DLC Review – Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores
DLCs can range in the amount content they offer players. Sometimes a DLC is nothing more than a few extra short missions and cosmetic offerings, while others offer fully fleshed out stories that are almost their own game. Some of the most noteworthy examples of remarkably beefy DLCs are Dragon Age Origins: Awakening, and The Witcher 3‘s Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine. This was the level of DLC content I was hoping for when I played 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds, and was slightly disappointed when it turned out to be little more than a side story, with little impact or relevance to the overall plot of the main game. Keeping that in mind, I went in with my expectations tempered for Horizon‘s newest DLC, Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores. Thankfully, this DLC far exceeded my expectations.
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores takes place right after the events of Horizon Forbidden West. As in immediately afterwards. You can’t unlock the DLC until you’ve completed the entire base game. Right off the bat, this piqued my interest, since this was clearly going to have a more impactful storyline and not just be another sidequest. Once completing the base game, Aloy receives a message from Sylens, where he tells her about a new threat far out west in the Burning Shores. This brings us to a whole new location; an archipelago set in a flooded version of Los Angeles.
Once Aloy reaches the new settlement of Fleet’s End within the Burning Shores, she’ll meet Seyka, a tenacious marine for the Quen tribe who inhabit the area. Seyka is looking for her sister who left the village to join a group who follow a man named Walter Londra. The problem is that this isn’t just a any group, they’re basically a cult who worship Londra in a nearly fanatical sense like he’s a deity.
Londra is the main antagonist for Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores, and wow, what a villain! He’s a member of the Far Zenith, the main antagonist group from the series, who is a tech mogul with a God complex. He might not be the most outright vile, but he’s so comically over-the-top that he’s essentially a mustache-twirling cartoon character. Strangely though, that’s not a bad thing. Londra is by far one of the most memorable villains in the whole franchise. It’s clear the developers had a blast creating his almost satirical character. He makes for a fantastic addition to the series, as does the whole of Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores.
Honestly, I loved the entire Burning Shores region. Even though it’s still a fairly large map, it’s smaller and more condensed than the rest of the map in Horizon Forbidden West. This allows the gameplay experience to be more focused and streamlined, which was a welcome change from the overly large and extensive main area. It also has some of the most striking visuals out of any of the areas within the game, thanks in part to its towering buildings and lava runoff from the surrounding volcanic activity.
However, Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores doesn’t just feature a new location and antagonist. It also has several new machines, such as the Waterwing, a flying machine that can venture from the skies to beneath the waves with ease. Like the Sunwing, Aloy can tame the Waterwing and use it as her mount for the rest of the game. This makes traversing the vast ocean to discover and inspect all the points of interest even easier.
This is another way in which Burning Shores fixes one of my gripes from the base game. Where in the main game flying mounts were introduced so late they felt extremely underutilized and almost tacked on, in Burning Shores they are Aloy’s main mode of travel. She’ll also be able to enjoy rides on Seyka’s boat, but only as a passenger during certain missions, and mainly as a means to deliver exposition to the player.
This leads me to one of my biggest issues with Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores: its pacing. This was one of my biggest problems with the base game, and it’s still very much an issue here. Whenever Aloy isn’t taking down robot dinosaurs, she engaging in long, drawn-out dialogues with NPCs. You can pretty much count on anytime Aloy starts a new mission or turns one in, the game will screech to a halt while she converses with others characters for what feels like an eternity. Thankfully, these moments are nearly as frequent as in the main game.
Truthfully, if the gameplay of the Horizon series hasn’t clicked with you, then Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores won’t win you over. It’s very much more of the same, with a few tweaks to improve it over the base game. There’s still plenty of iffy platforming sections, crafting traps and ammo, and scouring for resources and points of interest to be found here.
However, if you already do enjoy what Horizon has to offer then Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is an absolute treat. Aloy can now craft and buy Legendary weapons, armor, ammo, and traps, thanks to the new components she can collect from the new machines in the Burning Shores region. There’s also the inclusion of Brimshine, which is like a stronger version of the base game’s Greenshine. Obtaining the Legendary equipment makes doing any sidequests from the main game you haven’t finished yet, exponentially easier.
Visually, Burning Shores is just as gorgeous as the main game. Whatever issues the game might have in certain areas, no one can deny just how visually striking the game is. From the decaying skyscrapers, to the lava filled beaches, to the dilapidated Hollywood sign, the entire region is a marvel to behold. Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is truly a feast for the eyes.
The sound design is another highlight, as it was with the main game. The soundtrack is just as stellar as before; grandiose during fights and tension-filled when sneaking around enemy territories. The voice acting is fantastic all around, although Sam Witwer completely steals the show as Londra. He clearly had just as much fun chewing the scenery as the writers had creating his character.
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is not just an incredible DLC, but it’s an absolutely crucial part of the entire Horizon story. Seyka proves to be an amazing companion, not just in terms of being an actual intelligently functioning AI in combat, but also because of how she encourages character growth in Aloy. Many have commented on how Aloy in Horizon Forbidden West was too stoic and pushed everyone away, while insisting on taking the burden of saving the world on her shoulders alone. Seyka’s involvement with Aloy during their journeys together encourages Aloy to finally show some vulnerability, thus making her a much more likeable character. Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is a huge success of a DLC, and an unmissable part of the story as a whole.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is available now on PS5.
Reviewed on PS5.