Horizon Forbidden West was released more than a year ago and not only did it serve as a remarkable sequel to one of the most exceptional games of the previous generation, but it also propelled the franchise forward with several new mechanics and a compelling storyline. The game ended on an ominous note with Aloy and her friends preparing for the oncoming world-ending threat, posed by Nemesis. At its core Burning Shores offers more of the same great experience that the base game did, albeit with a healthy dose of character-driven storytelling that largely taken the backseat in previous outings.
The DLC expands upon Forbidden West’s excellent fundamentals to deliver an experience that hits all the right marks, bringing in fresh gameplay mechanics and a significant number of new skills to discover, added machine variety, all set within a gorgeously rendered post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. Despite a few drawbacks that hinder Burning Shores from reaching its full potential. Despite the shortcomings, Burning Shores is an essential piece of storytelling that every Horizon fan should experience.
Burning Shores is an Essential Horizon Story
Burning Shores picks up right after the end of the main game. A mysterious call from Sylens summons Aloy to Tilda’s mansion where it is revealed that one of the Zeniths that descended to earth might still be alive and finding them may help Aloy prepare for the oncoming world-ending threat posed by Nemesis. Following this revelation, you are immediately transported to a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles which is now known now as the burning shores. While I won’t spoil the story here, what immediately becomes apparent is it is a bridge story through and through. While the Frozen Wilds acted more as a side activity for Aloy in the previous game, the narrative that unfolds here has far-reaching consequences that expertly set up the inevitable third game in the series.
Aloy is a character that has routinely lacked substance. The games up to this point have mainly focused on large-scale spectacles where character-driven storytelling has taken the backseat, in the burning shores however Aloy finally meets a companion that genuinely pulls at all her nuances. The chemistry between Seyka and Aloy is unmatched, to say the least, at the end of the roughly 10-hour-long playthrough it’s hard not to get a little attached to the relationship both these characters build.
What surprised me the most, however, was the environmental detail present in the game. Forbidden West is one of the best-looking games on PS5 right now but Burning Shores just takes it up another notch. Beautifully detailed vistas make up the bulk of the new play area with supremely rendered volcano flows and geysers taking up the rest. There is a real contrast in the game world, even more so than in the original game and I think it works remarkably well here. The new map is much smaller than the base game but is much more dense, detailed, and beautiful.
Machine Variety isn’t as Diverse as I Would Have Liked
The place where Burning Shores did disappoint me however was in its machine variety. Apart from the water wing, which is just a reworked Sunwing that lets you traverse the depths of the waters more quickly and freely, there are only three main combat machines, one of which is the final boss. That leaves us with just two machines, the Bilegut, and the Stingspawn. The Stingspawn can easily be taken down in one or two shots and pose little to no threat, in fact, they are more of an annoyance than anything else. The Bilegut is the only new machine of substance that you’ll actually face.
The Bilegut is a giant mechanical toad that spews acid at you and eats sting spawns. The execution and connection of both the machine were quite hilarious and the Bilegut is a formidable foe, to say the least, comparable to a thunder jaw but with the added utility of its tongue, it can quickly maneuver around the battlefield, catching you in a surprise. It is a shame however that this is about the only worthwhile new combat machine you come across in the expansion. I would have liked to have seen a touch more variety, especially considering how long the burning shores expansion was released after the original game.
One of the notable enhancements in the game is the newfound freedom to soar through the sky at great heights. In the original game, flying was somewhat restricted, with an imposed ceiling that prevented players from reaching impressive altitudes. However, in the Burning Shores expansion, the skies are yours to explore, with the ability to descend all the way down to the clouds. This expansion of the flying mechanics allows for a breathtaking sense of scope and grandeur that was previously absent from the game. As you navigate through the exquisitely rendered clouds, gazing down at the flowing lava and glistening ocean, you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of magnificence that is unmatched by any other game.
The Burning Shores Adds in a Ton of New Abilities
Weapon classes remain the same, with a few more bows to round out your arsenal. I did not find any of them compelling enough to grind for or to max out. If you’ve spent a significant amount of time upgrading your weapons in the base game, chances are the combat advantages will be minimal between those and the new weapons. There is one new weapon that has been added to Aloy’s arsenal that came as a total surprise to me. While I won’t be spoiling what exactly that weapon is, its something that is completely foreign to Aloy but not completely foreign to the world and is probably about the coolest weapon you can wield in the Horizon universe thus far.
Another exciting feature that the expansion incorporates is the ability to destroy the surrounding environment, which adds an extra level of complexity to the combat. This is highlighted by the presence of purple growths on nearby structures, which can be destroyed by shooting arrows at them, providing much-needed assistance during the game’s intense battles. While this mechanic is not used extensively, it serves its purpose effectively and adds another dimension to the gameplay.
The game boasts a wealth of new abilities across almost every skill tree, with the level cap increasing from 50 to 60. Among the new abilities, the grapple strike stands out as a personal favorite, allowing players to pull themselves toward staggered enemies and deliver a stylish finishing blow that can be combined with other moves to execute some truly unique combos and finishers. Another standout ability is the elemental spear, which enables players to attack their enemies with a range of elements by imbuing them into their spear. With so many new and useful abilities added to the game, players are sure to have a hard time choosing which valor surge to equip.
The Burning Shores expansion builds on the strong foundations of the base game to deliver Aloy’s most grounded story yet between the added skills, a new weapon and a new-found freedom to soar high into the sky Guerilla games have outdone themselves yet again. While the lack of machine variety is disappointing, Burning Shores is an essential story that every Horizon fan should experience.
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