On April 19th, 2023, Guerilla Games released the Burning Shores DLC for Horizon Forbidden West. The DLC is a story expansion taking place after the main game of Forbidden West where Aloy is pulled into a ploy by an escaped Far Zenith member aiming to go back into orbit but leaving the world an uninhabitable wasteland way before Nemesis arrives.
Perhaps not as vital to the entire canon, Burning Shores does have a few things worth noting especially for new players who don’t particularly have a reason to go back to the game but may be interested in coming back to Horizon Forbidden West for another playthrough.
So for $19.99, is Horizon Forbidden West’s first story expansion worth it? Read on.
SPOILER WARNING: THE CONTENT OF BURNING SHORES OCCUR AFTER THE GAME’S MAIN STORY AND IS RECOMMENDED FOR THOSE WHO HAVE FINISHED THE HORIZON FORBIDDEN WEST’S MAIN STORY. MAJOR GAME DETAILS AHEAD.
Plot: The Surviving Far Zenith
Many of what transpired in the first game’s expansion (Frozen Wild) isn’t really key to the canon and Forbidden West’s Burning Shores DLC is much in the same vein. They are still part of the grand picture of the Horizon franchise but serve more as a sandbox to try new things that they left out early on the first version of the game.
Story-wise though, Burning Shores main plot revolves around a Far Zenith member, Londra. Much like the rest of the Far Zenith members, Londra is an important figure in Earth during his time, allowing him to buy his way into the Odyssey colony space ship.
Immediately after the end of Forbidden West, Aloy can finallly take a breather but Sylens has another mission for Aloy and he brings up the case of the surviving Far Zenith. Letting him free isn’t an option so Aloy sets out to exploring the Burning Shores aka Los Angeles, home of the LA Lakers!!!
In her search, we discover members of the Quen who were lost in their expedition but not before being fired at by defense towers set-up by Londra, our rogue Far Zenith, to defend himself. He knows Aloy is coming and has prepared for this eventuality.
The story then proceeds to tell us in-fighting within the Quen’s hierarchy as well the usual personal side stories of other characters including some surprise characters we didn’t expect will be here, like another delver friend of Aloy’s.
The major key plot point here is Londra and the Quen marine, Seyka. Advancing the main plot pretty much means dealing with how to get to Londra and having Seyka around.
No further exposition about Nemesis is given and minor additions to the story are sparse.
It is worth-noting this is one of Lance Reddick’s post-humous acting performance alongside John Wick 4. Its a bittersweet moment for those who have come to love his work and seeing this man who has graced our screen again after his passing.
Guerilla Games acknowledges Lance’s memory in the credits.
There are some key gameplay additions that should be of note to those that like Horizon’s combat system. Notable are new skills that get added in the skill tree which adds new combat techniques for Aloy such as the machine grapple strike and more. This adds some vertical flare to your combat arsenal and lets those who have a healthy knowledge of the game’s mechanics to perform more theatrical approach in combat. They are still quite usable for average encounters but at this point in the game, even on the hardest difficulty, I prefer whipping out my spike thrower. Your mileage will vary of course.
We also get introduced to Aloy’s first personal firearm that’s not a projectile shooter. The weapon is relatively powerful and easy to master. It does require ammunition but is a quick and powerful way to deal with enemies you don’t want to spend time on with your arrows.
Speaking of enemies, the introduces a giant toad machines as the Burning Shores big machine, in the same class as the Tremortusk but much, much more agile. These are called the Bilegut and they are large machines that leap a lot with acid sacs on their body. What’s more annoying is they are always accompanied by fly/bee-like machines called Stingspawn. They “hatch” from eggs and immediately seek you out once spotted. They always spawn in groups and are in massive numbers in the DLC’s cauldron.
Burning Shores’ cauldron THETA isn’t as hard cauldron KAPPA, but features its own set of obstacles that require some finesse and puzzle solving to get your way through. It does feel uninspired though and features a massive lack of what could’ve been a nice integration of new things you have in Burning Shores.
Cauldron THETA grants you override controls of the new machines BUT not the new Waterwings.
The Waterwing is a variation of the Sunwing to which we already have the override code for. But we still need the data to allow this override. The waterwing override is integrated into the story and you will need to progress to obtain this override. Once you do, Aloy chooses to lose her breather mask and give it to Seyka (for the moment) so you’re temporarily back to holding your breath when the Waterwing dives. This is happening in a race against time to dodge Londra’s defenses as you take the Waterwing fly above water for a quick breath and then dive back down again to dodge enemy fire.
And it never happens again.
As fun as that introductory segment was, there’s no other significant reason in having a Waterwing. The machine can’t fight underwater and having it also doesn’t allow Aloy to fight in the deep. Its just another way to get around if you’re tired of the skies. Unfortunately, it’s gimmicky and besides its story significance, doesn’t hold water for the game as a whole.
The DLC adds a new set of collectibles as well which also adds achievements to the game. There is also a new set of Arena Challenges which round out of the addiitons… but there’s one more.
Romance for Aloy has been very vague up to this point and Burning Shores became highly controversial when it introduced us to the first ever romance option for Aloy.
We’ve seen Sun King Avad hit on Aloy before as well as other characters. Fans have also made their voices heard on who maybe Aloy’s ideal in-game romantic partner. But Forbidden West near its end introduces us to Elisabet Sobeck’s backstory and her romantic link with Tilda van der Meer.
While the two didn’t have the best of endings, Aloy still has yet to open up to someone and connect with romantically. Guerilla Games then drops this bombshell with Seyka confessing her love to Aloy after the DLC’s final battle.
Players are now given the option for Aloy to say yes to Seyka, or turn her down.
And this has really become a controversial topic amongst players who at this point never expected this kind of option in the game. Many have questioned the decision to have a female as Aloy’s first possible romantic interest. Many have called out the activist agenda behind it. And many have called out that Aloy and Seyka, could’ve only spent no more than 2 in-game days to have Seyka going head over heels over Aloy.
But this is my review, so hear me out: it is possible Guerilla Games is taking player choices in this specific scene to survey how players are going to accept this choice. With that information in hand, they can then draw on how to finally close Aloy’s story and give her a romantic send-off as well.
Social media aside, those who are not pleased tend to be the loudest but I also believe the Horizon fandom is also a very passionate one and the glue that holds us altogether is Aloy.
I am not against Aloy being in a relationship. I am not against Aloy falling in love in mere hours. I am not against Aloy falling in love in battle, heck we’ve seen it with Johnny Sasaki confessing to Meryl in Metal Gear Solid 4. And that’s an important precedent.
As much of a narrative control as the writers have with Aloy, the difference here is that Seyka just came out of nowhere and she has yet to connect with the audience. Aloy is your main character, the strongest character bar none in Horizon. But we’ve seen her fail many times over. We’ve seen her at her weakest. We’ve had time to take everything that Aloy is.
Seyka on the other hand is a loving sister. A competent fighter. A dedicated tribe member. But we can say the same for Erend. We can say the same for Varl (he did end up with Zo). Heck, even the same for Chief Hekarro or Kotallo.
I’m really sorry Seyka for what I have to say but…. Seyka doesn’t have anythiing to make her stand-out amongst anyone who Aloy has associated with. For an individual who has been presented us as asexual and has lived her life in isolation, Rost (Aloy’s adoptive father) is the image of what Aloy could love and Aloy love’s her father very, very much. This is proven time and again in Zero Dawn and Forbiddent West.
But there is an individual who Aloy has a soft spot for. And is also female: Talanah Khane Padish. Barring the technological understanding of their world, Talanah is an equal to Aloy in all her merits. Perhaps more hot-blooded than the inquisitive Aloy, Talanah’s in-game presence has shown she’s one of the most capable females in the game. This gives her a connection to Aloy and to us, the players, because Aloy acknowledges that.
The Burning Shores DLC is quite entertaining in terms of combat but doesn’t add enough to the game to be considered a must-buy. It does add enough story to make you comeback for a few hours to enjoy the game again and it rewards you with a decent final boss fight as well as some new skills you can use to complete the new set of achievements.
If you’re a Horizon fan, it does add some key details that may be included in the future of Horizon but with Nemesis approaching, I personally don’t feel romance as a primary motivation for Aloy but if Guerilla really wants to cap her story, they have to do it right. And its disrespectful to force it via a short DLC.
Plot gripes aside, I don’t feel the combat mechanics and new enemies are worth the full price and returning players can rest easy that the social media backlash is all the buzz we’re going to get from this game.