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Spoilers for the storyline with the docile machines and the Banuk in Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Ok, so finished up with the Banuk there, poor fellows, then trucked it back to Meridian (well, fast traveled), talked to the other special merchants (you’re right, nice story) finished up my quest (an EXTRAORDINARY reward box!) and then pondered what to do next, couldn’t decide, stopped.

But that’s ok cuz I have not one but TWO things to ponder today! The two Rs! Religion and Romance!

I figure we’ll do religion first, then romance so we can segue into tomorrow if we don’t get to it today.

So religion:

Here we go again. Here we have a culture that has a very deep, rich culture predicated on a deep, rich religiosity, that has caused generations of people to live this rather harsh life that is just factually wrong. The Nora were praying to a door (even Aloy was all “Stop it, it’s just a door” to the matriarch), and, for the Banuk, there is no “blue light;” it’s all just a gizmo. I have a feeling the carja are doing the same dumb thing. On the spire: when I was toodling around Meridian I came across the outlook where a whole mess of priests were praying to the spire. Why do I think that a) they think it’s divine and b) it’s gonna turn out not to be?

So here we have three religions that are pretty much in an existential crisis. The matriarchs are arguing, and Aloy is (I think) about to prove that’s a door. The Banuk are about to get a rude awakening. We’ve already met Carja who admit there’s a rift in the priesthood. Sure, the true believers are clinging, as true believers do, but it’s all falling to pieces.

Which gets me back to the gizmo. And here’s where I may be wrong but I’m going with it: I read that thing as “satellite.” I could be wrong, but the one dude did say something snarky about things falling to earth, and its shape did read “man made thing from space.” I got a sense that the thing malfunctioned, fell to earth, and sorta buried itself in the crash. If we go that way, then a) the Banuk were getting help cuz the thing was closer than it should have been and b) the machines are controlled by satellites that have started to malfunction, as satellites do after 1000 years or so (maybe not, but it fits the narrative).

I really want that to be a satellite, cuz then the metaphor is that things are going to shit here because the heavens themselves are falling apart. That science is having an existential crisis. All that “stuff up there that is helping and guiding us” is failing. Literally. Metaphorically.

All of which is a double edged sword. Religion is helpful, in that it gives us guidance and strength and friendly machines. Religion is bad because it can go bad quick and lead to wars and harsh societies. But mostly, and this is where the game excels, religion, and science, to an extent, is FRAGILE. It isn’t a constant. It can evolve, it can collapse.

This game is so good at trashing the trope in games that tribes/cultures/races/whatever are static and monolithic. Here we go again, and that’s so cool.

Feminina:

NICE interpretation there! The world falling apart because the heavens are falling apart–that’s downright poetic, as well as beautifully theme-y.

I’m with you on satellite (metal thingie falls from the sky, check).

Also with you on all-these-religions-are-goofy, but I agree that it’s cool that they show so many quite different religions having developed in response to the same basic information: people are vastly creative in their–our–interpretations of things.

And yeah…I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s entirely possible that there’s a network of satellites that was intended to keep the machines at least slightly in check across the world or some portion of it (and that, close up after one falls to earth, keeps them REALLY in check), and that the network is now failing and letting machines become more hostile and aggressive, and, perhaps, letting new even-more-hostile versions develop.

I basically saw it as a “this calming power was a capability the ancients had but who knows why because we don’t even know if they were around at the same time as the machines” shrug and move on kind of thing (again, I was here a long time ago when there was a lot of stuff I hadn’t seen yet), but your take is better. And doesn’t directly contradict anything I know so far, although there’s story I still have to uncover.

Interesting how, no matter how hostile and interestingly better at attacking the machines get, they seem to still only direct that hostility towards humans. Even the thunderjaw doesn’t bother the boars and foxes. Somehow, these things are programmed to only bother people. What’s THAT about, ancients?

Well, people and traitor machines that DON’T attack people, since they usually (aside from your experience with the super lazy chargers) seem to really dislike other machines that Aloy has overridden.

Ooh: a good glinthawk trick if you can manage it? Override some random machine on the ground nearby. The glinthawks will start attacking that, slightly distracting them from you, and you can slink away!

Anyway, the point before that sidetrack was, there’s some weird push/pull we’re not aware of here, if there’s a network of satellites designed to protect people (at least a little bit, maybe at least in certain areas) from machines, but at the same time the machines are designed to attack people. Of course the two things needn’t have been developed together as part of a single plan. Maybe the killer machines got loose, and then no one could completely control them, but the satellites reined them in just enough to allow human life to continue on earth.

Or if it was designed as one plan, I guess it could have been a vast environmentalist conspiracy to force humans out of their role as destructive rulers of the planet and back into the position of a minor prey species (even though the machines don’t seem to actually eat people). We tree-hugging weirdos would like the poetic justice of using sophisticated technology to accomplish that.

But yeah, I agree with you that I like the way the game shows different societies in flux, responding to different problems and changing a bit. The split between the two factions of Carja is very interesting.

Butch:

Isn’t it poetic? And subtle! But every faction is kind of falling apart.

Ok, good. I didn’t miss something on that artifact. I was in one of those “rush cuz friends are being attacked” modes, so I didn’t take the time to walk around and analyze. Every time I do that I kick myself because I KNOW I could have taken my time because games, but I feel the urgency at the time. So I rush and then thing “Shit. Now I might look stupid in the blog.”

Aren’t people creative? The same basic info but….different. Much like Norse mythology differed from Middle Eastern mythology because the arctic and the desert are so different. The Carja have that spire…thing…pointing up to the sun, so they have a sun religion. The Nora have the thing in the mountain, so they have a religion based around that. The Banuk have the crashed satellite, so they go with that.

Oh, here’s something I totally forgot to tell you in my first email. Too much thinking!

I’m glad I did the merchants right after I did the Banuk cuz there’s a subtle connect. The satellite (let’s go with that), when you scan it, says that it has been emitting a signal that became damaged (we can imagine in the fall from space or something right before or whatever) 20 years ago. The flower dude mentioned that the metal flowers and the derangement of the machines started…20 years ago. I totally would have not made the connection had I not seen those two things 15 minutes apart, but there ya go. The timeline works.

Which puts a neat twist on it (that we often don’t find in games): Usually when SOMETHING HAPPENS it’s because something big and powerful and smart made it happen. We’ve even been going on the assumption that there’s some sort of overarching AI or something MAKING the things evil for some REASON. And maybe there is. But it could be the things are just breaking. Or whatever system that was supposed to make them do whatever they do is breaking. This isn’t something doing something for a reason. It’s just old shit that’s old and breaking.

Much like, oh, say, these religions in the game.

True: The machines do not like the overridden machines one bit.

As for the foxes and whatnot, since you mention thunderjaws, if you read the codex (HA!) about it it is described as an apex COMBAT machine (emphasis added). That suggests the thing was specifically made to fight. Not guard, not hunt, not whatever. Fight. The thing is a weapon of war. Wars do not get fought against boars. They get fought against people who have other machines of war.

Which makes sense. We so often have, in these future games, a future where everything is a broken, ruined mess EXCEPT the thing that’s integral to the plot, and that thing is working just fine. Sort of a silly conceit, when you think on it.

OOOOO! Nice! Cuz MAN do I need a glinthawk trick or three. They SUCK. I haven’t felt this type of animosity towards one generic game enemy since husks.

And well, we know from the very, very beginning of the game that something went wrong. Very wrong. In the initial ruin there, we see the thing that caused all of them to give up and kill themselves was the “Wichita Salient collapsed.” I still have no idea what that is. So it certainly seemed from that that there was a part of a plan, a plan that was designed to keep something from doing something, something so bad that once that something started getting done, everyone who knew about it killed themselves. That’s a very bad something.

I also read that as the last in a line of dominoes. Putting a name on the “salient,” that is, “the WICHITA salient,” instead of just “the salient,” implies there’s more than one of the things.

We’re assuming that the very bad something was the rise of the machines, but I’m not sure we can safely make that assumption. This game has played around with our assumptions too much already. A common game trope is “Big thing happened a ways back that has led to all these monsters you’re gonna kill for a while.” A big archdemon blight. A skyhole. The conjunction of spheres. Nuclear war. So when we hear of a big something in a game, long ago, we say “A HA! THAT’S why we have all these things we’re killing!” But this game plays with that sort of trope.

(Side note: I doubt this’ll be fully answered. Remember that data point that said there was a tribe people knew little about in the East (east of Denver) in the plains? And I said “I smell a sequel?” Well, where’s Wichita? Just sayin’.)

I don’t know much about Carja factions, yet, but I might do the whole three pronged one the mourning priest gave me next. It’s closest. For now.

Feminina:

One does get the sense that things could be breaking down. Not the machines themselves, interestingly–they’re getting MORE vigorous and active–but the control mechanisms, the tools that once existed to understand the machines and the ancient technology. That could all be coming apart. There may be a time limit on how long we can continue to pull useful information from the half-functional relics of the past.

As you say, all these religions are based in some way on a reaction to/interpretation of something from the past that people are still able to see/interact with in some way. Even though at first glance “the old ones are dead and gone and we don’t care about them,” on a deeper level the spiritual and ritual practices of these people are directly descended from and dependent on the old ones’ technology. What will they do when the last traces of power run out and the holograms and recorded voices they’ve worshipped go dark and silent? Probably they’ll adapt. Religions do. But it would be interesting to see how.

Oh yeah! The 20 years thing…that does connect the flowers and the fallen ‘satellite,’ and even the increased aggressiveness of the machines. Maybe some key component failed 20 years ago, and all sorts of peripherally related functions are going slowly haywire? Also keep in mind that Aloy is about 17 or 18. So maybe–probably?–one of the related things that started to go haywire resulted in her appearance, shortly after the 20-years-ago event, in the Nora’s sacred mountain.

Everything is connected!

And yeah, I don’t know exactly what the Wichita Salient is either, although I think I could make a pretty educated guess at this point.

Butch:

The cauldrons I’ve seen seem to be working just fine as well. But again, I get a sense there’s a process here, or a reverse process. This isn’t a world where BOOM things happen. Things rise, and crumble, over time. Unlike most games.

Perhaps we’ll see religions adapting in a sequel. Though I doubt it. Cuz robot dinosaurs are the hook.

Oooo! Good point! That IS her age, isn’t it?

Well, I imagine we’ll know SOMETHING by the end. We’ll probably know enough about Wichita for it to be quite a teaser for Horizon: Mid morning.

Feminina:

Speaking of Horizon Mid Morning, I found out what Zero Dawn refers to. Not necessarily what it’s meant to MEAN, but where it comes from. We’ll talk. Later.

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