Until a few weeks ago, I expected Guerrilla Games to release more Horizon Forbidden West through its expansion Burning Shores. I ended up getting that and more than I expected as the expansion to one of last year’s biggest games has upped the ante and delivered one of the best pieces of content I’ve enjoyed in ages. I spent over 100 hours with Aloy last year and together we learned a few important lessons along the way.
A lot of the same great mechanics return in the DLC like climbing some incredible structures, fighting some beastly enemies, and working through puzzles left by those who came before. To even start the Burning Shores, you’ll have had to have finished the campaign of Horizon Forbidden West. A brief rendezvous with Sylens explains one of the Zenith has gone missing and that this one has made its way to the Burning Shores. Aloy embarks on a journey and heads to the marked location where she meets Seyka, a Quen, who will then help serve as a guide to these new lands.
Horizon Forbidden West’s Burning Shores offer a fresh experience
The new location takes us to Los Angeles, a place that has been changed and moulded by nature. One thing that stands out is the new map is rather impressive and feels to be about one-third the size of the map found in Horizon Forbidden West. There are a lot of hidden secrets to discover, including a Cauldron, Relic Ruins, and even brand-new machines that test your abilities to survive.
It’s been some time since I unlocked the platinum trophy so jumping back in took some time to adjust to. The first few hours I spent within the Burning Shores left me familiarizing the many systems in play, but once you find the rhythm, it feels like riding a bike. Aloy’s as capable as ever and can hold her own against humans and machines. It isn’t long before new mechanics are introduced, and all the new bells and whistles flow well into the existing combat.
Two new machine types will threaten and engage you with the new bug-type Stingspawn, and the frog-type Bilegut, both challenging and entertaining to engage and defeat. I’m still reeling by how much I’ve forgotten since achieving the platinum last year, so I was humbled by the new threats. To make things a bit more even, Guerrilla has added a new weapon that puts a huge smile on your face when using it.
To pad out the 8 – 12 hours you’ll be spending in the Burning Shores, there are new skills you’ll want to pick up. And most importantly, the Machine Grapple Strike is one of the best skills you’ll find which allows you to perform critical strikes on downed machines by performing a grapple strike on them by tapping R1. Additionally, I was keen on unlocking Defy Death, a skill in which Aloy consumes a potion that elevates her damage output while also providing a second chance at survival at the cost of health at critical levels.
Aloy meets her first real peer in Seyka
Newcomer Seyka is a welcome addition to the growing cast. Her presence truly makes Aloy feel like she’s met her first true peer. It isn’t long before Aloy arrives that the two meet and what unfolds is beautiful. Looking back, it’s easy to see that Aloy has grown as a person. Zero Dawn showed us how reliant Aloy was on herself and Forbidden West flipped that notion on its head. By the finale, Aloy has learned to welcome help from others and even build a small family with her friends. Burning Shores once again ups the ante and puts the best version of Aloy on display. And none of that would have been possible with Seyka — the duo work well together and feel like fully realized people. It’s the first time we’re seeing someone step to Aloy and hit the same stride.
There are some wonderful instances between the two characters that really put their newfound bond through the wringer. Each time the two characters are on screen is when you’ll be immediately drawn into their situation. The
Los Angeles has also seen better days and while there are remnants of civilization and iconic landmarks on the brink of collapse, it’s easily the best location the series has shown us so far. The flowing lava and oceans are spectacular and it’s hard not to stop gawking at the environment. Much of the land is designed to use your existing arsenal to great effect, and while I enjoyed a lot of what Guerrilla brought to the expansion there are some warts that I found to take you out of the experience.
A boss encounter in the middle is one of the worst momenta breaking situations I’ve experienced. It’s also paired with the final boss that Guerrilla Games has teased from day one which is an incredible feat even if it does end up with a few issues that prevent it from being truly iconic. With that in mind, Burning Shores end on a notable high even if it struggles with the ascent.
Horizon Forbidden West’s Burning Shores add enough new content to keep the experience fresh. There’s a lot to do in this massive new area and it feels seemingly clear that the developers are building the narrative into something wonderful. While this chapter of Aloy’s story doesn’t push the overarching plot forward, it’s something worth visiting if you care about these characters.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5