We’re getting a third Horizon game.
Whether it’s furthering Aloy’s arsenal of tools, recruiting new characters for the looming battle with Nemsis, or directly referencing what the next entry in the series is likely going to begin with, Burning Shores is an essential chapter in the franchise, even if your time in LA isn’t the longest.
Burning Shores takes place in the ruins of Los Angeles, caked in lava and overgrown greenery. The city is on its knees, save for some landmarks such as the Hollywood sign, which will seemingly outlive us all.
Taking place after the main game, the quest begins with Sylens (played by the late Lance Reddick) sending Aloy on a mission to recover more data about the progenitor race that escaped Earth in the main game.
When you reach LA, you’re shot out of the sky by towers that cover the city. You discover these are the work of Walter Londra, who serves as the expansion’s main threat.
Londra is a tech magnate with a God complex that has ambitions of taking to the stars. He’s made his money through mining (the accidental deaths, and exploitation related to which is of little consequence to him).
Not to mention the fact that he’s followed by a sycophantic army of drones who believe him to be humanity’s great intelligence, while he’s just manipulating them to his own ends. Can’t imagine who that’s based on.
It’s clear Guerrilla had plenty of fun writing Londra, although not as much fun as Sam Witwer had playing him. There’s solid satire throughout here, especially if you go digging through the endless text logs that you can find throughout LA.
While time with Londra is tragically short, he’s a more memorable villain than many that have featured in the main game, and the final encounter with him includes one of the most spectacular boss sequences yet made.
“While time with Londra is tragically short, he’s a more memorable villain than many that have featured in the main game, and the final encounter with him includes one of the most spectacular boss sequences yet made.”
The highlight of the expansion is undoubtedly Seyka, a Quen that befriends Aloy after she falls out of the sky in the game’s opening. She’s an outcast like Aloy, with ambitions beyond her station. She and Aloy bond throughout the expansion and she becomes a key companion not only in cutscenes but in combat.
Seyka and Aloy’s relationship blossoms in such a way that it feels like she’ll not only be essential to Horizon 3’s plot, but a key member of Aloy’s crew, further emphasising how essential the expansion feels.
The expansion is similar in length to The Frozen Wilds from the first game, with around an evening’s worth of main content and plenty of side content after that. There are also new weapons, resources, and other items to go after, which is for the best because through the main story alone you don’t see as much of LA as you’d perhaps expect.
There are also plenty of the love-it-or-hate-it open-world tasks to complete, like the cauldrons, ruins, and other explorable areas if you’re that way inclined.
LA itself is more of a postcard version of the famous city, with landmarks Guerrilla decided to include conveniently close together in order to create a facsimile of LA that’s effective, but not massively different from the main game’s San Francisco. Despite the name, the lava-infused areas of the city are more reserved than we would have liked.
LA, and the expansion in general, is absolutely stunning. While we didn’t quite see anything that required this expansion to only be on PlayStation 5 (except possibly for the incredible final boss), Horizon Forbidden West remains one of the most technically impressive video games yet made.
When it comes to facial animation and character modeling, very few can sail close to Guerrilla’s skill. While we won’t go into the detail of why it’s so evident in this expansion, the emotions that can be conveyed wordlessly using Guerrilla’s tech are essential to selling the game’s final beats.
The expansion doesn’t introduce many new creatures, with the premier new beast being the Watering, a version of the Sunwing from the main game which can also dive underwater. This makes getting around the world very simple, as the heavily waterlogged streets of LA are somewhat of a hassle to traverse without it, or the new skiff boat that Aloy is given by Seyka.
Another extremely convenient addition is the auto-pickup feature, which means now instead of slowly scavenging materials for healing or crafting, Aloy can just run over them and they’ll magically appear in her inventory.
“Another extremely convenient addition is the auto-pickup feature, which means now instead of slowly scavenging materials for healing or crafting, Aloy can just run over them and they’ll magically appear in her inventory.”
Immersion breaking? Sure, but it’s optional and really helpful in those intense battles where ammo is at a premium.
Before the third game in the series comes out, you need to play Burning Shores. Not only because the expansion’s stat, Seyka, is likely to have a huge role in the future of Aloy’s journey, but because it’s a greatly enjoyable tour of LA with a cartoonishly camp villain at the helm.
Burning Shores’ knowing nods to the current world of tech egotists hell-bent on destroying the world are fun, but the strength in Burning Shores is the same strength at the heart of every Horizon game – a great performance by Ashly Burch, stunning visuals, and the never-ending thrill of taking down a skyscraper-sized robotic dinosaur.
While Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores is more Horizon mechanically, narratively it's the strongest story told in the series with excellent new characters and vital plot developments that set the stage for Horizon 3.
- Seyka steals the show
- Walter Londra is a memorable villain
- Visually unmatched
- The series' emotional high-point
- A prologue that stokes excitement for the inevitable third game
- LA isn't taken fully advantage off
- Few new creatures introduced