Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores Don’t Set Us On Fire | review

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores Don't Set Us On Fire |  review

Stripped and imbalanced

written by Lars Cornelis, op

A good expansion usually consists of the best of the main game, with a little twist. Horizon Forbidden West has also been expanded to that proven recipe. Built on the shoulders of a giant, but with new locations, missions, enemies and weapons, Burning Shores on paper has everything to keep you entertained for ten more hours.

Burning Shores takes place right after the end of Forbidden West. So you must also have completed the main story before you can start the expansion. Once you’re ready, you can expect a call from Sylens, one of the last roles played by the recently deceased Lance Reddick. On his advice, Aloy travels to California’s “Burning Coast”.

The area around what is now Los Angeles has been changed almost beyond recognition in the realm of the horizon by centuries of landslides and volcanic activity. Amidst the ruins and pyroclastic flows, a new evil is brewing. It is of course up to Aloy again to root and branch that out.

However, once there, something else is brewing. Aloy soon encounters Sika, the stranded Queen. They have a common goal of finding the missing Sika tribesmen, but it doesn’t take long for more to emerge between the two. It’s nice to see another side of Aloy so cool and heroic, but the question is whether this expansion is the best place for that.

Aloy and Seyka need quite a bit of time to thaw, but there isn’t a lot of time in this expansion. So almost all of the missions are part of one continuous story to give the two ladies as much screen time as possible, but even then their respective stories feel rushed. A specific visit to an abandoned amusement park feels like a page straight out of the script for The Last of Us: Part 2. But then with dialogue that sometimes gets cut off or broken because Seyka accidentally stays somewhere. Horizon is simply not the last of us in terms of scaling.

Horizon is good at completely different things, like fighting with giant robots. But that too is pushed to the background a bit in Burning Shores. There are hardly any new enemies, and therefore hardly any challenging encounters. It’s as if the game is saving its gunpowder for the last battle, and it’s so explosive that sometimes you can only dodge and hope for a good outcome.

This final battle is also the only moment that somewhat explains why Burning Shores only appears on PlayStation 5, and not on PS4 like the main game. Anyone expecting some sort of next-gen Horizon because of this exclusivity will be disappointed.

Other activities can literally be counted on one hand. Cutting off the abundance of public symbols on the map is not a problem. For example, we can miss Metal Flowers and Firegleam as a toothache. But nothing replaces it either. So there is almost no reason to explore the landscape.

In fact, self-exploration is actively counteracted by making certain areas inaccessible until you visit them on a story mission. So Burning Shores has become almost a linear adventure. It’s a great contrast to Forbidden West, where main and side quests were nicely balanced and enjoyed plenty of freedom.

This way you browse the available missions in a nutshell and after about twelve hours you will have already scraped the bottom of the can. Burning Shores isn’t bad, as it’s built on the rock-solid foundation of Forbidden West, benefiting from a fluid combat system and eye-catching graphics, especially when the mountainside is ominously lit by swirling lava flows. But where The Frozen Wilds was still kind of a pressure cooker version of Horizon Zero Dawn, with all the ingredients at an extra high concentration, Burning Shores feels unbalanced.

Both Aloy’s personal development and her discoveries are an important premise for Horizon 3, and it’s also nice to see Lance Reddick as Sylens again. For fans, that’s reason enough to travel south. But with a place as interesting as the volcanic ruins in Los Angeles, you’d expect more proverbial landslides.

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is now available on PlayStation 5

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