Entering the Burning Shores transported me back to the feeling of visiting Columbia from BioShock Infinite for the first time: the beauty found in every backdrop, the sense of awe and wonder, and the feeling of traveling to somewhere with a larger-than-life story to tell. I was ready to explore the Burning Shores headlong. The DLC effortlessly captures the essence of what makes the Horizon franchise successful yet also memorable in mere minutes. Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is a DLC that becomes an essential part of the Forbidden West experience.
Locations and Setting – Los Angeles Maintains Its Beauty a Millennium Later
Burning Shores is set in Los Angeles of the future and continues some of the main lore-based story events from Forbidden West. Everywhere you look will be packed with unique style, with glistening beaches and flowing streams of lava. It makes venturing around the Burning Shores all that much more enjoyable: especially for those whose favorite area from Forbidden West was the San Francisco Bay Area.
No matter where you travel on the shores, there is always an area of interest that you will tend to find yourself looking into. With lots of ruins for you to explore and loot to collect, it can be difficult to stop playing when you get into the core loop of the DLC — the boost of adrenaline an expansion should absolutely offer. Soaring around the skies of the Burning Shores with your mount will never get old.
Fleet’s End is the main Quen settlement of the area and it is going to act as your main base of operations while on the shores. While you navigate the bustling area of Fleet’s End you can use it to equip and upgrade yourself with all of the latest that the game has to offer in terms of equipment. Brimshine is the new resource that you will be using for a lot of purchases and upgrades.
Thankfully this resource feels fulfilling to collect due to its multi-tier crystal system with a few types of crystal caches you can find.
Related: How to Get Brimshine in Horizon Forbidden West Burning Shores: Best Brimshine Locations
Gameplay and Machines – A Well-Placed Arrow Won’t Always Save You With These Machines
There are four new machines that have made their entrance into the series with the Bilegut being one that you’ll see most often. The new Bilegut machine hops around like a frog and can easily wreak havoc on your health bar if you don’t target the underbelly weak spot. When I encountered this machine for the first time it had the adrenaline flowing as I navigated around its body to land precision bow shots.
The design of the new machines keeps things fresh because of their unique attack styles which pair nicely with the main gameplay. You can even get access to mechanics such as the Grapple Strike that will let you get close and personal with Machines when they’re knocked down after a jump.
One of the most exciting parts of the gameplay is that you will get access to a Zenith (high-tech) weapon that will act like a cannon. Attaching tracker bolts to machines and then firing with the Zenith weapon has an impressive game feel that rockets the DLC up to the highest echelons even more. Not just that but another new machine is the Waterwing which will let you soar underwater — a serene and enchanting experience that will have you wanting to dive under, time and time again.
New abilities such as the aforementioned Grapple Strike tie all of the gameplay together and the other abilities on offer add extra improvements. Being able to craft a deployable shield to crouch behind keeps you on your toes while trying to think of the best placement to gain an upper edge.
Along with the main gameplay, the side quests and general activities that you can play in Burning Shores are very well-crafted. Going along flight paths in Aerial Captures as a form of sightseeing activity from the original game is intrinsically gorgeous. There could have been a few more side quests for the DLC to buff it up more but the collectible hunting in the form of Dinosaur figurines certainly makes up for it.
Narrative and Story – Quen-Focused and Excellently Crafted Dialogue
The story centers around a new character and companion for Aloy named Seyka. Our protagonist’s new companion Seyka is one of the Quen marines who made their way to the Forbidden West but instead ended up on the Burning Shores. The reason for Aloy’s venture to the shores is to hunt for Walter Londra, one of the Zeniths who secluded themselves in the area. Walter is a highly egotistical man who will stop at nothing to ensure he gets what he wants.
The moments between Seyka and Aloy throughout the story have become some of my personal favorite interactions from the entire game — and not just the DLC. That is a large feat to pass and it is mostly in part to Seyka’s confident personality along with their incredible actor Kylie Liya Page who captures the hearts of the audience. Not only that but the bonding moments between Aloy and Seyka are always wholesome and sweet to watch. Seyka is a character that I would love to see more of in future games because of just how impactful she can be.
Related: How to Use Updrafts in Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores
Within five main quests for the DLC, Aloy is dedicated to finding Seyka’s lost sister. The narrative pulls at the heart like a tense bowstring about to fire an arrow into a machine as the story continues to draw players into the experience that awaits. Nonetheless, with just five main story quests it feels as though there could have been a few more added into the mix. The story is short but sweet with incredible set pieces throughout so it compensates for this.
The ending was a battle that I will remember for years to come. In order to avoid spoilers, specifics won’t be given but imagine combining everything you love about Horizon into one thrilling encounter — you will then be living the moments of the ending.
Technicality and Level Design – A Guerrilla Games Masterclass All Over Again
Each level is successful in the execution of design acumen with effective flow and pacing throughout. The area which stood out the most was Pangea Park, effectively a theme park with a heavy dinosaur focus. The blends of colors at night were stunning, and lurking in the tall grass to eliminate enemies around the park was everything needed to satisfy any stealth-game aficionado’s appetite.
With that said, every area of Burning Shores felt impactful and it is for that reason among others that the expansion has made a lasting impression on the mind. In terms of technicality, the same existing Horizon formula that we all know and love is still heavily rooted in the DLC.
One area that could have used some extra tweaks was the flying mechanics of the new Waterwing mount. It would have been nice if diving downwards in the air and pulling back up gave a speed boost. Similar to how the flying mechanics worked in the Batman Arkham games for example.
Soaring around in Horizon Forbidden West feels incredible but with the speedier movement at times from personal input it could’ve felt increasingly effective.
Music and Sound Design – Symphonies of Mechanical Wonder
Sound is what can make or break a game depending on how well it is implemented. The core mechanics could be captivating but without tailored audio, it can be difficult to get the full experience. Burning Shores’ audio design is without a doubt incredibly implemented.
Vocals from those such as Julie Elven continue to impress in the soundtrack. Traveling around on the seas with the all-new Skiff also feels just as great as it sounds. When sailing around you will hear each part of the wooden vessel cleaving its way through the rising tides.
The mechanical whirring of the machines, as you make well-timed arrow shots, tingles the auditory senses with every movement — it truly needs to be felt on a personal level while playing.
Related: Horizon Forbidden West: How to Craft Fast Travel Packs and Other Items
Verdict – A Fitting Expansion for Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is an apex of joy that not only solidifies Burning Shores’ effectiveness but also secures the future of the franchise strongly. With a story that grasps the heart for its entirety all the way through, and gameplay that matches the effectiveness of the main events, it is no surprise why fans will be venturing back and forth to the Burning Shores even after the credits roll.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
- This article was updated on April 25th, 2023