In The Game: “Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores” is Visually Stunning, Even When Playing it Safe

I remember February 28th, 2017 vividly. That was the day Horizon Zero Dawn originally released on the PlayStation 4. It was only six days before the wildly hyped up Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was to be released to the world. I remember being very excited to play both games. I had already paid for my Switch and Zelda a few weeks in advance, so I wanted to play Horizon to make the next few days go faster. I played Horizon for several days. I enjoyed it and thought the game was such an incredible looking experience; to this day, I am still impressed by it… but all it did was make me hungry for Zelda. Fast forward to 2022. Same thing happened, except this time, seven days separated the release between Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring. I didn’t even get Horizon that time because I was frothing at the mouth for Elden Ring. I needed to have it in my hands. I didn’t really have much hype for Horizon so I skipped it that time around. I eventually got a copy of Horizon Forbidden West for my birthday and didn’t play it much. I would pick it up every few months, but I kept putting it back down.

Fast forward to about a month ago, I found out I was going to have the opportunity to review the new Horizon Forbidden West Burning Shores DLC for the game. I realized that in order to play it, I’d have to finish the main story of Horizon Forbidden West. For some reason, I thought I had beaten it. I was WRONG. I had only beaten 17% of the main story. I spent the last few weeks finishing up the main game and I had a very fun time! I was stunned at the sprawling open world and the sheer amount of giant robots to fight. For once, I was hungry for more Horizon in my life. I couldn’t wait to see all the new content in the DLC.

I booted up my game after Burning Shores had finished installing and was told to go see Sylens, voiced by the late, great Lance Reddick. He sent me on my way to the ruins of Los Angeles, which is where the Burning Shores takes place. I was quickly introduced to Seyka, who becomes your new ally. Seyka is played by Kylie Liya Page. I thought she was very likeable and did a great job with her character. Also introduced is the main antagonist of this story, Walter Londra, voiced by Sam Witwer. I thought he and his glorious moustache were great. I really enjoyed the new characters and the new areas to explore. Los Angeles is gorgeous and a blast to explore. This map is not small either. I’d say the size of the map is roughly a third of the main game. I really enjoyed the new armours and new weapons. The new weapons are absurdly overpowered and you can get them pretty quickly making a good chunk of the game feel trivial. The new armour sets are very cool looking and have great stats.

Something that is important to mention is the fact that this DLC is exclusive to the PlayStation 5. If you own the game on PS4 you cannot play this additional content. While that is a bummer for PS4 owners, this was necessary for the new technology implemented in Burning Shores. There is a new fidelity in the DLC that makes my mouth water. The fact that this game runs at a steady 60fps blows my mind. Take the new clouds for example. You can ride your Sunwing into these giant cloud formations. I can only compare the experience to being in a plane going through a storm cloud. It’s terrifyingly beautiful. Every time I’d go into a cloud I would be afraid to stay in for too long. Especially since most of these clouds have things flying in them that do not want you in there. These clouds also spew lightning and severe weather effects. It’s an extremely awe inspiring feeling of height and lack of control that I’ve rarely felt in a video game. Really incredible stuff. As well as the Sunwing making its return, so does the new Waterwing. It does what the name implies. In addition to flying you can now swim underwater with this mount. It’s a very cool feeling and really shows off what the PS5 is capable of in the right hands.

There are many reasons to love Burning Shores; however, there are also many reasons to want more from it. There are only two new and unique enemy types; the acid spewing Bilegut and the ever annoying, almost mosquito-like Stingspawn. Bileguts are these big frog machines that spit acid and shoot acidic projectiles, whereas the Stingspawn die in one or two hits and attack you in swarms. These are the two brand new machines. Waterwings are new but are not much different than Sunwings. I was hoping for a lot more than two new machine types. I didn’t get all the new exciting stuff I was hoping this DLC would have packed along with it.

I was also hoping the story would have been a lot more interesting. I really like the villain, and I like the relationship that develops between Aloy and Seyka as the story moves. But the rest of the overarching plot didn’t really grab my attention. That’s been a core issue with the Horizon franchise for me. I like Aloy as a protagonist, but I don’t find the overall story/lore to be that interesting. The individual characters and performances in the series are often great; I just can’t connect with the other stuff.

Probably my biggest issue with Burning Shores as a whole is that I found it way too safe. The overall lack of new stuff to fight/interact with is a little shocking. The gameplay is exactly as you’d expect it to be (it’s good) and the game looks exactly how you think it would (gorgeous), but I am not blown away by anything outside of maybe the addition of the clouds. I didn’t think I’d be praising a game’s clouds so much, but once you go into one, you’ll get it.

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is easy to recommend. Most people like the story/lore of Horizon way more than I do, and there’s a lot of new stuff here to see and learn. It’s also $20, which is a total steal. I think Burning Shores is almost great. If it had some more additions to combat, more new machines, and a more daring narrative, it would be fantastic. For now, at least in my opinion, Burning Shores settles as good. Which is a lot better than bad. If you’ve been looking for a reason to get back into the world of Horizon, this is a pretty good way to do exactly that.

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