A little review of Horizon Forbidden West™: Burning Shores
In the spirit of writing more, I thought I'd take a crack at jotting down my thoughts on some of the games I've been playing lately, starting with Horizon Forbidden West™: Burning Shores. If you like this content, let me know in the comments or by emailing me!
The latest DLC for Horizon Forbidden West hit a few days ago, and in that time, I sat down and completed the main story and all the side quests. This new DLC introduced some updates regarding mechanics & gameplay, and the story. So let's dive into my thoughts on each below.
Heads up, there will be some spoilers here — particularly in the Story section. So if you don't want spoilers, get out of here and play the game!
If you want to skip some finer details, here's a TLDR: I enjoyed most of the story but wanted more. I felt somewhat neutral about the new mechanics & gameplay and left the burnt-out L.A. landscape wondering, "Why?" — and maybe a little burnt-out myself.
Mechanics & Gameplay
Horizon Forbidden West™: Burning Shores introduced a handful of new bits to fiddle with in the skill tree for each focus (warrior, hunter, and so on) — down at the bottom of the stack. While nothing particularly stood out to me as a total game-changer, I did have enough points to pick up all of them — but I didn't feel like I had much of a reason to employ any of these new mechanics. So I stuck with my " shoot things until it dies" or "just fling explosives at it" strategies. I'm not saying the new toys were terrible; I didn't feel like I got much of a chance (or reason) to use them.
We did get some new gear and a new currency — though I can't say why the new currency was introduced other than to make a little bit of a progression gate for those already wealthy at the end of the game. But, look, I already spent 60+ hours beating the game; let me go down to L.A. and buy all the new threads I want without having to hunt for some shiny new stones, please.
A few new robo dinos were introduced, one being a big frog-like thing that hops around and spits out flying eggs. Fights with these were fine, but all too often, I would get pegged against a wall or obstacle while the frog boy hopped around like mad and kept spitting out eggs (and eventually sticky glue) — leading to some frustrating and frantic fights.
The theme of "frustrating fights" could be my main takeaway from the DLC mechanics. Enemies felt like arrow sponges, and some more dramatic boss fights felt awkward and forced. There's a chance to take on a big Horus, and that fight felt like an exercise in patience more than an accomplishment or a big cinematic moment.
Overall mechanically & gameplay-wise, I'd say there were some neat new toys to fiddle with, some enemies to beat up, and intriguing boss fights, but aspects in each area fell a little flat for me.
Story and setting
I'll preface my take on the story with the news that, unfortunately, the story is getting review-bombed by the less-than-intelligent crowd. Any guesses why? Big spoiler here: Aloy finally has the option to find love with the new character introduced, Seyka, a woman — which upsets some people. Ah, bigotry.
I dug most of the smaller story beats introduced in Burning Shores while the plot felt rehashed. Some rich ancient person threatens the planet, Aloy (and her new pal Seyka) have to roam around the area figuring out why and how to deal with it, and then there's a showdown at the end, and the crisis is averted... which... is basically what happened in the base game.
Like I said, though; while the overall plot felt a bit flat, the new characters and subplots were where the DLC shined for me. Seyka is a character I love; she is headstrong, intelligent, and compassionate (just like Aloy) but in a unique way. She'd have my vote if they ever did a spin-off of Horizon with a new character.
The Quen are also intriguing, and we got a better glimpse into their structure and vibe. It took me a second to realize their "Compliance" officer was quoting some ancient corporate employee handbook to enforce their views, which had me chuckling.
Of course, the new setting was great; if one thing is consistently a treat in Horizon games, it's the world. Seeing familiar landmarks in a post-apocalyptic treatment the way Guerrilla Games does hasn't gotten old yet. I wish we had more reason to explore those areas, though.
Let's wrap up
You might be wondering if you've read down to here; wait, Dan, did you even like Burning Shores? Overall, it was decent and worth picking up for just $20. While I didn't walk away from the Burning Shores with a newfound love for the Horizon series, Guerrilla Games did a solid enough job with some incremental updates and experiments with where Horizon could go — I just wish we had a bit more time, or incentive, to also invest in those new... horizons.