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Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores Review

Back to the technoprimitive

The Horizon series has confidently cemented itself as one of PlayStation’s shiniest feathers in its impressive hat. I heaped praise on Zero Dawn, and then heaped even more on its brilliant sequel Forbidden West, and odds on I’ll be heaping another dollop on the inevitable third entry. But to slake my thirst for robot dinosaur hunting in the meantime there’s Forbidden West’s first piece of DLC, Burning Shores. Perhaps it’s not exactly essential playing in the grand scheme of things, but some nice story beats and interesting character development make it as fine excuse as any to return to Guerrilla Game’s beautiful world.

Vale, Lance Reddick

Burning Shores takes place in the ravaged remains of Los Angeles, where Aloy is investigating the whereabouts of a surviving member of the Zenith named Londra at the behest of Sylens. Central antagonists in Forbidden West, The Zenith were powerful elites who fled earth as the apocalypse was descending, but who returned hundreds of years later as they fled an angry technodemon of their own creation called Nemesis. The last surviving Zenith member is stirring up trouble in the region, having apparently abducted a few Quen in the area for what can only be nefarious purposes. It’s up to Aloy to investigate what’s going on with the missing Quen, and uncover Londra’s ambitions.

To access the DLC, you need to have completed the main story including the final mission, and as such it’s highly likely that you will have a formidable arsenal and a highly-levelled Aloy to tackle the DLC. This is a bit of double-edged sword, as the motivation to check out Burning Shores is unlikely to be to improve Aloy’s capabilities, and as such places a lot of pressure on the story. This isn’t to say there aren’t new toys to discover, with several new legendary weapons and outfits to acquire and upgrade which incorporate a new (kind of) rare material called brimstone. You’ll gain access to some Zenith tech too, the exact nature of which I don’t intend to spoil here, but I will say that despite the fact it is quite powerful, it lacks the nuance of some of Aloy’s other tools of war. All these additions are welcome, but given I was already a force of nature by the end of my journey in Forbidden West, it was a bit like having another piece of a delicious cake even though you’ve already had five prior.

This thing is more majestic than a swan doing ballet

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…the main thing that drew me to the DLC was the opportunity to see the continuation of the story, and Burning Shores does an admirable job of presenting a bite-sized self-contained adventure to get lost in

There are naturally a handful of new enemies to hunt, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little disappointed by the paucity of the new foes. The main big addition comes in the form of the Bilegut, a hulking poisonous toad that spews corrosive acid. They’re pretty formidable all things told, and they also spawn tiny wasp-like creatures called Stingspawns. The latter also erupt out of eggs scattered around the Burning Shores, but are largely a nuisance rather than anything truly interesting. The only other addition to the roster is the Waterwing (which is much like a Sunwing) that can eventually be overridden and used to fly underwater. Perhaps I have been spoiled by Forbidden West’s epic cast of enemies, but despite the worthy additions I was left wanting more. Australian megafauna is definitely an untapped well of inspiration; gargantuan robot wombats now please.

As mentioned previously, the main thing that drew me to the DLC was the opportunity to see the continuation of the story, and Burning Shores does an admirable job of presenting a bite-sized self-contained adventure to get lost in. It of course isn’t designed to match the epic nature of the main games and is fairly lightweight, but the narcissistic megalomaniac Londra is a compelling villain, and the mystery behind his true motives that is slowly unveiled is engaging. My favourite part of the story though is the feisty Seyka, a Quen who is attempting to save her sister from Londra’s clutches. She and Aloy bond not only over a shared mission, but a shared experience of being outcasts amongst their respective tribes. Just as dogged and determined as Aloy, she’s also a great companion to have in a fight. The infinitely likeable Aloy already feels like a real human being thanks to the otherworldy motion capture and voice work, but when you include her interactions with Seyka it just adds a whole new dimension.

The neon-soaked hologram dinosaur park is a highlight

Talking about otherworldly visuals, it should come as no surprise that Burning Shores remains positively stunning to look at. The lush mini archipelago that LA has become is painstakingly realised, especially the bustling settlement Fleet’s End, which harbours a large contingent of shipwrecked Quen who have been separated from the rest of their expedition. There are also areas featuring free-flowing lava, and a huge holographic dinosaur park, and the day/night cycle makes these areas fluctuate wildly in their look and feel in spectacular ways. And the water. I’m gushing now, and it’s not like amazing water is a new concept in Horizon’s world, but there is quite a lot of it in Burning Shores, and the fact you can now traverse by Waterwing makes it all the more amazing to experience.

Final Thoughts

I’m glad Burning Shores came along, because it gave me the necessary impetus to return to Aloy’s incredible world. The main draw for me in an open-world action-adventure game tends to be the RPG elements that feed into a sense of burgeoning power, but already entering the DLC with a fair bit of that power, Burning Shores doesn’t necessarily satisfy that particular urge. However, the interesting story and character development carry the experience with confidence, and there are just enough new additions to your arsenal and things to kill them with to wet the whistle. Regardless of this greedy reviewer wanting a little more, the combat remains fundamentally fun, focused and nuanced, and one of the finest examples in the genre. If you need an excuse to revisit Horizon Forbidden West, then the Burning Shores are beckoning.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores Review
Some Like It Hot
Burning Shores may not feel essential in the grand scheme of things, but a solid self-contained story and dedication to character depth make this the perfect excuse to return to this brilliant action-adventure RPG.
The Good
Aloy continues to develop and deepen as a legitimate force of nature
The graphical fidelity continues to be some of the best we've experienced this generation
Londra is a captivating villain, Seyka is a brilliant companion that complements Aloy perfectly
The Bad
More robot dinosaur additions would have been welcome
RPG elements aren't a big allure considering you're already hitting this at high level
Weapon additions are adequate, but the Zenith weaponry lacks the nuance of the rest of the arsenal
8.5
Get Around It
  • Guerrilla Games
  • Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • PS5
  • April 19, 2023

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores Review
Some Like It Hot
Burning Shores may not feel essential in the grand scheme of things, but a solid self-contained story and dedication to character depth make this the perfect excuse to return to this brilliant action-adventure RPG.
The Good
Aloy continues to develop and deepen as a legitimate force of nature
The graphical fidelity continues to be some of the best we’ve experienced this generation
Londra is a captivating villain, Seyka is a brilliant companion that complements Aloy perfectly
The Bad
More robot dinosaur additions would have been welcome
RPG elements aren’t a big allure considering you’re already hitting this at high level
Weapon additions are adequate, but the Zenith weaponry lacks the nuance of the rest of the arsenal
8.5
Get Around It
Written By Kieran Stockton

Kieran is a consummate troll and outspoken detractor of the Uncharted series. He once fought a bear in the Alaskan wilderness while on a spirit quest and has a PhD in organic synthetic chemistry XBL: Shadow0fTheDog PSN: H8_Kill_Destroy

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