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Some clothing and mechanics spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Ok, played! Yes! On a weekend!

So Friday, decided I was gonna check out that whole log pile thing, so I trucked back to the first hunting ground and tried it out. Dude. We. Missed. Out.

So when future humankind invented evil metal death dinos that probably ended the world, they failed to notice that, while said dinos were impervious to most chemical, mechanical or nuclear attack, if their toes were touched by a slowly rolling log of any diameter, they died. This could have been HUGE! Granted, this was not obvious, as it took me forever to figure it out, but dude. Logs. Logs just make shit go away.

So I did that, and then I was in that part of the map, and vantages, mugs, zones, as one does. Did the one with the Flight Academy building. That was cool all around. The datapoint of the deployment to Mozambique? I like how they just sprinkle little details like that. “It’s global. It happened in Mozambique.” Good hinting. Nicely done.

Then last night got back on track and decided to go do the guy with the sword, the missing sword, that guy. (One problem with the long distances between side quest objectives is it’s easy to lose the train of the side quest story. It’s been a while. Swords, poor folks….something or other. Theme.) But on the way I bumped into Erand and got vortexed into all that stuff. Followed him up to the ruins of that…what…amusement park? (Another cool thing this game does: Ruins aren’t always obvious. It’s not all “Hey! It’s Copley Square!” It’s more “That was…what was that?” which is more how it would probably be.) Oseram were killed, Ravagers were killed (more on that in a bit), sister’s possibly faked death was revealed, etc. I like Erand. I hope he doesn’t turn out to be a bad guy.

So during that fight I, once again, knocked a ravager cannon off and was unable to find and use it during the fight. That said, I was gonna be goddammed if I wasn’t gonna kill some shit with that cannon. So I switched back to the “sword guy” quest, picked up the cannon, and trucked down the road toward the quest marker. I put it down and quick saved at campsites twice. I shot a racoon with it. I was almost to the quest and…..one of those convoy things! A CONVOY! When I was holding a ravager cannon…..

Oh…..my……stars……

Carnage occurred.

And then, just as I was done, a bunch of bandits started coming up! And I was out of ammo, and they had a dude with a firespitter! But damned if they were gonna get my loot. So I hid, took out the firespitter dude, took his firespitter, and….

Oh….my…..stars……..

MORE CARNAGE!

Took a screencap of the massive amount of loot carnage, made it to the quest marker for “investigate the camp,” stopped.

Not bad. Moved the story, learned about logs, got some mugs…didn’t do what I planned, but when do I ever?

Feminina:

I need to get back to the Nora hunting ground and do the log thing. I’ve been dutifully making the rounds, trying to get a half sun at everything so I can get the lowest level of the Lodge gear. I don’t care enough to go for full sun, and DEFINITELY not blazing sun, but I figure I can at least get on the board in all of them. I’ve done three so far, but I have to get back to that first one (logs!) and then there’s another one way out south west-ish that I haven’t even visited yet.

Cannons are pretty great. I had a firespitter yesterday that I hadn’t even noticed until the end of the fight, and then I was like “damn it, I’m using this for something,” so I lugged it along the road until I found some snapmaws.

Carnage. As you say, carnage.

Sparks and machine pieces and loot pop-ups everywhere.

Having a cannon and a convoy must have been sweet.

Butch:

Dude. Logs.

Though whoever designed the mechanic obviously watched Return of the Jedi way too many times, because they sorta teeter and stumble down like the walker thingies in the Ewok scene. Watch, you’ll do that one last, thus doing what we always do in terms of mastering a key mechanic right before you finish the game.

Convoy/cannon was great. It really was. If you get the jump on it, you take those walkers out before they have time to put up their shields.

Though there’s something bugging me: despite the utter carnage I sent you in the screenshot, and my dutiful looting of same, the little “convoy” icon is still there on my map. This troubles me. Did I forget to loot something? I fear I forgot to loot something! AIEE! I HATE THAT! Or does it just stay there?

As for Erand, I suppose you know a whole lot more about all that and we’ll talk. Later.

Feminina:

I think the convoy icon is always there, because it denotes a region, not a specific individual convoy. Like, if you wait around long enough another convoy will come by, because that’s a route they take. I think.

I gotta get back to the logs! Also, speaking of returning to that side of the map, you know the armor in the ruins? I still, after all this time, only have 1 out of 3 of the fuel cells I need. I’m not sure I’m ever going to get that armor out of those ruins. Just as well I’m comfy in my stealth netting.

I finally put on some different armor for one particularly nasty fight where I decided I needed a boost against ranged attacks, but it wasn’t the same. I swapped back right after the battle.

I know much about Erend. Much that I shall not say. There is a lengthy storyline involving him and his possibly-dead sister and the Sun King. We’ll talk about all these things. Later.

Butch:

Figured. That certainly had the feel of the end of an early chapter in that story, not a late one. But a good one! I look forward to more.

Ah, convoy is a region! Like a machine site? I can’t figure that out, either. I finally completely cleared one, just cuz, the other day, and she was all “That’s that…” all happily. Does that mean those machines are gone? Or will they come back?

Dude, I remember the ruins. I WANT THAT ARMOR. Indeed, last night, upon finding the tripod with the sound cannon (which she seemed to understand the physics of quite well, considering she’s, like, a cavewoman….that focus thing must get Science Channel) she said “Someone hooked a power cell here…” and I spent FOREVER looking for it. POWER CELL! ARMOR! But to no avail.

She really put quite a bit together based on a rusty tripod and some busted rocks. And exhibited a rather sophisticated knowledge of the physics of sound.

You get to the point where you are your armor, really.

Though I really, really want the fireproof one. Then I’m gonna kill me some bellowbacks.

Feminina:

Yeah, the focus must have really provided her with a solid 21st century education. Sound, machine weaknesses, basic explosives…

Either it gave her that education in childhood, or, and here’s something I’ve been thinking about on and off, it just kind of filled her in as the topic came up. Because I’ve been thinking that she really represents us tech-enabled modern folk in an interesting way, which is that she seems to have super powers (to follow tracks, predict the movement of machines, etc.), but it’s actually just a tool she’s using, not something inherent to herself.

We, likewise, can walk around like supergeniuses of trivia with every fact we could want to know right there the moment we want to know it, but it’s not that we KNOW all this stuff, it’s just that we can look it up on our phones.

So even though it’s really convenient, it’s a bit like cheating from a strict skill perspective. Take away the tool, and we’re nothing special in terms of knowing stuff. Take away Aloy’s focus, and she’s…well, still damn good and running and climbing and killing machines, but based on the weird places we find people and settlements, a lot of people are good at those things, so she’s nothing special.

She’s a user of fancy tools, just like us, and her identity is even kind of defined by her fancy tool, just as one could argue some people are kind of helpless without their phones. (Although in our world, having a fancy phone as such is no longer that special, even if specific brands and models still mean things to some peoples’ identities.)

I wonder if there’s some kind of point here about the balance between technology and the very non-technological physical world Aloy lives in, and the balance of our own technology and physical world. Obviously, technology is useful to her, and she doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of it, which gives her an edge over others who fear or disdain this kind of tool.

At the same time, it slows her down…she can’t effectively fight with the focus actively scanning, so she has to come out of it all the time to move and survive. Is this a thoughtful lesson about how to approach our own technology (don’t try to live inside your phone all the time, but certainly use it to track things and identify the weak spots on killer machines), or just a mechanic to keep us from being overpowered?

Butch:

Well, we did see her, in the coming of age montage way back when, lying in bed and studying/reading/whatever stuff in the focus. Now, it wasn’t clear if the focus was giving her some sort of education, or she was seeking one, or she was watching 1000 year old cat videos. We did see “bow” pop up when Rost handed her one, and it was unclear if that was unbidden or if she actively did a “what’s that?” bzzzzp focus google search. That said, it is from her tool.

She isn’t anything special. She wasn’t even supposed to win the proving. And that one, brief bit we had to do WITHOUT the focus there was a tad unsettling. She wanted it back! We wanted it back! The first objective was “find your focus!” Indeed, YOUR. Not “the,” not “Aloy’s,” YOUR.

I think there’s very much a metaphor there. The game is most certainly about tech and our relationship to it. I don’t think it was about being overpowered at all. The stuff stays highlighted, after all. Once it’s in your head, as it were. The same thing is true about heavy weapons. Once you pick up the ravager cannon, you can’t use concentration (now THERE’S a metaphor), you can’t run, you drop the thing whenever you try to dive or dodge or climb (learned that the hard way last night). Heavy weapons make you loud, slow and clumsy. Do you feel powerful? Sure, in short bursts. But you can’t rely on them all the time.

And the focus is imperfect. It doesn’t give you all you need to know. We were just talking about how it doesn’t highlight things like log traps or handholds like other games do. And we suffered for it. We thought that focus, that tool, would tell us everything that could possibly be useful. It didn’t. Another useful lesson I learned too late.

Feminina:

Ooh, good (and timely!) point about the logs and the things the focus DOESN’T help us with. As well as the big guns, representing another useful but limited technology.

For all its coolness, the focus has significant limitations, which is obviously an intentional design choice. It’s extremely useful, even critical for some things (you can’t do those tracking missions without it), but when we depend on it too much, we make things harder for ourselves by not noticing the things it doesn’t point out.

Maybe the point is, technology is super cool and super useful (and also super dangerous given it did, you know, destroy civilization a while ago), and it will teach you things you can’t learn any other way (all these data points and story quests that depend on the focus interacting with old recordings) and let you do things you could never otherwise do, but you HAVE to know when to disengage from it.

We could really say that about pretty much all our tech, couldn’t we?

Butch:

And, at time, super useless. Some of the datapoints, things it DOES point out, are old ads for shit like “Use your focus as your drinking buddy!” which was silly 1000 years ago and totally useless now. It gives us the spam of the future, but doesn’t tell us about the damn log piles.

And we sucker for it! We read the silly spam, and we take for granted that if something isn’t highlighted it isn’t useful, even when it really, really is.

Say it again: Games are at their best when they make us, the players, part of the metaphor.

Bravo, game.

And credit here: 35 or so hours in, and we keep praising pretty much everything but the inventory screen. High praise from us.

Feminina:

So true!

It provides incredibly valuable information AND incredibly useless trash information! (From a practical perspective, that is. For research purposes at the sociology departments of future universities, those drinking buddy messages will be pure gold!)

That’s technology, all right.

A focus is basically a smart phone you wear on your ear all the time, that can project augmented reality features into your field of vision. OBVIOUSLY it’s going to be full of spammy advertising and stupid TV-equivalent shows!

The only reason it isn’t full of porn and “get newest bot-powered breast/penis enlargement now!!!!” is the T for Teen rating.

Butch:

You raise an interesting question: Why do you think they decided to go for the T rating? This game had the opportunity for grit. We certainly know the Shadow Carja are bad dudes. We’ve seen kidnapped families, murdered teenagers, stories of gruesome sacrifice. They didn’t HAVE to sanitize it.

It’s not a Sony thing, either. Sure, Uncharted was T for Teen, but that was, I think, because it was in the Raider’s style of PG13 swashbuckling fun. The Last of Us certainly earned every ounce of that M rating, as did (I’m told) the Order, which had actual Johnsons!

This game certainly dances around M for Mature stuff, but then pulls back. I wonder why. I’m not hating on it, but…I don’t know. Sometimes grit is just there for grit’s sake and it detracts (Looking at you, Game of Thrones), but sometimes it adds to the believability. If your world’s gonna have grit, show grit (Looking at you, Witcher).

Feminina:

Hm. I of course know absolutely nothing about the developers’ thought processes, but to speculate wildly (because that’s what we do), I guess I could think of a couple of reasons…

They might have just wanted the larger potential audience they could get with a T.

I mean, the ROBOT DINOSAUR hook is intriguing enough to grab pretty much anyone who’s interested in that sort of thing, whether there’s nudity or not, so they might have figured they don’t have to have grit to get people, and if they can tell their story without it why not appeal to the parental buyers who might make it hard for younger players to get their hands on a darker or more ‘adult’ version?

So this could be both sound marketing, but I think it could also be an artistic choice…there are plenty of times when ‘grit’ and violence and nudity are non-essential and can feel like “oh, great, they threw in some graphic violence/nudity so we know it’s cool even though the story is stupid.” That wouldn’t be the case here, of course, because we don’t find the story to be stupid, but it might still be a matter of “nudity lets us get lazy about writing” or something that made them figure it was an equally interesting exercise for them to make it PG.

I will certainly nod to the Witcher for (mostly) pulling off sex and nudity that doesn’t feel totally extraneous…it’s part of the character and the world, and it’s a detailed and complicated character and world, and that works for the game and it’s great. (Aside from the lack of male nudity. Never forget.)

But that’s certainly not going to be every game or every character, and I imagine sometimes that’s just not what someone is going for as a storyteller, so they steer away.

You can still include plenty of dark elements–as you said, in Horizon we’ve got torture, slavery, murdered parents, the violent end of civilization, etc.–even if you don’t show them onscreen, and I think if you attempt to address it thoughtfully, that’s just as legitimate as depicting it in graphic detail. You can reach people who either wouldn’t want to, or wouldn’t be allowed to, play a more graphic game, and present issues in a way that players will still take seriously on a story level, even if they’re all offscreen.

In closing…money? Art? Artsy money?

Butch:

We’re on fire today.

Even if you assumed that making it M would be through nudity.

I was thinking more general grit….but hey, you wanna go down the nudity road, you do you.

But if you’re going there…

I noticed a couple midriffs in this game! Skimpy armor! It was in the hunter’s lodge. Our hawk has a two piece but…..so does the asshole DUDE! We have dude midriff!

Now THAT’S equal opportunity.

Feminina:

Hey, I mentioned graphic violence! I mean, yeah, nudity is my primary concern and I refuse to apologize for that, but I did mention violence.

Also, as I think we’ve discussed in the past, nudity/sexuality is going to get you rated M a lot quicker than violence will.

Violence needs to be pretty graphic and dramatic to even get noticed, and you can kill 8,000 dudes non-graphically (as we regularly do in the course of a day’s work) without causing a single eyeblink from the ratings agency, whereas you let one naked breast appear, and you’re out.

Therefore, I think it’s fair to think more about sex when discussing ratings.

I also noticed the bare midriff in the Carja Blazons outfit! Most of her apparel choices are quite practical and non-revealing, but yeah, there was a bit of stomach there. I’m totally fine with that, since it’s only one of many options.

And as you say, especially if it’s equal opportunity midriff that can also be seen on some dudes. It’s much easier to argue “but this is just how people in this time/land/club dress!” if, in fact, lots of people including dudes are dressing that way.

It’s not MALE NUDITY NOW, but given this is as nude as anyone gets in this game, I’ll take it.

Butch:

Wait…ALOY has a midriff outfit?

So…um…what does that cost?

Feminina:

You haven’t seen that one? Carja Blazons, man! I think. Maybe it was Carja silks or something else, but ‘blazons’ is sticking in my mind. It’s a ceremonial outfit or something? I think? I don’t know, I just saw the midriff and that it wasn’t outlined in purple.

I don’t remember how much it costs…it’s not purple, so I have no use for it. If I find a Shadow Carja version, I’ll be all over it, although I’ll probably never actually wear it because it won’t help me be stealthy. I have so many empty slots in armor, though, and so many shards, I’ve just been buying stuff lately because why not. If I have the random machine parts required, that is.

Still haven’t found the Rattler at the same time that I had the machine parts. The caveman shotgun eludes me.

Butch:

I’ll have to look for that outfit…..for the blog. And the screenshot….it’s probably photogenic. I have to keep true to my art.

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