One thing that players should know is that you have to have completed the entire story of “Forbidden West” to start “Burning Shores.” Even if you’re in the middle of a New Game+, you won’t get to start the mission that takes you to the new map until the final story chapter has unfolded. While this is an understandable way to include this expansion—it wouldn’t work as an aside in the middle of the game, given where Aloy has to be as a hero for it to unfold—it does make for an exciting hiccup in that the learning curve is gone. If you haven’t played “Forbidden West” in a year—like I hadn’t—you will have to quickly remind yourself of the controls, techniques, and basic gameplay. To be brief, I got my ass handed to me multiple times at the beginning of “Burning Shores” before I remembered which weapons I liked more than others and how to quickly switch between them based on the situation.
“Burning Shores” opens with an encounter with Sylen, an unintentionally somber overture given the loss of Lance Reddick, who so perfectly voiced the character and rumors that he would drive the narrative of the next game. He tells Aloy about a faction of the Quen tribe that has set up a home in Burning Shores, aka Los Angeles, complete with a dilapidated Hollywood sign. The setting of Burning Shores is gorgeous, with such remarkably rendered clouds that the PS4 version of “Forbidden West” won’t be able to include the DLC because it can’t handle the graphics. Jumping back into “Horizon” is a reminder of how well this game utilizes every aspect of the PS5, but especially its visual prowess. The game looks stunning.
Most of the story missions in “Burning Shores” partner Aloy with a Quen warrior named Seyka. She will not only fight alongside you—when you’re both clicking, the melee has the bouncing rhythm of that famous 2-on-1 “Captain America: Civil War” scene—but ends up being an essential part of the “Horizon” narrative. Not only is Seyka a well-drawn character, but the dynamic between Aloy and Seyka makes Aloy a more interesting protagonist, which will surely carry into the next game. Their relationship humanizes a character who has felt a bit shallow at times and shows the potential of where she could go next.