Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores serves up fans a substantial dessert that brings the main course of the campaign to a satisfying conclusion. A dangerous new sandbox and a compelling story await Aloy, which offers a nice wrap-up that also offers some fascinating glimpses into the future.
Unlike Zero Dawn’s Frozen Wilds DLC, which was a nice but skippable side story, Burning Shores has enough episodic plot advancement to make it close to an essential game. Set shortly after the conclusion of the sequel, this brief story sees Aloy traveling to the volcanically eroded remains of Los Angeles to confront perhaps the most twisted villain of the series. The adventure takes some exciting turns and provides what I wanted most: a possible narrative blueprint for a third game. The conclusion of Burning Shores lays a good foundation for how Aloy and her friends will deal with the next threat, so PlayStation 4 owners have a good time watching it on YouTube. I also enjoyed spending more time with the Queen, my favorite faction in the Forbidden West, especially because she introduced us to Seika, Aloy’s new companion and one of Burning Shores’ primary attractions.
This capable warrior serves as the catalyst for the story of Burning Shores and remains by Aloy’s side throughout the expansion. Seyka is essentially a more charismatic version of Aloy herself: determined and sometimes bull-headed, but also gentle and loving to those in need, and with a lovely sense of humor to boot. While the blossoming of their bond seems a bit rushed to fit within the DLC’s short runtime, there are some amusing interactions between the two hunters, such as trading witty remarks while exploring a crumbling dinosaur theme park. I hope we see more of Seika in the future as she quickly rose to the upper echelon of the series’ best characters.
The islands that make up the former Tinseltown look surprisingly stunning; Volcanic lava rivers provide a great change of visual imagery. It’s a bummer that these molten hazards don’t factor more directly into the gameplay, but LA puts a fun emphasis on verticality that gets the most out of your flying mount. Skyscrapers boast hidden entrances and secrets located several floors above ground, allowing me to get the most out of my Sunwing or Waterwing, a new variation of Swimming that is now my favorite mount. The aerial versions of the puzzles in the VR scenes further encourage air travel, to the extent that flight engulfs Aloy’s new motorized boat. Despite being the central mode of transportation for Burning Shores, the boat’s slow speed and its access to docks can’t take away the thrill and convenience of flying anywhere at will (or fast travel, for that matter). As a result, I rarely used it outside the essential segment.
A handful of new machines that take over the burning shores, such as a giant frog and massive mechanical flies, aren’t as jaw-dropping as some of the existing machines, but they do provide enjoyable new tests of your combat skills. On top of blasting these enemies for new upgrade parts, I spent most of my time hunting a valuable new resource called Brimstone, the glowing crystal the primary crafting material for Burning Shores’ powerful legendary weapons and new suits of armor. as is used. I appreciate that brimstone is relatively abundant, allowing me to quickly build up a new arsenal and wardrobe.
Still, outside of gaining a powerful new firearm via the expansion, Burning Shores doesn’t offer features that dramatically shake up combat encounters. However, Seika’s almost constant presence makes her a welcome help in a fight. She’s really useful, often tearing apart enemies on her own or tying them to my ropecaster so I can go in for the kill. Early on, there’s a neat cooperative edge to the puzzle solving, as Aloy and Seika work together to create climbing routes for each other using siege weapons. These sequences can trick you into thinking you’re playing another real person, though I do wish these ladies had more obstacles to tackle together during the rest of the experience.
Burning Shores is an entertaining epilogue to Phase II of Aloy. It’s a more Forbidden West with a few cool wrinkles, which means it’s a nice reminder of the things the game did right while maintaining some old headaches (like holding hands during puzzles). More than anything, Aloy’s Hollywood journey justifies its existence by building meaningfully on the base game’s story, creating a solid runway for the next title.