Published on May 3rd, 2023 | by Nathan Misa

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores PS5 Review

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores PS5 Review Nathan Misa

Summary: Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores delivers a fantastic post-game content expansion for those wanting more adventures with Aloy.


Aloy there

Horizon Forbidden West is one of those rare video game sequels that truly live up to the overstated mantra of ‘bigger and better’.

It expanded upon its already in-depth combat systems with even more options, elevated its storytelling with fully motion-captured cutscenes for every quest large and small, and packed its mesmerizing world with a map full of high-quality content.

Burning Shores is a bite-sized downloadable content expansion to this fantastic base package, bringing 8+ hours of new story and side content in a fresh map, and a direct continuation of Aloy’s epic world-saving journey. And while it doesn’t completely reach the highs that the main game delivers, it’s just as high-budget and high-quality in its presentation and ambition.


Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores takes place immediately after the events of the base game, and is only accessible after you complete the main story quest ‘Singularity’. Aloy is summoned by the ever-enigmatic Sylens to discuss a new threat that has emerged in the distant Burning Shores, a region located south of the Tenakth Clan Lands. A rogue member of the Zeniths set up a base there, prompting Aloy to investigate the danger they pose to her world.

The narrative premise of this post-game DLC initially feels, as someone who enjoyed the content focused on the Tenakth clans more than the space-faring threat of the Far Zeniths, a little contrived. Why was this Zenith not mentioned by Tilda in the main game, for instance? But as the characters and stakes are gradually introduced, Burning Shores shows Guerilla Games’ strengths in expanding further on key story beats and factions that get teased in the base game, which are supplemented by additional mysteries in side quests and environmental storytelling. Its bite-sized story is naturally reliant on the player remembering the events of the main game, so it’s highly recommended to brush-up on the recaps if you’ve forgotten to fully understand the many lore references and plot developments that occur throughout the DLC.

Burning Shores is undoubtedly centered on the new characters Seyka and Londra, who acts as a companion and devious antagonist to Aloy throughout the main questline, respectively. Seyka is a confident and capable member of the Quen, the sea-faring faction Aloy encountered in the Forbidden West, while Londra is a conniving Zenith with devious ambitions that feel more human (in their pettiness) than his peers like Erik. Both characters challenge Aloy to re-examine herself in interesting ways, while providing fresh insight into both factions that I enjoyed watching unfold.

However, while the voice acting and motion capture performances by Kylie Liya Page and Sam Witner are good, the script and pacing of plot developments comes across rough. The DLC’s cutscenes spend a lot of time establishing that Aloy’s connection to Seyka is more special than any other, but I felt their fast friendship and their emotions-heavy dialogue to be a little rushed.

Other new characters and their stories come across as a little less compelling. The Quen are the main tribe of the DLC, and here we get a slightly better look into the flaws of their culture and caste system (modeled on Old World corporate hierarchies) and how they arrived in the Burning Shores. However, many of their named NPCs like Admiral Gerrit, Rheng and Rokomo come across as one-note and stereotypical in their portrayal, and much of the side content is let down by their weak motivations and voice-acting as a result.

With no tribes native to the region, there are no new factions to learn about either, which I feel is a bit of a missed opportunity if you aren’t interested in the Quen. However, one returning character from the Frozen Wilds makes a surprise appearance in the best side quest (and acting) of the DLC, so look out for those delves! There’s also some hidden dialogue added in areas such as the base that lore fanatics will enjoy.

As a setting, the Burning Shores is the complete opposite in visual aesthetic to Horizon Zero Dawn’s  DLC, The Frozen Wilds, but equally unforgiving in its shared theme of a treacherous, unknown landscape. Instead of harsh frost-capped mountains, the Burning Shores is a sun-kissed archipelago made up of the ruins of former Los Angeles, reclaimed by nature and devastated by a thousand years of tectonic and volcanic events that have separated it into several isolated islands. But even with all the destruction, the environment looks graphically and artistically spectacular, both from above while flying on Aloy’s Sunwing mount, and from below while riding the clear blue seas in the new raft vehicle. Visually, the Burning Shores is a breathtaking sight, with a very distinct style.

The Burning Shores map is around a quarter of the base game, but contains a decent amount of side content to discover, both in and out of the player’s way, such as lore data-points and glyphs, new resources (Brimshine), ornaments, side quests, and outposts. It’s less densely packed than the main map, with more empty space in between (such as the southern island’s train yards), but for those players who immerse themselves in fantasy settings and explore, the beauty of the environment and the sight of the concrete jungle juxtaposed against active volcanic and tectonic destruction is fun to simply wander about and maybe even use the excellent photo mode in. My favourite sights to explore were the lava-filled jungle surrounding the iconic Hollywood sign, the haphazardly constructed settlement of Fleet’s End, and a multi-layered amusement park.

As for those ever-fun-to-fight machines, there are several high-level Apex machine sites (clamberjaws, slaughterspines, slitherfangs and stalkers) scattered throughout the islands that make for good rare resource-farming areas, especially for the several new legendary weapons and new armor sets on sale at Fleet’s End (The Tie That Binds is my new favourite ropecaster) which you will almost need to invest in if you aren’t already decked with great gear, as the DLC raises the level cap to 60 and fights are as challenging as a post-game expansion should be. There is also one new weapon type added through the story, which will sure to please players who enjoy more high-tech offensive options.

Thankfully, there’s also twelve new skills (2 added to each skill tree) and 6 new valor surges to indulge in and change up your combat style. My favourites are the new Machine Grapple Strike, which lets Aloy grapple a downed machine and deliver a powerful strike with a flashy flourish, and the Shield Drop, which unlocks a energy shield Aloy can deploy on the field for cover. I found these to be fulfilling and fun additions in my quest to make it to level 60 on Very Hard difficulty.

In terms of new enemy machine types, there are three: The amphibious and aerial Waterwing (a reskinned Sunwing that lets you dive underwater in addition to soaring the skies), the frog-like Bilegut, and flying Stingspawn. Compared to the new machines introduced in The Frozen Wilds, I found the new enemies to be somewhat lacking, though the Bilegut was a fun and tough challenge to overcome, given the difficulty of dodging its cute and clumsy (and deadly) hopping.

Let’s talk about graphics! Burning Shores is a PlayStation 5 exclusive DLC, meaning owners of Horizon Forbidden West on PlayStation 4 unfortunately cannot experience the new expansion. There was a lot of talk pre-release about the DLC taking full advantage of the PS5’s CPU power and SSD speed in Burning Shores, and it’s most evident in the increased detail of its cloudscapes while flying around the islands on Aloy’s Sunwing. The scenery of ruined Los Angeles, its oceans and volcanic pits, and every new character, meanwhile, is rendered in phenomenal quality in the game’s three graphics modes (Quality, Performance and Balanced). This is one of the best looking games on current generation consoles, and the move to PS5-only has clearly allowed Guerilla Games to push the envelope of their major DLC expansion visually.

The Final Verdict

Overall, The Burning Shores doesn’t introduce any new game-changing mechanics, instead focusing on offering more of what fans of Horizon Forbidden West have come to love in the main game – an engaging story, cutting-edge graphics, deep action-based combat systems and a wonderfully detailed open world packed with activities to do and sights to explore – and that’s not a bad thing at all.

A highly recommended DLC expansion for hardcore fans of Horizon Forbidden West itching for more post-game adventures with Aloy.

About the Author'

A senior writer for and former writer for MMGN and Ninemsn, Nathan has been reviewing video games and interviewing talented developers since 2012. As a nostalgia tragic eternally tied to the glorious 1990s, he's always playing retro gaming classics whenever he's not entrenched in the latest RPG, or talking your ear off about why The First Law book series is better than Game of Thrones - to anyone who dares listen.

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