Horizon: Forbidden West - Burning Shores
PlayStation 5 version
The proper conclusion to Forbidden West, and a fairly satisfying tale in its own right. * Challenging new machines to fight * Gorgeous new area to explore with compelling lore * Phenomenal final boss fight
Lacks content compared to previous Horizon expansions * Too many UX elements to juggle, and most of the new skills aren't terribly useful. * Conclusion may be divisive for some players
The Bottom Line
Over a year after its initial launch, the official expansion DLC for Horizon Forbidden West, Burning Shores, has finally arrived. Arriving between multiple major open-world releases, this return to the world of Horizon couldn’t have come at a better time. For series fans who own a PS5, it’s highly recommended as it provides a more satisfying conclusion to the Forbidden West era, although it’s it’s not quite strong enough to justify purchasing a PS5 console. Yes, PS4 players have been left behind due to this expansion taking advantage of the PS5’s additional processing power, and not just for visuals.
Unlike the first game’s expansion, The Frozen Wilds, which could be accessed at nearly any time but was canonically set before the final mission, Burning Shores is set directly following the end of Forbidden West’s campaign, making it a true continuation of the game’s storyline, rather than just a lengthy sidequest. It exists in its own section of the map completely disconnected from anything else, so there’s no way a new player can randomly just stumble into this content, unlike what happened when my friend recently played through the first game. The storyline follows Aloy as she gets a new tip from Sylens regarding a still-undefeated Zenith, a former tech and entertainment producer named Walter Londra. After flying down to Los Angeles, she gets shot down by a mysterious probe and found by Seyka, a warrior, adventurer, and focus user who has a whole lot in common with Aloy. As it turns out, Seyka comes from the other half of Alvie’s Quen expedition that did not reach San Francisco, and instead crash landed in Los Angeles, and she needs Aloy’s help to find her missing sister and the rest of the expedition’s survivors, who are being held captive as part of Londra’s mysterious plan. The plot for Burning Shores is much more straightforward than that of Frozen Wilds. Seyka is charming and a likable enough companion, and her friendship with Aloy is quite charming and keeps you invested throughout the expansion’s main quest. She’s also a much stronger fighter than any other companion featured in Forbidden West, and her elemental attacks really helped me out of a few binds. Still Although she’s a far superior Quen companion compared to Alvie from the base game, I can’t say that she’s as compelling as Erend or Kotallo. While the villain, Walter Londra, is a bit of a mustache twirler, it’s clear that Sam Witwer had a blast playing him, and he only reveals himself to be increasingly slimy as the story goes on. In general, this is a solid expansion that brings some of Forbidden West’s most notable emotional highs and lows. In general, I think the story being told here, and how it sets things up for the next game, is far better than what Frozen Wilds had to offer. That being said, there is one aspect of the storyline in particular that is sure to divide the Horizon fanbase. I can’t say I’m necessarily the biggest fan of the direction the writers decided to take Aloy at the very end of this DLC, but to really unpack that would require me to get into heavy spoilers which I really don’t want to delve into. Regardless of my own thoughts on this new revelation, however, many players will find it utterly bafling that Guerrilla Games chose to reveal such an important aspect of Aloy’s character in an optional DLC that many people who originally purchased Forbidden West can’t even play unless they purchase and expensive new console. My guess is that the developer is using this as a hotbed to test a new narrative feature for the next game of the Horizon series. Burning Shores adds new machines and takes place in a partially sunken Los Angeles overrun by volcanic activity and plant life. The map itself is filled with recognizable Los Angeles landmarks, as well as a theme park, which has to be one of the coolest locations in the entire series. It’s easily one of the most gorgeous playgrounds in the Horizon franchise, and considering some of the areas featured in the base game, that’s certainly saying something. There’s something so thrilling about exploring long-abandoned areas in this game and wondering what they could have been like hundreds of years prior. Much like how Frozen Wilds offered a leap in difficulty from Horizon Zero Dawn, Burning Shores is substantially harder then the base game, and I really had to make use of my health options and weapon upgrades just to survive the later parts of the quest. The expansion adds three new types of machines: the toad-like Bilegut, the fly-like Stingspawn, which the Bilegut creates and eats, and the diving-bird like Waterwing, which can fly but is capable of diving into the water in short bursts. Of these, the most challenging machine by far is the Bilegut, which moves around so quickly it can be hard to get an aim on it. To combat this, Burning Shores adds new skills and Valor Surge abilities to the skill tree. By far the best one has got to be grapple strike, which allows Aloy to use the grapple to slingshot towards a downed enemy and hit them with a critical blow. There’s also the elemental spear, which allows the player to use capsules on Aloy’s spear to give it an elemental effect. This does lead to a bit of a prolbem however. The UI for using this ability is incredibly clunky to say the least. While the utility belt system in the first game was mostly fine, there have been so many potion, weapon, food, trap, and now capsule types added that switching between them is an incredibly tedous process, making these items far less usable in combat than the developers want them to be. This system badly needs a rework for the next game of the series. I also found that barring a couple, most of the new skills weren’t particularly useful to me. Burning Shores saves the very best for last, as it features a boss fight with a machine that is so much bigger than anything Aloy has faced before. Longtime fans will know exactly what I’m talking about, especially if you’ve seen the expansion’s trailer, and yes, the fight is as epic as it sounds. This, right here, is the reason this expansion is only playable on the PS5, as there’s simply no way the 10-year old PS4 could possibly handle this sequence without breaking a sweat. This multi-part fight features stealth sections, underwater swimming, light puzzle moments, and screen-filling moments of drama and action that really blew me out of my chair. This final fight is not only 2023’s most “try and top that” setpiece, it’s easily the series’ best boss fight to date, one that not only puts your skills to the test yet unlike the concluding fights of the rest of the Horizon games, truly feels like an actual mic drop moment. Honestly, this sequence is almost worth the price of admission alone, although it’s pretty clear that this is actually where the lion’s share of developmnt went considering the rather lacking content in the rest of this expansion. Buring Shores doesn’t feel quite as substantial of a package as Frozen Wilds did. There’s only one town, only two side quests, no hunting challenges or arena fights, no Strike, and only one relic ruin to explore. Although it ends in a truly spectacular fashion, the main story feels relatively short and sparse, with much of the aspects of both Quen culture and Londra’s story left somewhat unexplored. Despite the expansion being roughly a third of the base game’s map size, it also feels much smaller since most of it is water. It’s great that underwater exploration is a thing in the Horizon series, but I don’t think this DLC took advantage of it as much as it could have, as there’s only one mission which actually requires you to do some underwater exploration. If you’re a PS5 owner and you’re in the mood for some more Forbidden West, than Burning Shores comes highly recommended. That being said, it’s a harder sell for PS4 players who don’t have the option of playing the DLC unless they invest in a new console, as while it does some key things better than The Frozen Wilds and provides a proper conclusion for Forbidden West, the actual expansion itself feels a bit lacking in overall content. Aspects of the DLC’s conclusion have proven to be hugely divisive online, but putting that aside, there’s enough enjoyment here for about 15 hours of gameplay, and the final boss fight is simply unmissable gaming, if you ask me. Consider it a snack between your larger gaming meals: it may not be the most filling thing, but it’s wonderfully tasty all the same.
by krisko6 (813) on April 27th, 2023