Horizon Forbidden West had the misfortune of releasing last year alongside the highly anticipated, award-winning Elden Ring. As a result, it wasn’t given nearly the sort of attention it deserved, both as a technical achievement for Guerrilla Games and its Decima Engine, and as a poignant follow-up to the “good start, but needs to dig a bit deeper” narrative groundwork laid with Horizon Zero Dawn.
Among the more interesting plot threads introduced in Forbidden West are those tied to the mysterious Quen who aren’t from Horizon’s post-apocalyptic American landscape, but who instead sailed to it from a far-off land as part of a massive expedition. One the Quen hoped would lead to information that might help with issues they’ve been experiencing back home like flooding, drought, and crop failure.
In Forbidden West, we first meet the Quen in the ruins of San Francisco alongside standout companion character Alva, a Diviner with a thirst for knowledge and a charming, bubbly personality you can’t help but love. It’s revealed through Alva that the Quen ended up being shipwrecked there after a catastrophic storm, and were ultimately separated from the rest of their crew. What happened to the other Quen remained a mystery until the Burning Shores DLC.
Exploring the ruins of Los Angeles
Through Burning Shores, we find out that the rest of the Quen similarly shipwrecked in another large coastal California city, Los Angeles. As unrealistic as it is to see the remnants of the Hollywood sign surrounded by the biggest of Horizon’s machine baddies, the massive Horus (also known as a Metal Devil), there’s something compelling about the scenery of Burning Shores.
The presence of raging lava alongside crystal clear waters, and explorable location points broken apart into multiple islands that can either be sailed to or flown to, initially make it feel more inspired by Hawaii than anything else. With that being said, it’s not as far-fetched a concept as it might seem to have Los Angeles broken apart into mini island ruins of rubble, water, and lava.
In fact, the concept brings to mind the very real possibility of California cities like Los Angeles falling into the ocean one day due to the effects of climate change. Or, you know, the simple fact that California sits along the temperamental San Andreas Fault and the “Big One” really could happen at any time.
Saving the California science lesson for another day, Burning Shores joins the ruins of San Francisco and Las Vegas as one of Forbidden West’s most interesting locations. I’d even go so far as to say Guerrilla saved the best of Forbidden West’s locations for last with Burning Shores, especially given the fact that you need to have fully finished the campaign in order to play it.
Speaking of needing to finish the main campaign to play, the narrative of Burning Shores feels more like an extension of said campaign (along the lines of end-game content), rather than optional DLC. It’s so much more than a new area to explore, new machines to hunt, new weapons and outfits to collect, and a new character to get acquainted with, among other things.
To explain more on why this is, the following sections will dip into some light story spoilers. If you don’t want characters like Seyka and their relationship to Aloy spoiled, I’ll sum the rest up here and say, again, that Burning Shores doesn’t feel like optional DLC for Forbidden West. If you’re a fan of the series looking forward to the inevitable, third Horizon game that Guerrilla has cooking, Burning Shores is a necessary purchase.
Spoiler Warning: The latter half of this review contains light story spoilers on Seyka, the Quen, new villain Londra, and Nemesis.
Burning Shores opens with a heartfelt conversation with Sylens, one that made me particularly emotional given actor Lance Reddick’s recent passing. It then transitions to Aloy flying to the Burning Shores of Los Angeles and crash landing in front of new character Seyka. Like Alva, Seyka is a member of the Quen, and also has a Focus. Unlike Alva, however, Seyka is not a Diviner. As she often reiterates throughout the Burning Shores campaign, she’s a marine.
She wasn't allowed by the Quen's rules to pick up the Focus, though her intentions were good in wanting to help her people. As a result of her bold actions, Seyka is left in the lonely position of feeling rejected by the Quen. It’s fairly obvious from the get-go that Seyka is there as more than just a friend or companion. Fans have been clamoring for romance options for Aloy for a while now, and Guerrilla has finally delivered on this, albeit in a limited sense as you won’t have to do anything to win Seyka over. The relationship between Aloy and Seyka is one that develops naturally over the course of Burning Shores’ short campaign.
Short, but incredibly sweet
The relationship between Aloy and Seyka doesn’t feel forced, it feels genuine and heartfelt. It made me so happy to see stoic Aloy not only emerge from the shell of her lonely childhood with a growing group of friends in Forbidden West, but also see her smile, flirt, and battle alongside Seyka in Burning Shores. It really is the love story that not only Aloy as a character needed for the sake of personal growth, but the series as a whole.
It’s also not all that surprising to see a woman as Aloy’s first real romance option either given hints within the games about Aloy’s preferences. For example, in Forbidden West there’s narrative about Aloy’s genetic mother Elizabet Sobeck having had a relationship with Far Zenith immortal and avid art collector, Tilda van der Meer. In short, of course Aloy is into women, especially women like Seyka who boasts the same inner strength and determination as she does herself.
It’s clear from the campaign that Aloy not only finds Seyka attractive, she deeply respects Seyka as a person. Unfortunately, as much as I love her, I doubt Seyka will be the last of Aloy's romantic interests. I have the sneaking suspicion we'll see Guerrilla expand upon this concept further in the third Horizon game with additional characters that Aloy can romance. Perhaps we’ll even see a mixture of options from men, women, to those in-between. Who knows?
I certainly think the third game will focus more on the Quen, with Aloy likely joining Seyka and Alva in a trek across the Pacific Ocean to the Quen’s homeland to help them with their struggles, and uncover new ways to tackle the looming threat of Nemesis. For those who finished Forbidden West, you'll know that Nemesis is a rogue AI created by Far Zenith that was revealed to be responsible for kicking off the events of the series both with HADES in Zero Dawn and the Far Zenith crew in Forbidden West.
Speaking of which, we get a bit more backstory on Far Zenith in Burning Shores with the introduction of Londra, a truly unlikable, narcissistic villain who I enjoyed learning more about while exploring the ruins of a dinosaur-themed attraction. An area that featured some of my favorite data points by the way, including the following entry on Reggie The Pterodactyl.
The dinosaur theme park section of Burning Shores felt absurd and ridiculous in all the right ways. It also helped provide some much-needed comedic relief to some of the darker plot points about Londra. Not to spoil those, of course, but Londra really is the most loathsome of the Far Zeniths.
Burning Shores culminates with an epic final battle against one of the game’s massive Horus monstrosities, also known in the series as a Metal Devil. This battle was everything I hoped it’d be, and then some. It also made up for the frustration I felt with new enemies such as the frog-like Bileguts.
Burning Shores is shorter than many would expect, but to the DLC’s benefit rather than its detriment. It’s short and sweet, sticks to the point, and is easy to follow. Not just its narrative, but also its assorted missions and puzzles. As previously mentioned, given its ties to the campaign of Forbidden West and whatever Guerrilla creates as a third entry in the series, Burning Shores doesn’t feel as optional (or skippable) as Frozen Wilds did for Zero Dawn (no offense to those who enjoyed Frozen Wilds).
Burning Shores really is a must-buy, must-play experience for Horizon fans. While this review is unscored, take this as my strongest of recommendations to pick up and play Burning Shores. I promise you’ll be able to finish it before the release of Tears of the Kingdom, and I promise that if you love Horizon, you'll find Burning Shores to be well worth your time.
This review was based on a PS5 digital copy of the Burning Shores DLC for Horizon Forbidden West provided by the publisher. The Burning Shores DLC for Horizon Forbidden West is available starting April 19 exclusively for PlayStation 5.
Morgan Shaver posted a new article, Burning Shores is the love story Horizon Forbidden West needed
Guess we'll get it!
How is it possible the Hollywood sign hasn't disintegrated by then? Literally unplayable.
I've been wandering around in it and having fun