Title: Horizon Burning Shores
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: April 19, 2023
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
I was pumped to hear that Horizon Forbidden West’s DLC would be set in Los Angeles. What would the city look like now? Would we recognize it?
Because Horizon Burning Shores’ story continues directly from the ending of Horizon Forbidden West, I will discuss spoilers for the base game in order to adequately analyze the expansion.
With a packed late Spring/early Summer release lineup, people speculate that this DLC will fall under the Horizon curse. It may matter due to your budget. Is the game worth it? Do you get a lot of bang for your buck?
Let’s discuss all that and more.
As a reminder, this DLC is only available on the PlayStation 5. If you started the game on the PlayStation 4, you don’t need to play the entire game again. You can transfer your save data to a PlayStation 5 and continue from there. My brother tested that for me and he was successful in entering the Burning Shores.
South of the Forbidden West sits a land called the Burning Shores. What was once Los Angeles is now a series of volcanic islands. Sylens discovered that 13 Zeniths came to Earth at the beginning of Horizon Forbidden West. When Aloy and her team confronted the Zeniths at the end of the game, they only defeated 12.
So who is the 13th? Why did he go to the remains of Los Angeles? Does he have answers to the problem that is Nemesis?
After an abrupt arrival at the Burning Shores, Aloy meets Seyka. A member of the “lost” half of the Quen expedition that we learn about from Alva in Forbidden West. Aloy discovers most of them are still alive. But some have gone missing.
As for the gameplay, controls and combat are the same as in the base game.
I came in over-leveled. But I‘m not sure that’s something you can prevent. Perhaps if you avoid every side quest in the game. But even then, I was at level 50 long before I reached the final battle. They do up the level cap on the game so you can gain more EXP and make more additions to your skills tree. I closed out four of the six trees using those extra points. I don’t think this was as balanced as it could have been.
Despite playing it down on Story Mode, the base game presented enough of a challenge while allowing me to engage with the story. But within this DLC, only a few machines felt like they dented my health. And one of those was the final boss.
Once you start the adventure, you can hop from the base game’s map to the DLC’s.
One thing I’d do, if I had it to do over again, is get the legendary Tripcaster. I mentioned in a Banter a few weeks ago that I started a new playthrough of Horizon Zero Dawn and have fallen in love with the tool.
What’s New In Horizon Burning Shores?
This expansion brings an entirely new map to the game. For reference, it is between 25-33% of the size of the base game’s. While there are campfires and shelters, there is only one main settlement on this map, located on a central island. There is so much land and sea to explore; you might see some familiar sites from the real Los Angeles. I guessed correctly in a banter about one of the locations!
There are four new machines. Three of them can be encountered regularly on the map. The first is the Bilegut, which resembles a frog. You also meet the Stingspawn and the Waterwing. Stingspawn are easily one of the most effortless machines to take down. They are also the first second-generation machine we’ve seen in the franchise. Bilguts lay eggs, and Stingspawn hatches out of those eggs. You can even kill them before they hatch from the balloons. These balloons look like the ones you get when you create a trap. Waterwings are birds that can dive and fly. They aren’t too dissimilar from Sunwings to take down, but diving with them is fun.
As for the fourth, it’s the final boss, and defeating it is a lengthy process. It’s challenging and the most complicated machine fight to date.
I was fortunate that I already had ammo for their weaknesses. If you lined up the legendary weapons for the final battle in the base game, you’re more than alright to proceed.
As for how often you encounter your new friends, it depends. Like animals, machines have their unique migration patterns. When it’s a story point, the game loves to throw them at you. But in other cases, it throws old favorites. I probably set my best time on defeating a Thunderjaw.
For me, the new machines were fun to engage with. It’s a great mix so that you don’t get sick of the new machines, but you don’t get bored seeing the same things you saw on the base map.
You get a new legendary weapon, a Zenith Gauntlet. I will say that I barely touched it when I played, as it’s not built for my playstyle. It’s a glove with ranged capabilities, but it encourages you to stay closer to enemies. Traditionally, I stay far back and pick machines off like a sniper.
I’d love to see someone who can embrace that style and could properly use it. It seems cool. It has target-seeking capabilities – a first for the franchise.
I primarily used my Sharpshoot Bow, Shredder Gauntlet, and Spike Thrower.
While I stuck with what I earned in the base game, there are 11 new weapons open to you in the DLC. Except for the new Legendary Weapon, you get them from the merchants in town.
Very Rare Weapons
Adhesive Warrior Bow
Blackride Sharpshot Bow
Icestorm Bolt Blaster
Thunderbolt Shredder Gauntlet
Legendary Weapons – note all of these cost 8 Brinstone along with shards and parts
The Emperor’s Reign – Hunter Bow
Eye of the Storm – Warrior Bow
Graveslinger’s Lament – Sharpshot Bow
The Tie That Binds – Ropecaster
Eternal Vengeance – Boltblaster
Distant Thunder – Shredder Gauntlet
Three new side quests accompany the new storyline. One of them is one of my favorites in the franchise. It sends you off to solve a mystery. You uncover the story and the truth of what happened in four locations.
What is a Horizon Game without a cult of some kind? Over the course of the story, you end up taking out one of the leaders. The rest are not happy with this development. Throughout the map, you’ll encounter a few of their camps.
These act just like rebel camps on the main map. Go in, defeat the devotees, and you’re done. These are not on the beaten path, so explore the map to find them all.
There are four of these in each of the cardinal directions. You find the signal, find the origin, and follow its path. My biggest issue with these is that you must be on your Sunwing, which doesn’t bank the best.
With new machines comes the need for new overrides. Multiple puzzles await you inside while you make your way to the core. I found it to be an incredibly unique cauldron. It requires a mix of problem-solving, combat skills, and some lucky timing.
Inside you will encounter burrowers, Bilegut, and Stingspawn. I’m going to spoil something here because I honestly wish I could have mentally prepared. An area towards the end of the cauldron is filled with Stingspawn eggs. And when I say full, I mean packed. This area was straight out of a Halloween Horror Night at Universal Orlando. If you do not like bugs, like me, just try to get through quickly.
This picks up right where Horizon Forbidden West left off. When I finish my playthrough of Horizon Zero Dawn, I want to dive back into Horizon Forbidden West. I want to see how much time passes between the end credits and Sylen’s call. He asks you to meet at Tilda’s house because he found something interesting in Zenith’s database. Once you arrive and speak with him, you can head for the Burning Shores immediately. I suggest stopping off somewhere and ensuring you’re well stocked for the DLC’s initial encounter.
From there, it weaves a tale, answering all the questions I asked in the synopsis. And, in the end, It does an excellent job of truncating the franchise’s formula.
As I mentioned above, this story digs deeper into the Quen. You get a better picture of what Quen society is like, and their leadership struggle. Along the way, you also sew the seeds of rebellion.
Seeing this society from different viewpoints – as you’ll meet a lot of Quen who think a lot of different things – enriched the story. I’m a sucker for character elements, and Horizon Burning Shores does not disappoint.
In looking at Horizon Burning Shores’s climax versus Horizon Forbidden West’s climax, Horizon Burning Shores is superior. It takes a lot longer to get through and has layers upon layers when defeating the final boss, and for me, it was a better experience overall.
And, of course, Aloy gets another love interest. But this one is different. This time, Aloy seems to feel the same way. Throughout the DLC, the hints and teases of something more keep you guessing to the end. There you have to help Aloy decide. Will she respond with compassion, intelligence, or aggression? The choice is yours to make and will affect how Horizon Burning Shores comes to a close.
As always, I’m in love with the graphics. The details on the shrubbery, The shades of blue on the water. The stars at night. You can practically see the heat come off the lava.
These developers came off the triumph that was Horizon Forbidden West to make a DLC that enhanced the whole experience of the game.
I had no problems running Horizon Burning Shores. If you haven’t played in a while, just a heads up, there is a massive update on top of downloading the DLC. Once those were out of the way, the game seamlessly transitioned into the DLC.
At one point, I did an aerial tour of the map – it was how I found the Cauldron. It was fascinating to see the map from above.
I docked Horizon Burning Shores points for its issues with challenge and balance.
Earlier in this review, I revealed I play in Story Mode. So, why didn’t I turn the difficulty to easy or medium if I wanted a challenge? After all, the leveling issues are the main reason I took away a star. For me, that took it from a game that would earn an A on its report card, to a B.
In my opinion, I shouldn’t have to turn up the difficulty to get more of a challenge. Despite what level I play on, the game should grow increasingly more challenging. And if I see leveling issues down at Story Mode, I can’t imagine the higher difficulties.
But beyond that, this was an excellent DLC worth the money. Between all the material, I’ve been occupied for close to 15 hours. And I still have more to do. With all of the extras on top of the main storyline, it’s worth the investment. There’s also my theory about the story.
Will this DLC influence Horizon Game 3?
It is my hypothesis that it will shape how we enter the third game. It also does some character moments with Aloy that will be revisited when we return to this world. It adds to what we know about the Zeniths while painting a picture of Nemesis who we all know will be the final boss in the next game.
Horizon Burning Shores was a genuine compliment to the base game by adding to the story and giving us a more satisfying climax.
Please keep in mind that you can only play Horizon Burning Shores on the PlayStation 5.
In the end credits, they dedicate their work in loving memory of Lance Reddick. Thank you, Lance, for giving us Sylens. We will miss you.
How did you like Horizon Burning Shores? Please share your thoughts with us on our Boss Rush Facebook Group or our Boss Rush Discord!
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