Horizon Forbidden West Burning Shores Review – That’s Gaming

Horizon: Burning Shores took me by surprise. After spending over seventy hours in the already vast world of Forbidden West, the end of the game still left me feeling a bit like I wasn’t quite done. Where the series really has a good place with me, I didn’t quite agree with some of the choices that were made, but how well was I wrong say.

Set in the immediate aftermath of Horizon: Forbidden West, Burning Shores takes Aloy further down the robot-ravaged U.S. West Coast in search of a new lead from Sylens (voiced again by the late Lance Reddick) that could prevent Earth’s second extinction and the looming threat of Nemesis hanging over the game’s 2022 climax. After an emergency landing lands her in a new coastal settlement created by the Quen, the data-based sailors players first encountered during the Forbidden West campaign, Aloy soon becomes involved in helping new ally Seyka. The direct bond between these two determined warriors is at the heart of Burning Shores’ story.

With Forbidden West so focused on the bigger picture, I felt it often failed to tell the smaller, in-between stories that Zero Dawn did so well, especially when it came to Aloy. Burning Shores feels like a correction from developer Guerilla Games in that area, giving Aloy room to breathe in a story that is as connected to her as it is to the broader world. Our superheroic Nora champion is allowed to be charming, funny, confident and even fearful – a three-dimensional character. While the overarching story is as loud as can be, with set pieces that even Michael Bay would find too much, subtle moments of character development take place beneath the surface. This quality was severely lacking in large parts of the Forbidden West campaign, but is evident here and lifts every other aspect of the game to a higher level.

Of course, this is an expansion, so not much has fundamentally changed: the gameplay remains the same and very entertaining, four new enemies have been added. The first encounter with the massive Bilegut, a giant robot frog, provides an impressive reintroduction to combat. Not only is the Bilegut huge, but it is surprisingly agile, has the ability to grab with its tongue and generates Stingspawn; another new machine. I often found myself distracted by fending off these flying critters while the larger enemy waited to strike. Here stealth is the recommended option, it would turn out. Another new addition is the Waterwing; a combined air and water machine that Aloy will become quite familiar with, while the final, and most terrifying, enemy Aloy will face is not revealed here so as not to give anything away.

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Where I’m going to give a little less detail for a moment are the new weapons, but there are a host of legendary weapons and armor pieces to unlock; each with its own subtleties. Ten new skills have also been added to Aloy’s skill trees, all of which were easily incorporated into my arsenal and even allowed me to experiment with new gameplay techniques as I approached 100 hours. Targeting the new arcane weapon while hovering still leaves some to be desired, but I especially love the healing smoke bombs that do exactly what they promise. Though perhaps my favorite new move is Machine Grapple, a skill that allows Aloy to cling to fallen enemies before delivering a devastating blow. As always, players in Horizon can customize Aloy’s skills to their liking, and the new abilities make for increasingly dynamic enemy encounters.

Enhanced by these new options, the gameplay remains as fun from moment to moment as ever. Still, Guerilla’s tendency to mishandle boss fights reappears at the end of the game. The closing sequence of the main mission begins as the kind of spectacular finale on the scale of Shadow of the Colossus that I wish Horizon had more of. But unfortunately it doesn’t, in doing so it seems like Londra is just rambling on, despite this he is a good villain.

Londra is the mysterious villain of the expansion who attracts the puzzled members of the stranded ship Quen. He is deliberately a Hollywood caricature fit for a final battle in the hills; his story has a somewhat predictable outcome. But the how and what about this, in addition to the whole road leading up to it, can still be called epic. It stays with you and is really a lot like good science fiction. It is wonderfully told and therefore you can really enjoy everything about it.

We breezed through fairly quickly, and then we had a great time exploring. In Burning Shores, we find a lot of variety when it comes to biomes. You can now also use a skiff to explore the areas and go to islands. Fortunately, in addition to the skiff, you also have access to your flying mount and can get anywhere that way. But then I wonder, why is the skiff there if you can fly. It feels a little useless. Fun, but not really an addition.

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Furthermore, this Horizon really gives off a different feel; it feels more urban. Optional collectibles and remains of ruins allow Aloy to be a true “urban explorer,” but I would have liked to have seen more of the side missions that explore what makes this area so different. To be honest, I would have liked to see more side missions in general; there are only three in the entire expansion. This splintered and smoldering version of Southern California is explored during the main missions, but these sections are naturally more focused. Burning Shores does take Aloy into a lot of uncharted territory. While I enjoyed new areas to explore, new machines to fight against and new ways to experiment with the game’s excellent combat – and let’s not forget that this game looks beautiful – Burning Shores has reinvigorated my love for the world of Horizon and has put the focus on the story and brought some much more personality to Aloy as a character.

In the end, it’s about balance. Apparently, I can easily immerse myself in a loud and exaggerated sci-fi world full of giant animal robots. I’m just a nerd and love this kind of shit and Guerrilla Games delivers another delightful piece with this.

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