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Horizon: Forbidden West was by far the biggest underdog we have since its predecessor. It stands tall over most open worlds I have played, thanks to its state-of-the-art technology that remains unparalleled in many aspects of open-world video game design. It also humanized Aloy a great deal when she finally opened up to people around her and forged interpersonal relationships. From surviving as an Outcast amongst Nora to becoming a formidable Outlander of the Forbidden West, Aloy has travelled long roads in search of her answers.

With the release of Burning Shores DLC content, the wizards at Guerilla Games are going all out with the end-game content, bringing us to the uncharted shores of post-post-post apocalyptic Los Angeles. There are new machines to hunt, new skills to unlock, and new faces to meet with improved exploration and combat mechanics.

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is a DLC expansion for Horizon Forbidden West exclusively on the PlayStation 5. It was released on April 19th, 2023. This expansion brings Aloy to the Burning Shores, a volcanic archipelago formed from the ruins of Los Angeles accessible after completing the main story.

In Pursuit of a Self-Proclaimed God

Burning Shores picks up right after the events of Forbidden West, so there will be major spoilers here as it is simply impossible to review them without them. It is only accessible once you beat the final mission called ‘Singularity’. 

Following the main quest, the player will receive a call over Aloy’s Focus, beginning the DLC. Slylens ( played by the legend Lance Riddick) then discloses to Aloy that one of the Zeniths named Walter Londra, a Zenith who used to be a Hollywood Celebrity back in the day, has managed to slip through her grasp, unfolding his evil schemes elsewhere. In her pursuit of Walter, Aloy crosses paths with Seyka, an officer of a Quen tribe platoon, stranded on the Burning shores. 

One by one Quen is losing its people on scouting expeditions and behind it all is Londra. Like most of the Zeniths, Walter is a pathologically narcissistic, self-absorbed individual with delusions of grandeur. He is terrified of the rogue AI known as Nemesis and desires to create a new world for him to rule over, far from the clutches of the vengeful composite being. Aloy along with Seyka takes up the stand against the last remaining Zenith to foil his narcissistic plans once and for all.

Overall, it’s a pretty decent plot for an expansion that may feel a bit short main campaign-wise which lasts up to 4-6 hours. There are two side-quests but both of them are well worth the time. While some of the quests share the same design as earlier, a lot has been improved in terms of traversal and exploration. The cast be it side quests or the main missions, gives a good performance. The late Lance Diddick as Sylens and Sam Witwer as Londra really stood out to me, thanks to their mysterious and narcissistic nature that adds depth to their characters. Lastly, there’s Seyka, who shares the same spirit as Aloy and makes up a formidable companion unlike any other. Overall, considering everything it’s a decent expansion that lasts anywhere up to 6-10 hours depending on how many side activities you take up.

Even though I do like the quest design in most cases and the option to disable navigation and solely rely on exploration, it can get pretty frustrating while doing the side chores. Like the main game, there are collectibles like Pangea figurines and aerial capture. Depending on your saves, you may come across bugs that may stop you from completing those activities.

For instance, in the aerial capture mission west, you are supposed to chase a storm bird into the clouds to stop the lighting and rain. For me this quest became glitched after the stormbird threw me off my mount, forcing me to respawn. Thereafter the quest just got stuck no matter how much I tried. The storm bird kept respawning even after being killed and the rain just never stopped, locking me out of the opening of one of the doors which got locked due to an electrical discharge caused by the rain. There were similar instances in other side activities but most of them got fixed upon reload, unlike this one.

The are also some quests that are just plain boring at times, especially the ones that involve finding a certain key or passcode. Such things are abundant in the game and this greatly slows down the pacing of the quests. Thankfully, the game’s finale and the final confrontation with Sondra make up for most of these shortcomings. In many ways, Sondra is a far more formidable antagonist than the base game villainous characters and wears his narcissistic Hollywood persona like a badge of honor.

Taking the Skies to The Ocean

Burning Shores takes a step up from Sunwings to Waterwings. Now you can dive with your mount and fly out of the water. It greatly eases the underwater traversal but the waters largely remain shallow. Burning Shores largely focuses on … you might have guessed it, it’s the shores. From Dino Park to Hollywood Boulevard, the volcanic Archipelago is full of things to explore. There are Aerial Capture missions that greatly showcase this. 

Burning Shores is a region full of volcanic islands, ancient secrets, and deadly machines. The expansion adds new quests, weapons, outfits, skills, and enemies to the base game, as well as a new cauldron to explore and override. 

To make things more interesting, Aloy has a new Zenith weapon at her disposal – the blaster which is sort of a machine gun that fires electrical pulses which do adequate damage. And lastly, the stealth takedown animations have been added and look pretty cool. The max level for Aloy has also been raised to 60. Upon loading the DLC, any ghost levels present for Aloy will be lost and will be returned to the players once they reach the max level.

PS5 Exclusive for a Reason

Horizon Forbidden West is easily the best-looking open-world title on PlayStation 5 that provides an unprecedented level of visuals without any sacrifices in terms of gameplay or performance. Even the loading screens are practically non-existent when fast-travelling in and out of the map of Burning Shores. Despite being several years old at this point, Horizon’s Decima Engine never ceases to amaze me.

With this expansion, Guerrilla has also made use of detailed 3D-cloud models that you can interact with in 3D space. Unlike flight simulators, this technology was never really in any of the AAA games we have seen in this modern age. The fact that you can dive into the deep oceans and reach beyond the clouds, makes this expansion a technological marvel.

Needless to say, some of the granular visual elements of the DLC are simply impossible to replicate on older-gen PS4 hardware and greatly showcase the capabilities of the new PS5, especially during its finale which is nothing short of a visual masterclass.

In addition to the gorgeous visual presentation, Burning Shores also manage to hold up in background score, thanks to the ingenious of Jordis de Man, putting out quality soundtracks one after another. Be it Killzone, Zero Dawn, or Forbidden West, he has been at it since the beginning and it looks like he ain’t stopping anytime soon.

Real Talk

If you liked Horizon Forbidden West, then you will love the new Burning Shores expansion. The expansion offers about 5-10 hours of gameplay, which may fall a bit short considering the main quests. The overall plot is engaging and has subtle twists and turns that go out with a bang in its final showdown. Largely it features the same well-liked gameplay with some subtle additions that improve upon them. It is undoubtedly the best-looking title on PS5, a technological marvel that is bolstered by a rock-solid performance on the PlayStation 5 hardware. However, in its current state, there are quest glitches and design choices in puzzles that may dampen the experience a bit. Still, it is an easy recommendation for Horizon fans and newcomers considering the availability of Horizon Forbidden West on PS Plus Extra.



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