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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for events and story points in Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Ok, in my defense, went to the doctor and got some drugs, so I was, and am, foggy as hell and will be for a while. Thoughts are kind of like soap bubbles in my head right now. This will become relevant later in the post.

So played. Decided to wander, check some shit out, but magpieing is odd when you’re really, really foggy. I kept wandering into places I had been and all that. But I did try out the whole “override them then let them charge and do all the work” trick. You’re right. It rules.

But then I found something. Something interesting. Something I’m pretty sure you’ve found so I can talk about it.

I found a cauldron. Sigma cauldron to be precise.

So I went into the cauldron (hooray! No load screens!) and poked around. And I really wanted to finish the cauldron, so I kept on and on and on even when I knew I was getting tired. Like, really tired. But it was interesting! So I pushed on.

Then I got to the thing with the cargo on its back. That had shields. And shock. And I died. And died. And died.

And I got really, really, REALLY angry, cuz every time it killed me I had to go back and jump and sneak and kill easy watchers and all that bullshit when really I had proven I could DO all that and the real thing I had to redo was the damn cargo shocky thing. Fuck stupid save points.

But then I remembered: I have lots of bows! I read, I learned, and I picked the right one, and tore off components and won! And I was totally convinced that that was the boss, so I charged on, satisfied in the knowledge that rewards were mine.

They weren’t.

Cuz of that fucking bellowback.

I hate bellowbacks so very, very much.

And I died. And I died. And I died. And, because I was foggy and I can’t think or remember anything that happened, like, seven minutes ago, I FORGOT that I have lots of bows! And traps! And ropecasters.

So after, like, half an hour, I thought: Hey! I have bows! And traps! And ropecasters! Let’s try that! And I plopped down all my traps BEFORE I released it, and made it a bug ol’ pain cave, and shot it with ropecasters (which are my new favorite thing), and DIED ANYWAY.

Why? Because that whole “Shoot them in the gullet to disable the fire attack” is a FUCKING LIE. I DID that! I saw “Component removed.” She was all “YES! That hurt it!” and I charged! And it STILL COULD ATTACK ME WITH FIRE and I died.

So I turned down the difficulty cuz fuck all that shit.

And I got the sigma override which had better be fucking worth it.

So this is how they make machines. And by “they” I mean “who the fuck are they?”

Question: Did I miss stuff? Cuz I felt like I missed stuff. I didn’t really find any data points, just the one when I got the overrides. I was expecting data points, like the ones from the ruins in the start of the game. I figured, futurey thing, datapoints. But no. Unless I missed them.

I probably missed them.

Feminina:

Dude. Foggy makes games tough. Drugs! But not, like, fun drugs. Sorry about that, and I hope it settles soon.

Still, you got a fair bit done for foggy. The cauldron! I’ve been wanting to talk about the cauldron!

Because yes, it is a mystery. I mean, in one sense we now know something: this is where the machines come from.

But…why? Is this just some process that was set up 1,000 years ago and is still working but has evolved, so maybe it was originally a factory that built Roombas but the AI controlling the system gave up on Roombas once there were no rooms to vacuum, and started building animal-like machines that could fit into the landscape instead? (And…what’s its fuel? And where does it get its components?)

Or are there people who are in charge of this, making sure the machines get built for some reason? And if so, who, and why, and where are they?

So many questions.

An interesting point: the matriarchs talked about the “womb of the mountain,” which as best we could tell (not being able to get behind the locked door) was intended as a survival bunker, something to keep humans safe. The cauldron, on the other hand, actually IS kind of a womb, in that it crafts and “births” the machines. There’s some interesting stuff there in terms of preservation vs. creation and humans vs. machines.

Maybe the matriarchs are (unwittingly) right and there’s a cauldron on the other side of that door, waiting to be awakened? Maybe…one with ‘human’ machines? I mean, we’ve got all these machines that resemble animals: dinosaurs, birds, horses, cows. Maybe there’s also meant to be a humanoid one!

I should stress that this is the purest speculation: I have not learned anything that in any way supports it. Like you, I didn’t find data points in the cauldron, which kind of supports the idea that it’s something the machines are doing mostly on their own…it suggests that humans were never all that involved, and didn’t hang out here dropping off their recorded musings. Though they were there at some point, since the ever-present supply crates could be found here and there, so never mind, maybe that’s not a good line of speculation after all.

I died a lot in the cauldron too. I never did kill the shellwalker. I overrode some of the watchers and got them to kill the other watchers, and finally just sneaked past the shellwalker when it was the last thing left. I fought it a few times, but as you said, having to start again all the way back on the other side of the chasm and fight all the watchers every single time got old, so I decided to just try sneaking past without fighting it, and that worked.

The bellowback was nasty. The tripcaster was key for me as well. That and running like hell. Shoot, cast tripwires, run in for a hit if it goes down, run, dodge, heal. A very painful fight. But now you can override grazers! So there’s that. And sawtooths, which is very helpful. I love to get a sawtooth on my side if I have to fight another sawtooth. Weirdly, not bellowbacks (you’d think a cauldron would have the ability to override the things it builds, but apparently not), but still…

I’ve been looking for other cauldrons in the expectation (actually the certain knowledge, since Aloy says it out loud several times) that they will allow me to pick up codes to override other things, but so far I haven’t found any.

And, in the annals of “other games this game reminds us of,” this cauldron bit really reminded me of the oblivion gates in Oblivion, which would be located here and there, and you had to go in and fight a bunch of things while you worked your way to a specific command point in order to control it. Still enjoyable! Reminiscent but not bad.

Also, was it your impression that Aloy shut down the cauldron, or is it still there, churning out machines, after we left? I wasn’t clear on that, and I haven’t been back that way to look.

Because if we actually shut it down, then presumably there’s the possibility that at some point we could shut down all the cauldrons and stop production of all the machines, and that would be…interesting. Since there don’t seem to be any biological versions of the animals they resemble in the world anymore–no large predators or grazing animals–they could leave some kind of gap in the ecosystem, although what role they actually play in the ecosystem is unclear. Possibly the ‘herbivores’ do use plants for fuel, filling that niche, and the ‘carnivores’ prey on the herbivores and keep their numbers from getting out of control? That would make logical sense, I suppose.

Actual animals like the foxes and boars and rabbits seem completely unperturbed by the machines, so I think none of them must hunt animals.

Anyway, I’m leery of the idea that we want to just wipe out the machines entirely, even if they are hostile and dangerous (and becoming more hostile and dangerous, according to what we’re told).

They’re part of the world, and finding a way to co-exist with them seems like a better approach. (And here, back to “this reminds me of the Witcher”–this reminds me of the way that magic and magical creatures are kind of on a path to extinction in the witcherverse, and how that doesn’t feel like entirely a good thing, even though it will make the world a lot safer for humans.)

But then, I’m a tree-hugging hippie, so what do I know.

Butch:

YES! Finally the cauldron.

It certainly had the sense of “set up and still working just because no one thought to stop it,” but the fuel/component thing is interesting and odd. It almost felt like this was a place set up to make these things, they got out of control, killed everyone (or whatever) and left no one to shut everything down. But that doesn’t answer the whole “Where are they getting the power?” But then, maybe there’s some perpetual power source they discovered in, like, 2058. I mean, how do the machines we DO see keep going? They can’t be eating.

So very many questions. I hope we get at least a couple of answers.

And YES! I got that, too, creation/preservation. It certainly was a place of birth, if we take the machines are alive in an animal way, if not a self aware way.

A humanoid machine would make some sense. I haven’t found a datapoint about artificial intelligence, but one could think there was such a thing. Is Aloy a robot? She was called a “curse” by one matriarch. But then, she’d probably know that by now.

Though it is telling her healing isn’t food like it is in some games….I can’t think of anything we’ve eaten…. hmmm……

And someone built it, right? We haven’t met a machine that intelligent.

Oh, nicely done with the sneaking. I tried that. Didn’t work. Once I realized tearblast arrows (which ROCK) fucked it up so it couldn’t use its shield, the rest fell into place.

Oh, crap. I thought it had bellowbacks on the override list, but I was foggy. Probably wishful thinking. But I’m so getting me a sawtooth. Can I ride one? That would rock.

There’s gotta be more cauldrons…..

As for killing all the machines, what about sequels? Cuz no way there’s a sequel without robot dinosaurs. Sort of the trademark of the game.

It was interesting the game MADE you wonder because a big door closed and you couldn’t go back through where you came into that room. I did find it interesting that activating the thing made some rather industrial lights come on, which could be shut down or not. Usually, when lights go on it suggests “activate,” so that was weird.

Feminina:

See, I didn’t have tearblast arrows when I was in the cauldron (I only just bought that bow last night, now that I realized that I have to actually BUY things), so it was sneak or nothin’. Well, sneak or die repeatedly.

I’ll have to try out the awesome arrows.

Yeah, maybe they do have some awesome power source that we haven’t discovered yet. Although if the ancients’ civilization discovered an awesome, nigh-eternal, apparently non-polluting power source, why did they collapse? You’d think they’d have been sitting pretty!

Although humans ARE terrible, so I can’t argue with the idea that they figured out some way to wreck everything, even if they’d solved their power problems.

I thought about that: maybe Aloy herself is a machine. She’d have to be a very convincing one, designed to grow from infancy to adulthood, but hey, we’re all familiar with synths from other games, and this is surely the next logical step in synth evolution.

Even if we don’t see her eat, Rost would have noticed if she never did, and food as such isn’t healing, but health potions are crafted from meat, which is essentially the same as eating, so I don’t think this is soldid evidence. Plus, what does she do with those medicinal herbs besides eat them? Make salve, perhaps, but either way, it strongly suggests a biological process. Maybe she’s a machine designed to be powered by food, though, or to convincingly process food while actually being powered by whatever powers the cauldron.

It’s possible. I think maybe not that likely (more likely she’s a clone or something), but possible.

I have found one datapoint about artificial intelligence! Which suggests that it was involved in things, somehow. I figure there are probably more out there.

I agree, no way there’s a sequel without ROBOT DINOSAURS. That’s taking your brilliant hook and tossing it overboard and expecting to catch something with stories about “remember when we used to have to fight robot dinosaurs! Man, I’m glad those days are over and now we just have to fight randits.”

Nuh-uh. Not gonna happen. So yeah, from a story standpoint, even if we did shut down that cauldron, there must be so many more of them that it will not be a realistic goal to wipe out machinekind, even if we wanted to.

Butch:

Dude you’re gonna love those arrows. So handy. At least against things that actually stop attacking you when they’re SUPPOSED TO NOT BE ABLE TO ATTACK YOU.

Not bitter.

That is a mystery, it is, what happened to the ancients. Though we know from the start of game ruin that what caused them to all commit suicide was the “collapse of the Wichita salient,” which could mean, what, a military operation? Hard to say. But certainly an event, or the last straw in a series of events caused them to lose hope.

Maybe Aloy makes poultices and drinks them. Or conversely, makes potions and smears them all over herself, like the opposite of DAO. Ya never know.

But yeah…I suppose meat does feature heavily and she did grow.

Clone does seem more likely. Especially as she REALLY looked like that woman she saw before going to the “mother” there. Almost moreso than you would look like a parent.

I knew it! There always is an AI.

Maybe this is protecting Denver and there are other sites…. but I agree: you gotta have ROBOT DINOSAURS.

And Sony has said that they want Aloy to become an iconic character, like Nathan Drake, which suggests ALOY fighting ROBOT DINOSAURS herself, which would make it hard to wipe them out.

Feminina:

Yeah, I suppose she could be traveling from one city (or ‘location of former city’) to the next, eliminating machines in one place at a time as she strives to make the world safe for humanity over a series of games.

Game 8: Horizon Zero Early Dinnertime, in which Aloy somehow makes it to Europe and battles ROBOT DINOSAURS in the ruins of Paris! We’d probably play that for a while.

I think I like the more complicated questions posed by “how do we live with the machines” a little more than “how do we get rid of all the machines,” though. Not that there couldn’t be complexity in the questions of “how do we live once the machines are gone” considering that their economy is apparently based on metal shards that come from the machines, as are the components of much of their clothing and jewelry, so there would be some adjustment there.

Butch:

I have a feeling that, given the critical and apparent financial success of this game, we’ll get a chance to find out. It sure seemed like Sony was committed to the franchise long term.

I suppose we’ll see how it ends. I’m guessing with the door (and most of the windows) open for a sequel.

Feminina:

I concur. I just hope we get the answers to enough questions that we have some sense of satisfaction, even if they don’t answer everything. I mean, I get wanting to leave some things for future games, and that’s cool. If I continue to enjoy this, I want to play future games, and I want them to include interesting things that we can talk about.

But I don’t want to get to the end and think “well, we defeated [some bad thing], but we still don’t know anything about where it came from or who sent it or what’s behind the door in the mountain or etc. etc.”

We’ll see how they do. It’s early yet in the story, so we’re only beginning to get a sense of how they handle narrative.

Butch:

Yup. I’m only 17% through, and, admittedly, I haven’t gone looking for much narrative of late.

Though I was kinda expecting more narrative in the cauldron.

Feminina:

The cauldron did feel like a place where one would get some story. But no, it’s only a place where one gets a useful skill/item. Which is certainly handy, and I’m glad to have more overrides, but it’s not story. Maybe future cauldrons will tell us more?

Butch:

Not holding my breath.

Sure seemed like a good place for story.

But then, this game is into show don’t tell and that’s ok.

Feminina:

Yeah, it’s doing OK. I’m a little sad that now that I’m out in the big wide world it’s not cutting me off from magpieing for my own good, but as always it IS actually my own fault if I can’t manage to make it to the next step in the story in a timely fashion.