So I want to start off by saying that I’m a big fan of the Horizon series. I really enjoyed both Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West. In recent memory, these games are probably my favorite first-party games to play and get lost in. That said I was a bit underwhelmed with the narrative of Forbidden West and going into Burning Shores I wondered if they would veer back on course. So does the Horizon Burning Shores DLC deliver the goods?
Let’s dive into it.
One flaw of Horizon Forbidden West was its narrative. It had a slow start and then the ending felt abrupt. The same can’t be said with Burning Shores. This DLC narrative started strong and remained intriguing the whole way through.
The main antagonist in Burning Shores is far more interesting than any that we experienced in Forbidden West. The stakes are still high as always, but the confined story gives us time to sit with the villain.
The narrative of Burning Shores feels a lot more confined and focused than Forbidden West. A choice that pays off in a major way. The stakes, while still large feel smaller and less grand. This choice was the right one as we had time to get to know the area and its occupants in a much more intimate way that resonates more than the main game.
The Side Quests:
The side quest in Horizon Forbidden West was amazing. Many of which provided fantastic smaller-scale stories. In fact, a critique of mine about Forbidden West was that the main narrative wasn’t as compelling as the majority of the side quests. Thankfully the side quests in the Burning Shores DLC continue to hit hard. While there are only a few of them, the personal stories that Aloy encounters help flesh out the lore of the Quen and the Burning Shores. Again this is only a smaller DLC, but the quality of these stories makes me wish that there were more of them.
Burning Shore’s gameplay takes what was presented in Forbidden West and adds some sprinkles to what was already a good sundae. The gameplay is still the same but with some new additions. For example, there are new skills that you can unlock in the skill trees.
Here are my favorites. The Hunter branch has this amazing one where you can grapple to a downed enemy and do a diving critical hit. The Trapper branch has a skill where you heal from dropping a smoke bomb. I didn’t find the need to use the smoke bombs in Forbidden West, but now with that additional healing incentive, I found myself using it and thus playing the game slightly differently.
The enemies that you encounter are relatively the same as the Forbidden West with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is an insane boss fight at the end of Burning Shores that’s a genuine spectacle to see. It’s one of those moments of gameplay that feels like it’s using the power of the PS5. The new machines like the Bilegut and the Waterwing are nice additions to the lineup of machines. The Bilegut is like a giant frog machine that spits out eggs and launches poison at you. Its eggs hatch into drones that have their own electric attacks. The Bilegut is a nice new addition to the machines you face due to its wide array of attacks that you have to be on guard against. The Waterwing is like a machine version of a pelican. It is similar to the other flying mount, the Sunwing, but the Waterwing can fly in the skies and underwater. I love that the transition to going underwater and flying back into the sky is seamless. This is the best way to traverse in the game overall now.
Seyka is a new Quen ally and she is one of the best new characters in the game. Her dynamic and chemistry brought out a new aspect of Aloy’s personality that was missing in the previous stories. The back and forth between Aloy and Seyka reminded me a bit of Uncharted The Lost Legacy and that’s a formula Guerrilla Games may want to stick with going forward with Aloy.
It was great to see Sylens. Ever since the late, great Lance Reddick passed away I wondered how the Horizon Series would approach his character. While he’s only in the Burning Shores sparsely it was nice to see him.
An aspect that I enjoyed about the Horizon series is the abundant amount of collectibles that you can acquire. Burning Shores adds to that list with Porcine figures. While it’s unfortunate that the game doesn’t give you a super compelling reason to care about these Porcine figures, it’s cool that they are there. There are a few additional collectibles from the mainline game to find as well.
Just like Horizon Forbidden West, Burning Shores is a visual spectacle. The environments like the volcanos, buildings, and lush jungles are so vivid, vibrant, and beautiful. I found myself often stopping to admire the way the sun reflects off of the rolling waves and how detailed the machines are. This game is perfect for those that have a Nice large TV. It’s truly eye candy.
Overall/Should You play Horizon Burning Shores:
I think that depends on how big of a fan you are of the Horizon games. If you didn’t enjoy those games then of course the answer is no. Burning Shores isn’t going to change your mind. On the flip side, if you enjoyed them then the answer is yes. Burning Shores offers more of what you love with a better narrative than what we got with Forbidden West. This DLC fleshes out Aloy and puts that personality on display in a way that was missing in Forbidden West. Burning Shores feels like the epilogue that we should have gotten in Forbidden West. It gives the big revelation at the end of Forbidden West time to breathe while also amplifying it in a way that adds weight to it. Horizon Burning Shores overall are the best example of what the franchise can be when its narrative and characters are the main focus.
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