the event of an apocalyptic event so devastating nearly all of humanity was eradicated, where would we leave behind no trace of ourselves whatever? What's left relatively unspoiled in America? That's an easy answer: our National Parks. The Banuk homeland of Ban-Ur is Yellowstone National Park.
If the in-universe hints aren't enough, The Frozen Wild's key art provides a singular, powerful hint in that direction.
The Grand Prismatic Spring
One of Yellowstone's most dazzling features is placed front-and-center in the DLC's promo art. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest natural hotspring in the United States of America and the third largest in the world. The striking rainbow coloration is a dead giveaway. It's a natural wonder. There's hardly anything else like it anywhere else.
If you visit this place in-game, I wouldn't recommend going for a swim. The spring is hot enough to boil you alive. The bright blue center of the spring is completely sterile; the water is too hot to support life.
The Tetons And The Snake River
Stepping back from the key art, The Frozen Wild's trailer offers a significant hint, too. The river briefly shown in the trailer isn't any ol' river. Specifically, it's Snake River, which rises in Wyoming and winds through Idaho, Oregon, and finally, Washington. The brief glimpse of the river mimics a famous photo taken by photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams.
When I say this is a famous photo, it's no exaggeration. This shot of the Snake River and the Grand Tetons in the background is one of 115 photos included on the Voyager Golden Record. As the Voyager spacecraft hurtles through the great unknown, those 115 photos were chosen in the event alien life encountered the vessel. The photos were chosen with the explicit intent of educating extraterrestrial life about Earth and humanity as a whole. If there's life out there, the Tetons and Snake River might be their first look at the planet we call home.
Returning to the key art, things get a little hazy with the butte rising dramatically in the background. (If you laughed about buttes, you should be ashamed.) Given the Grand Prismatic is placed front and center of the image, the general scene must be Yellowstone. However, there's no formation quite like this one within Yellowstone itself, so artistic liberties have been taken.
The only formation quite like it in Wyoming is Devils Tower, and the pieces fit. Devils Tower is believed to have been formed by an explosive volcano or, alternatively, is a volcano's volcanic plug. I don't know about you, but what's happening in that key art looks pretty freakin' volcanic to me.
Devils Tower's inclusion in the key art is definitely artistic liberty, and given Colorado and Utah were condensed down to form the original game's map, condensing Wyoming to allow travel between Yellowstone and Devils Tower is perfectly reasonable.
The Volcano Is A Clue
In fact, Devils Tower is perhaps a more significant centerpiece than the Grand Prismatic. Within the universe of Horizon Zero Dawn, multiple artificial intelligences named for Greek gods were given the task of reconstructing the world post-apocalypse. To keep a spoilery story short, things didn't work out quite as planned.
The Hephaestus subroutine was given dominion over mechanical reconstruction. In other words, Hephaestus oversees the vaults where our lovely robot dinosaurs are mass produced. Horizon Zero Dawn's robots began attacking humanity when Hephaestus decided humans kind of sucked.
Hephaestus's designation is apt given Hephaestus is the Greek god of the forge along with blacksmiths, artisans, metallurgy, and technology. Hephaestus also happens to be the god of fire and volcanoes.
We're going to meet the being who makes the robots, y'all, and he lurks within Devils Tower.