Horizon Forbidden West was cross-gen on release, so it might have been surprising when Sony announced that the story DLC Burning Shores would be a PlayStation 5 exclusive. The publisher finally provided fans with some answers on the PlayStation blog as to why: the last-gen console wouldn’t be able to handle all those fancy clouds.
The Horizon Zero Dawn developers realized that the technology of the PlayStation 4 wouldn’t be able to create their lofty cloud aspirations. That was fine at the time, but it needed to be expanded upon for the sequel Horizon Forbidden West.
Near the end of Forbidden West, players obtained a mount that allowed them to fly in the air, and the changes developers made were enough to allow players to fly through fog-like clouds at low altitude, as they explain in the blog post. However, Burning Shores is being designed with sky exploration as a focus, so further progress needed to be made. This change would involve “voxel” technology, and a whole lot more power to account for the massive amounts of data needed to render these glorious clouds. In short, Burning Shores’ clouds needed the beefy PS5.
I feel torn. Do clouds really matter enough to lock a ton of people out of a major blockbuster DLC? Normally I would say “no” immediately, but I loved the clouds in Forbidden West. I took breathtakingly beautiful photos that I didn’t realize were possible on a gaming console. If these clouds can look even better, I’m curious to see them on my PS5, especially as I explore them as pieces of the environment.
But look: Guerilla is a first-party studio, and Burning Shores is a full-fledged campaign DLC. If Sony wanted them to create a PS4 port, they could eat the cost and let players have shittier or fewer clouds. What this feels like is a more conscious push for players to enter the PS5 ecosystem as quickly as possible. That can’t happen if all of the fanciest games are simultaneously available for the PS4. Next-gen consoles are easier to obtain now, but that doesn’t mean that every household has the couch change to purchase one.
Burning Shores will be available on the PlayStation 5 on April 19.