While I do love an old adversary coming crawling back after a feud, I can also admit when I am wrong when it is I who must do the crawling. I was very vocally critical of Horizon Forbidden West last year for absolutely fumbling the end of its story and side-lining important characters to give Aloy artificial growth back to how she was through Horizon Zero Dawn, after making her insufferable through the sequel.
I was suffering a heavy bout of open world fatigue in the last dozen hours I played on Forbidden West (save your pity, I’m better now), and as a result just couldn’t enjoy the vast scope of the open world, or even understand how others could. Despite this, I found myself being swept along in the hype after the reveal of its upcoming expansion, Burning Shores. I was a little sceptical on why it was exclusive to the PlayStation 5, shunning the PS4 despite the base game being playable on it, but I left myself open to being surprised by what the team at Guerrilla Games could come up with.
I played through the admittedly short campaign within a couple days of launch, and to my surprise I realised I was rather enjoying everything about the expansion. The new machine designs are creative and a lot of fun to fight, and the decision to slap a Thunderjaw territory directly overlapping a Slaughterspine one, but where they don’t fight each, is sadistically stacked against the player and I cannot wait to attempt the fight as soon as I feel confident enough and have properly upgraded my gear.
The story was fairly basic but the villain throughout has leapt immediately into being one of my favourites from recent gaming. The only Zenith missing from the base game, Walter Londra (portrayed expertly by Sam Witwer) is an eccentric billionaire from the Old World who wants to escape Earth’s imminent threat by any means necessary. I won’t spoil how or why, but he stole the show in all of his handful of appearances across Burning Shores.
The final boss; the reason for why the expansion is exclusive to PlayStation 5 if you were wondering, is an absolute spectacle. I won’t elaborate here but if you scroll down past the review credits I have included some of my favourite photo mode shots I snapped during the epic conclusion. While the fight itself looked crisp and smooth throughout its entirety, the fight mechanics themselves were left fairly wanting by comparison, though not to the extent that they spoiled the showdown itself.
The new area is as big as it needs to be with glorious cascading rivers of lava and dotted islands which resemble modern day Los Angeles. I like that the developers went for a more compact and filled map size over the Forbidden West’s sprawling nothingness from last year. The new addition of a flying mount which can also travel underwater, the Waterwing, was a nice idea though feels let down somewhat by the fact there’s nothing to see underwater. The new mechanic of diving while mounted was used once in the story then never mentioned again, though in fairness I prefer that over trying to incorporate it needlessly in every mission after it is introduced.
Upon completion of the expansion I thought I’d go back to the base game for a little bit, with that ‘little’ eventually evolving into 20 hours. I still don’t think Aloy is as likeable as she was during the entire original game, but post-game Aloy is a lot more tolerable compared to the aggravating lone wolf mindset we had to play as for the majority of Forbidden West.
I recently purchased an OLED TV, and the game looks breath-taking on it. Forbidden West has always looked great in the visuals department, but now with the detail really cranked up to eleven I often find myself staring slackjawed at the veritable visual feast the game proudly displays in every vista.
My bubbling contempt for Horizon Forbidden West has been blown away in an ‘all is forgiven’ reconciliation through the Burning Shores expansion, and I recommend it to anyone with a PlayStation 5, regardless of your final opinion towards the base game. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and even with some light exploration and machine fights I could have avoided had I chosen, I completed it in around eight hours. It hasn’t reignited my interest in a sequel as Forbidden West’s ending thoroughly killed that in its final cutscenes, but now I am looking towards the recently confirmed Horizon 3 with a faint hope instead of abject despair.
Scoring the expansion solely on the merits contained within it, and not including my renewed enthusiasm towards the base game, I score Burning Shores
8 / 10
Written, edited and images sourced by Alexx.