Aloy is going to Hollywood! She’s centuries late to make it as a star, but she’s in the area now thanks to the new DLC add-on for Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores.
Burning Shores does add some new gameplay features that properly build off of Forbidden West. To that point, this expansion shows why it is PS5 exclusive. However, clunky implementation and aggravating glitches hamper the overall experience.
Writer’s note: Since players need to finish the main story to play the DLC, we will be spoiling Forbidden West here.
Developer & Publisher // Guerilla Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms // PlayStation 4|5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
MSRP & Release Date //$24.99, Apr 19, 2023
Reviewed On // PlayStation 5
Tying Up Loose Ends
After stopping the Far Zenith threat, Sylens discovers that a Far Zenith member, Walter Londra, remains at large in the Burning Shores. Londra seemingly split with the rest of Far Zenith before the assault on their base. So, Aloy flies to the Burning Shores area in pursuit and gets immediately shot down by a Far Zenith sentry drone.
After (crash) landing, Aloy is found by Seyka, a Quen warrior who had a large group of her people go missing in connection to Londra. Seyka helps Aloy throughout the expansion since they have similar goals.
Aloy’s trip shows how she’s grown since the beginning of the series, and uses Seyka to show how. Seyka goes through very similar situations Aloy has up to this point. Some Quen are enraged at Seyka for breaking their traditions and using a Focus (the Old One’s highly advanced communicator) to try finding the missing people. As such, Seyka starts insulating herself, and Aloy knows firsthand that Seyka’s loneliness will hinder her more than help her. So putting Aloy next to a similar scenario let her support Seyka the way Aloy needed to in her situations.
On the flipside of that coin, Londra is a solid villain. While Londra fits the same mold the other Far Zenith members come from, we get to see his backstory. We learn about his rise to fame and deteriorating relationship with his wife. Most importantly, we learn how deranged he became before leaving with the Zeniths.
Horizon has historically struggled to develop its villains. In Zero Dawn, Dervahl’s rarely seen until he’s beaten. Gerard and Erik have minimal backstory so we don’t understand how they became evil. Villains can’t just be a threat to the hero, the audience deserves to see how they became a villain. So seeing how Londra became the megalomaniac we know and how he’s actively affecting the Burning Shores area makes him more dimensional than we’ve previously gotten.
Burning Shores Meaningfully Builds Upon Forbidden West
Guerrilla Games solidly pushes their vision for Horizon forward in this DLC with improvements to gameplay, tech, and narrative.
Burning Shores adds a notably vertical level of play to the Horizon series. For example, Aloy can use geysers to launch up into the sky with her paraglider, and new abilities give her combative airborne options. Additionally, she can grapple to knock down Machines to drive her spear into them, jump off, and a free Resonator target will be ready.
Seyka’s arsenal works so well with Aloy. The Quen warrior uses various elemental arrows and a Ropecaster in fights alongside Aloy. Her Ropecaster is especially impactful. It comes in handy for holding down unruly Machines and clicks beautifully with the zip stab. Her elemental arrows may seem to do the least, but that’s more so because of her other skills. All together, her abilities have high floors and ceilings.
Seyka works so well because she’s designed to support first and foremost. Aloy cranks out the damage, but Seyka augments it with elemental statuses, crowd control tactics, and Terablast arrows designed to remove pieces from Machines. Out of every supporting character Horizon has, Seyka provides the most meaningful support.
Guerrilla Games Showcases PS5’s Power…
Burning Shores riled PS4 fans because Guerrilla only released the DLC on PS5. Now that it’s out, players can see why.
Los Angeles has Machines in literal hordes. The Bilegut, a giant frog-like Machine, spawns drone-like Machines called Stingspawn. Stingspawns hatch from Machine eggs, some of which Bileguts shoot out, but they regularly appear in groups. Some groups have more than a dozen. Aloy can also ride the new flying mount, Waterwings, underwater. Overall, Bileguts earn the best marks, because their the biggest pain to fight in a good way.
These Machines harness the PS5’s processing power. Stingspawns serve as the first true “horde” Machine, where their strength comes in numbers. On the PS4, most Machine fights don’t have more than ten Machines, regardless of size. Not only do these Machines feel new, they feel possible only because of the PS5.
Additionally, this DLC has a decent amount of destructible environments. While every new area can’t break apart, many of the Old One’s towers and ruined buildings do. Some of these breakaway pieces lead to hidden treasures, others can be destroyed for a combative advantage, and others leave you out in the open. These physics may not be universal, but they show where the PS5 can go.
All of these features aside, the biggest reason to make Los Angeles PS5 exclusive is the ending. We won’t get into the spoilery details here, but the final fight is incredible. It puts Aloy through multiple stages that use stealth, platforming, and long-range combat throughout. Most importantly, it’s wildly gorgeous and deserves to be experienced on the best tech possible.
The add-on shows why it needed the PS5 power. As pretty as games can still look on the PS4, that’s the console’s limit. Cyberpunk 2077 showed us the reality that putting games on both past-gen and current-gen consoles take. Also, we’re two and a half years into the console cycle. If games haven’t progressed to a single console release by now, then game development has a massive tech issue.
…and They Show the Console’s Growing Pains Too
Burning Shores does not get perfect technical marks, however. The DLC has issues with popped-in textures in cutscene backgrounds, longer load times, and worst of all, quest bugs. Fortunately, the popped-in textures sit in the background, and the load times still take shorter than last-gen consoles. Those first two issues don’t ruin the experience but stick out to eagle-eyed players.
Quest-related issues, however, can force you to restart your game. Personally speaking, a side quest still shows a blank quest step for me although it’s not done. I got stuck on another quest to the point where I needed to look up a walkthrough online which told me to restart the game and go back to my last save. I didn’t lose any progress, but there’s zero signposting in the game as to what to do next.
Based on the most recent patch, it seems as though we weren’t the only ones with quest issues.
Technical issues should be expected for an early PS5 exclusive title, but quest bugs especially hamper the experience. Faulty quests force the player to stop playing because there’s no path forward. Players don’t want to need to look up guides because of bugs, they want to look up guides to make sure they don’t miss anything. We’re not trying to forgive the other technical issues, but at least they don’t rip you out of the immersion.
Beauty Aside, the New Area Feels Light on Content
We want to make it clear that Burning Shores has more than just its main story to play through. That said, it has far less to do than comparable DLC packages. Where many of the major towns in Forbidden West had melee pits and Machine Strike, Burning Shores’ Fleet’s End has neither. Every major area in Horizon had a Tallneck surveying the area, but not here. Yes, there’s an explorable ruin outside of the main quests, and yes there’s a set of collectibles, but only one of each.
Granted, some new activities unlock after completing the main quest, but those are back in the Forbidden West. Exploring the area left the impression that the visuals were the top priority for this DLC, which historically only works in the short term. As technology improves, older technological feats lose their awe. What holds up the longest is the gameplay and narrative, not the sights.
Open-world games can’t solely rely on their story, they need meaningful side content to keep us entertained as well. Burning Shores gets the meaningful part right, but not the quantity right.
Verdict: Enjoyable, but not Incredible
Horizon routinely plays like a great open-world game, and Burning Shores fits that mold. A short but sweet narrative sets up a stunning finale. After that, there’s not as much to do in Los Angeles. Horizon fans should definitely check this DLC out, and expect to put in at least ten to fifteen hours. With all of that said, however, it feels whelming at best.