If you enjoyed Horizon Forbidden West, you’ll like what Burning Shores has to offer. The story DLC adds a new weapon and likable characters, but the writing remains just as strange as the base game. If you weren’t a fan of the villains and storytelling of Horizon Forbidden West, Burning Shores is more of the same with an extra layer of wackiness. But if you enjoy hunting giant robot animals, Burning Shores offers more of that too.
Horizon Zero Dawn was a pleasant surprise when I first played it at launch. The world and characters are such a refreshing take on a post-apocalyptic world, and I do believe the game has one of the best combat systems of all time. The original game also has what I consider a very solid story, using a “show, don’t tell” technique combined with impressive world building for an all-new franchise. But, for all the improvements Horizon: Forbidden West made to its combat system, characters, and expanding the world, I was so disappointed by its story and villains. Unfortunately, none of that changes with Burning Shores.
The story DLC adds a new weapon, the Specter Gauntlet, which pretty much plays like a gun. It’s interesting enough and overall it’s a fine addition to Horizon’s already stellar combat system — just don’t expect anything groundbreaking. Seyka, Aloy’s new friend, is serviceable, and actress Kylie Liya Page delivers a solid performance opposite Ashly Burch. The location, which is Los Angeles, is stunning to look at with vivid colors and lush environments, but you wouldn’t recognize anything outside the Hollywood sign and TCL Chinese Theatre.
There are very few games that look as good and perform as well as Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores does
All those features in the DLC are great, and the game remains one of the best-looking games out there, but the story stumbles much like it did in the base game. Unlike Horizon Zero Dawn’s DLC, The Frozen Wilds, where it was mainly side quests, the events of Burning Shores is directly related to the main plot. If you didn’t like how Horizon Forbidden West’s story was handled, Burning Shores won’t change your mind.
All that is to say if you did enjoy Horizon Forbidden West’s story, then there’s little reason to not dive straight into Burning Shores. The $19.99 price tag is worth the 10 to 15 hours of entertainment you’ll get from the DLC, which does have some memorable zones and boss fights. Overall, the Los Angeles area is about 20 percent of the base game’s map, and you’ll often take to the skies since there are scattered islands throughout. The highlight for me is a zone that resembles a theme park, similar to Universal Studios, where there was actually some clever writing that reminds me more of the first game than the second.
There are a few side quests and you’ll run into a familiar face if you explore everything Burning Shores has to offer. Other activities include one Cauldron, a couple camps to clear, and flying events that reveal more lore. I did really enjoy the sole Cauldron in Burning Shores, full of well-designed climbing and platforming puzzles, culminating in an enjoyable boss fight. It does, however, feel like it’s something ripped straight out of the base game and doesn’t introduce anything new. What is new is the Waterwing mount, which not only takes to the sky but is also capable of diving underwater. It’s introduced in one of the DLC’s most memorable set pieces and makes exploration for completionists much more convenient.
It’s really impressive what Guerilla Games has managed to do with the PlayStation 5’s capabilities
As for the story, Aloy sets off to the Burning Shores after Sylens informs her of another Zenith threat. Much like the base game’s so-called villains, the main antagonist in Burning Shores is another eccentric billionaire who has spent centuries mastering the art of manipulation to create his own cult. Somehow, the literal brainwashing isn’t even the worst part about Walter Londra. His dialogue and motivations are predictable, and even the backstory elements related to Londra come across as cliché.
The DLC’s story itself is a predictable one, but it does lead up to a spectacle of a final boss fight, albeit a clumsy one. Underneath it all though, Burning Shores does manage to give Aloy some character development, which was lacking in the base game. The decisions made in the DLC have already caused a stir on the internet, but they represent a major step in making Aloy more of a human being than a hero.
Ultimately, one could argue Burning Shores is just another name for Horizon 2.5, serving as a prelude for the inevitable third game in the series. If you’re a fan of the first and second games, Burning Shores offers you more of what you already love.
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores was released on April 19, 2023 on PlayStation 5. This review is based on a retail copy of the DLC we purchased ourselves.