Horizon Forbidden West’s Burning Shores DLC Excels With Its Subtlety

The Metal Devil is in the details

The Horizon franchise has never been afraid to go big and get flashy. With each entry, the machines get bigger and the stakes get higher. By the time Horizon Forbidden West‘s credits roll, Aloy has faced off against massive Tremortusks and clashed with a group of tech geniuses from outer space. With the recently released Burning Shores DLC, the battles are taken to the next level, with the final boss featuring the greatest battle thus far.

Despite the franchise’s embrace of all things epic, Burning Shores illustrates that it is also capable of creating subtle yet impactful moments. This is seen with Aloy’s relationship with Seyka which builds slowly, as well as with its environmental design that excels in both form and function.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Aloy and Seyka in Burning Shores

Not long after reaching Los Angeles, Aloy meets a Quen warrior named Seyka. They encounter machines, and Aloy impresses Seyka with her hunting skills, causing the two to form a bond of mutual respect and admiration. By the end of Burning Shores, Seyka and Aloy have completed several quests together, which has given them plenty of time to learn about each other. Before Seyka departs with her tribe, she confesses her feelings to Aloy. Regardless of whether players choose to have Aloy share a kiss with Seyka or not, it appears that the feelings are reciprocal, and this serves as confirmation that Aloy is queer.

Although it may come as a shock to some, signs of Aloy’s sexuality have always been subtly present since Horizon Zero Dawn. Inadvertently, Aloy charms a few men during her journey, including Erend and Avad. However, she has never been receptive to their advances. This has caused some to suspect that Aloy may be asexual, though Burning Shores dispels that notion. When Seyka and Aloy are together, there are often moments of adorable awkwardness, such as when Seyka gets nervous about sharing a Sunwing ride with Aloy.

Screenshot by Destructoid

The queer narrative is an extension of themes that have been woven throughout the franchise. During Aloy’s adventures, she meets a slew of characters that fall outside of societal norms yet can still do very impressive things. This includes Kotallo who loses an arm but can keep up with Aloy when she goes on daring quests, as well as Talanah who defies the norms of the Carja tribe by becoming the first woman leader of the Hunters Lodge.

The Environmental Design of Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores

Horizon Forbidden West is already a gorgeous game filled with lush natural environments and futuristic, sci-fi cauldrons. Burning Shores, which is a PS5 exclusive, offers improved visuals, making it one of the best-looking current-gen games. This is welcome, as Burning Shores contain some of the most beautiful environments ever seen in the franchise. The shorelines overlook a glassy ocean and the various archipelagos feature thick jungles, paradisical meadows, and thermal vents powerful enough to lift Aloy to the skies. Streams of magma also streak the terrain, giving the Burning Shores a unique aesthetic.

The environment also helps to set the stage for the game’s events. Los Angeles may be dilapidated, but it is still the stomping grounds of celebrities thanks to Walter Londra. With his limitless narcissism and desire to control everything and everyone around him, he takes celebrity worship to the next level by brainwashing some of the Quen and turning them into his devoted followers. It’s quite easy to draw parallels between Londra and modern tech figures like Elon Musk.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Londra almost begs players to hate him, though the DLC also subtly reveals that there is more to him than meets the eye. On the surface, it appears that he is driven by pure selfishness to exploit those around him and that his desire to be worshiped is an expression of his narcissism. However, as players explore the Burning Shores, there are clues in the environment that reveal that Londra is capable of loving someone other than himself.

When Aloy discovers Pangea Park, which is an amusement park themed around dinosaurs, the environment reveals a tale of heartbreak between Londra and his wife, Evelyn. According to a data point, Londra bought the park for his wife, and it was a place she loved. Hence, it is not surprising that a statue of Evelyn can be found at the center of the park. Unfortunately, their relationship doesn’t last because she cheats on him.

Understanding Londra’s past explains much of his current personality. His incessant desire for loyal worship may be borne from his wife’s betrayal. It is quite obvious he hasn’t gotten over it yet, as he desperately attempts to find a replacement for his wife among the Quen. Coincidentally, Aloy would make a good replacement, at least in terms of her image. Evelyn’s statue in Pangea Park has her sparring against dinosaurs, making her look quite like Aloy battling machines. However, both Aloy and Londra know that she will never give him the devotion he craves.

Screenshot by Destructoid

With each entry in Guerrilla Games’ Horizon franchise, the scope of the story expands and the dangers grow greater. What began as a tale about a woman fighting for her place in her tribe has ballooned into a plot involving evil AI, villains from Sirius, and yet another Elisabet Sobeck clone. Burning Shores illustrates that despite the increasing complexity of the plot, the franchise is still capable of paying attention to the finer details that leave a lasting impact.

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Smangaliso Simelane
Freelance Writer - Smangaliso Simelane is a writer with a passion for all things related to video games. He has been writing about video games since 2020.
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