Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores on PS5
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is an interesting proposition. While it largely offers more of the same that the base game did in terms of gameplay, it elevates it with an interesting story that more or less sets the scene for what’s to come in the franchise. Throw in some exciting new machines, characters you’ll love and hate (in a good way), and strong additions to Aloy’s arsenal of abilities and weapons, and fans of the series won’t want to skip this trip to LA.
Burning Shores takes Aloy to a selection of scattered isles which make up the remains of Los Angeles. Set off the south coast of Forbidden West’s main map, our protagonist ventures out there in search of answers to do with the Zeniths and the major threat revealed at the end of the main game. Destined to do Sylens’ dirty work yet again, Aloy flies her way over, only to be immediately shot down by a rather hostile tower and inadvertently meets Seyka, an all-new character who makes up part of a tribe that lives out here.
One of Burning Shores’ biggest strengths are the main characters it introduces. Seyka is a welcome ally to Aloy in this new land, just as ambitious, frequently overstepping her bounds in the eyes of her clan. On the other hand, you have antagonist Walter Londra, who has an army of loyal cultists… essentially, doing his bidding and assumes the role of the big bad rather well.
Cult leader doesn’t quite do him justice, though. Walter Londra is a man who’s made millions (possibly billions) off mining and exploiting those that did the dirty work for him. His intentions are sinister and he isn’t afraid to manipulate those around him to get what he desires.
What immediately struck me in the opening hour or so is just how excellent the voice acting is, Aloy, Sylens, Seyka and particularly antagonist of the expansion Londra all deliver their lines with vigor, passion, curiosity and at times, hesitance. It’s the sort of production values we’ve come to expect from first-party Sony exclusives, and if you thought corners may be cut due to Burning Shores being an expansion, you can rest easy. The game runs, looks and sounds just as you’d hope.
Similarly strong is the narrative Burning Shores spins. It manages to set the scene for what’s to come in the inevitable next entry in the series by very clearly outlining Aloy and co.’s next tasks. It establishes Seyka as a powerful, loyal companion for our protagonist, and provides a little more context to the mysterious looming threat that is Nemesis. The main storyline can be completed within 6-7 hours if you make a beeline through it and ignore the various side quests and activities fleetingly scattered across the Burning Shores, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s short and sweet, ensuring it doesn’t outstay its welcome, while filling that gap between one of 2022’s best action games and what’s to come in the future.
Outside of that, Burning Shores really does feel like more of the same, both for better and worse. Its environments are just as jaw-droppingly beautiful and well-crafted, with open areas making for colosseum-like combat against a multitude of new machines. The flying Stingspawn are bug-like and weak, but often come in droves, demanding you split your attention between them and, often, a much larger enemy like its acid-filled, fellow newcomer, the Bilegut. This giant toad-like creature really tests your combat ability, and will also likely test your patience if you don’t take the time to study its weaknesses via your Focus. Its got a hefty health bar and its penchant for bouncing around makes it a tricky customer to deal with.
That being said, I did find a few of the major combat set-pieces drag on a little bit too long, becoming more of a slog than an exciting, adrenaline-fueled deconstruction of the mechanical monstrosities that were hunting me down. While the new machines that are added all offer enough variety in how you’ll need to approach them, I did find myself longing for one or two more to really make the remains of LA feel as fresh as I’d hoped during the circa 10 hours I spent exploring it.
To help balance the playing field, Burning Shores also adds in a handful of new skills and abilities for Aloy to make use of in battle; the most useful and enjoyable during my time being the new Grapple Critical Strike skill. This enables you to grapple to a stunned machine and deliver a critical strike from afar.
It keeps the pacing of the action up, preventing you from having to trudge your way over to an enemy you’ve just nailed straight in the face with one of your ranged weapons to deliver the crushing blow. Others are welcome additions depending on your playstyle, but as someone who likes to keep their distance from the perilous jaws of my enemies, this was the real star of the show.
It’s not just skills, Aloy also gets access to a new weapon. I won’t dive into the details to save you from spoilers, but it’s suitably powerful and became a crutch for me during those longer, more arduous combat encounters in the late-game.
All in all, Burning Shores is a solid expansion to Horizon Forbidden West that fans of the series will want to play before the inevitable sequel. It’s teeming with more sci-fi story goodness, and Los Angeles is a stunning new environment to explore, complete with all of the Horizon side activity trimmings we’ve come to know and love ticking off our map. While the offering of new monsters, and some of the combat scenarios felt a little underwhelming, as a package, it’s well worth the ticket to entry.
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores
4 / 5
Reviewer: Chris Jecks | Award: Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by Publisher.
- The ruins of LA are a visual treat.
- Seyka and Londra are the stars of the show.
- Helps set up the inevitable next entry in the series.
- New machines are varied and make for (mostly) exciting combat scenarios.
- Some combat sections can feel a little laborious.
- Few new enemy types fail to keep things as fresh as I’d hoped.
April 19, 2023
Sony Interactive Entertainment