Horizon Forbidden West Burning Shores Review: Everything you could ask for
With the release of Horizon Forbidden West in 2022, Guerrilla Games solidified Aloy as one of modern gaming’s best characters. Supported by robust RPG mechanics, impeccable world design, and a narrative that dips just enough into the camp sci-fi genre, following Aloy’s journey is some of the most fun I’ve had with my PS5 yet.
Those that finished the story of Horizon Forbidden West will know that the ending sets up a looming threat and inevitable third game. The Burning Shores DLC serves a specific purpose, tying up small loose ends from the main game, while also laying the foundations of what to expect next from Guerrilla.
As a heads up, we've done our best to keep this Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores review as spoiler-free as possible, but if you're worried about anything being ruined we'd recommend coming back after you've played.
What's cookin', good lookin'?
The events of Burning Shores bring Aloy to the ruins of LA, which are now a collection of small islands after a thousand years of tectonic movements have decimated the place. The area is very similar to the San Francisco area from Forbidden West, albeit around four times the size and even more gorgeous.
Rivers of lava punctuate the landscapes, while the ruins of skyscrapers tower over the crashing waves at their feet. Looking down on it from above, it’s clear to see why this DLC is only available on PS5 - it’s drop-dead gorgeous, and easily the prettiest overall image the new-gen console has been tasked with rendering yet.
The landscape of LA brings with it some new gameplay mechanics, too. Small clusters of geysers are scattered throughout battle arenas, allowing Aloy to gain height quickly with the use of her glider. While it would have been a little more height for them to be properly useful in infights, they serve as a great addition for spicing up the already fluid combat.
There’s another exciting weapon addition to be acquired during the main storyline of Burning Shores, too. Without giving away spoilers, it’s an exciting addition to Aloy’s arsenal and pairs seamlessly with the style of combat Horizon is best at - chipping away at armour to reveal weak points.
- Ever thought of walking across the whole Forbidden West map on foot? This is how long it would take you.
Aloy deserves the world
What shines through most in Burning Shores is the characterisation of Aloy herself. In Forbidden West, we saw how she developed into a leader - someone capable of uniting clans together against a common enemy. However, the Burning Shores DLC shines a much more personal light onto Aloy, pairing her with Seyka, an excellent addition to the cast.
Aloy is often criticised for constantly talking to herself in the Horizon games, but Burning Shores finally gives her an almost permanent companion to bounce off of. The chemistry between these two is electric, bouncing between flirtatious, encouraging, and even argumentative at times. Watching them come to terms with their different approaches to life is a joy to witness, and it all culminates in a tidy arc at the end of the main story.
What's going on here?
A few small quality-of-life updates go a long way with this DLC with the introduction of a Thalassophobia mode and an auto-pickup feature. Given that parts of the Burning Shores story involve diving into the deep abyss of the Pacific Ocean, it’s fantastic that Geurilla has made an effort to become more inclusive in its approach to design. The auto-pickup feature is a lifesaver, too, almost making me wish I’d waited until now to play through the original game.
Speaking of the original game, one thing that the Burning Shores DLC could have benefitted from is a story recap. It’s been over a year since Forbidden West first released, and for those who haven’t returned to the game since launch, there’s a lot to catch up on. The narrative beats of the 40-hour RPG stray into cosmic sci-fi at times, and with so many characters to keep track of, I found myself a little lost more than once while trying to comprehend the story.
Despite a few fumbles, Burning Shores is an essential pickup for anyone who’s invested in the Horizon storyline. The gameplay doesn’t do too much to differentiate itself from Forbidden West, but that’s hardly to its detriment. With plenty of side content, pristine locations to explore and intriguing characters to meet, Burning Shores is everything you could want from a Horizon expansion.
Now all that’s left to do is wait for Guerilla to close out the trilogy it’s spent the last six years setting up - and we can't wait to see the results.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5. Review code provided by the publisher.