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Some major main-story plot spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

I SHOULD have all sorts of awesome, but just when I was getting to the part where SHIT HAPPENS Mrs. McP came home and was chatty and wanted food so I’m RIGHT before what I KNOW is a good bit.

Basically, I climbed the tower and gathered data points and tried like hell not to fall through holes so I wouldn’t have to do it again. I read a lot. I liked the audio ones better, not just because it’s hard to read the screen, but because going into the reading screen broke the mood.

(Side note: Another beef I have with the inventory/stuff screen is the music. You’re in the heat of battle, or you’re climbing a tower or whatever, and each time you get that airy music each time you open the screen up. That airy music often, usually, doesn’t fit. Just keep the damn background music from whatever’s happening. Every time I read something…airy mood breaking. Grumble.)

And Mrs. McP got home JUST as I got to the top and Faro’s offices. Right then. Had to stop.

So I have about 72% of what I need for a good discussion on this.

But I did like the mood here. Starting with “You are three hundred thousand days late” was a really cool touch. And being inside and outside and going up and up and up was great. (Why is going up always such good tension building? Happened in RotTR all the time, too.)

But….the whole “weapons to keep peace never works” and “Selling weapons bad, selling green robots good” and “trying to control weapons and how people use them never works” themes have been done.

Now, I’m willing to go get the 28% of this particular chapter I don’t have before I roll my eyes because this game does do a good job in taking overdone tropes and turning them over, but when Aloy was all “They weren’t meant to keep peace…they were meant for war…” that got a tad eye rolly, that did.

But then, so did much of her kibitzing. Every time I read something, she chimed in with either a) something I just read or b) a very direct affirmation of the metaphor, which wasn’t all that hard to pick up on in the first place.

Yes, yes, Aloy, I heard it. Yes, yes, Aloy, if you say that in class the English lit professor will give you at least an A-.

I’ll get that 28% soon, I promise.

Feminina:

Aw, man! I mean, it’s important to feed and talk to your spouse, but damn. Timing, lady.

Yeah, lots of solid plot stuff here. As you point out, not necessarily the most original or subtle of plot stuff, but filling in some gaps, giving us some backstory. And hey, Aloy hasn’t heard this story 30 times before, so obviously she’s going to comment on each new revelation! She doesn’t have our vast backlog of cultural touchstones to reference. See the whole thing through her eyes, not your own jaded perspective, and it will seem new and exciting!

I didn’t do anything, it wasn’t my turn on the console, so I can’t even drop vague hints. Ooh, except I found a side quest that involves a thunderjaw, AND one that involves a stormbird, so I can multitask on Talanah’s Lodge assignment. Good plan, putting that off!

Butch:

Timing was BAD, man. I was even rushing. Like, “Maybe she’ll be home early….better find the climbing place…WHERE IS THE CLIMBING PLACE???” and she walked in JUST as I got to the office bit. Right then! And said “Do you want to see a picture of the dress I bought?” Seriously! The one day she buys a dress in, like, three years.

I suppose better that than right in the middle of a cutscene. But dude.

Was it seen through Aloy’s eyes? Or the eyes of a writer who was bludgeoning home a metaphor?

I wonder, sometimes, if the metaphor bludgeoning we see in games sometimes is a translation issue. We should try to remember (HA!) to see if we get that in games that are made by English speaking studios. This game is so good, and has such good voice acting, and takes place in the Western US, so it’s easy to forget it’s made by Dutch people. While I am sure these Dutch people speak absolutely fluent English, who knows? Maybe there’s some “We have to make sure this came through” emphasis that happens when you’re writing something to be translated. Cuz I can’t remember such obvious metaphor bludgeoning in Bioware games or Bethesda games or something. And the game that comes to mind that DID have a great deal of it was Valiant Hearts, which was made in France.

Hmm.

Feminina:

True. Could have been a cutscene. Or right in the middle of a boss fight where you finally have the upper hand after dying several times, but still have a good way to go. Other than that, there’s not much that could have been worse.

So what is she going to do once she graduates? Will she be home, wanting to have conversations or something, eating into your game time? You may need to encourage her to get a late night job or write a novel or really, seriously pursue Pokemon. SOMETHING.

(Speaking of which, um…I may have gotten a new phone with more memory, and I MAY have gone back to Pokemon Go as a result. But it’s a minor dalliance, nothing that will interfere with my life or my attention to other games. I could quit anytime. Just as soon as I hatch this egg.)

Hm. It’s an interesting point, about writing in a second language, and bludgeoning with explanation. I could see that, I guess, if I imagine I were trying to write in another language. I mean, one isn’t always certain even writing in a first language, and I would certainly be more doubtful in a second.

“Does this irony/metaphor/inference come across as clearly as I want? Better throw in an explanatory comment.” But I don’t know. There are probably English-native games that bludgeon, and I don’t recall the Remember Me really did…and Life is Strange only did occasionally, I think. There were parts that were fairly subtle, weren’t there?

You’re right, this calls for further research. The very minute we have time!

Butch:

Ooo, the boss fight might have been worse. Cuz when you’re at that point of the boss fight, you’re usually just a wee bit pissed off anyway. This close to snapping.

Well, she’ll still have that pesky job thing after graduation. 

Pokemon Go? Oh dude. No. No no no. Don’t do it. You’ve come so far. There’s so much you could do with that phone. Like….uh….transfer screenshots! Yes! Just get into photo mode. Remember the hard times, Femmy. Remember the struggle.

I’ve been trying to remember if the witcher had any eye rolling instances of this. That’s by far the longest game we’ve ever played that was written by a non English studio. I don’t remember noticing it, but maybe I just am forgetting, which I tend to do.

(Note: here we are revealing ourselves as people that don’t really play Japanese games. Junior, on the other hand, is ass deep in Zelda, and I have noticed that that game DOES tend to drive home the obvious. Not just metaphor, either. Stuff like quests and minutia. “You must fetch me 14 chickens. Do you understand? 14 chickens. Not 13, not 15, 14. Chickens. As in…chickens.” This game also has the added translational problem of not having voice actors (except for some very specific cutscenes.) Most of the dialog is written, so there wasn’t a voice actor saying “um…hmm…I maybe wouldn’t say that quite that way….”)

Feminina:

The Witcher…bludgeoning…I honestly don’t know. My instinct is to say no? I feel like we did a lot more reading deep themes into things in that game and wondering if we were overthinking it, than we did eyerolling about overly explained themes. Which suggests more subtlety and less head-bludgeoning. But also the Witcher series has a longer history and more practice: maybe the first one and/or the second were more overt in spelling out their literary points.

If true, this would be a good sign that future installments of Horizon Zero Someday might learn to back off the obviousness a bit. Though also consider the audience: we were recently discussing the T for Teen rating and what effect it had on the game’s potential for grittiness and nudity, but maybe it also influenced the writing by making them feel they needed to spell things out for a potentially younger and less sophisticated audience.

And yeah, very good point about the vast, teeming ocean of Japanese games of which we remain ignorant. (“14 being the number of chickens which you shall retrieve, stopping not at 13, nor yet continuing on to 15…”)

We should probably play some, to broaden our horizons, but…time. And platform. I can’t see getting a whole other game system, even though Zelda is amazing and foundational to the existence of games as we know them and the latest one is supposed to be awesome.

Butch:

Hmm, true. The first two Witchers were more overt. Or two was, anyway. I suppose we have to give this a pass. Though…more below.

And yeah, forgot the rating bit. Man…I hope they aren’t too beholden to that. I wonder if a series ever has shifted gears, like, ok, our audience is older, we’re going to M, so there. The series we play…I can’t think of one that changed ratings. Here’s hoping. And not just for nudity.

I mean, some for nudity. It IS us, after all.

I’m not making that up about the chicken quest. It is very blunt, that game.

I dunno. I’m watching it, and, granted, one cannot judge a game one watches ten minutes of here or there, and doesn’t play. But nothing is making me say “DAMN we have been missing out.” It looks like an open world game. With monsters. And quests. And chickens. And no voice acting. Though every time you start a conversation you hear some shrieky AAA! or OOO! They recorded 2194732 AAAs.

I’m sure it’s great. Junior can tell me all about it.

But, as Meatball is on a late field trip, had time to play!

Oh, Lt. Daniels, you so silly.

So yeah, Zero Dawn. The thing that can, potentially, end the machines, which is unlikely to actually do so because sequels. And maybe Sobeck is alive. Hmm. So I watched all that. Then had to run like holy fucking hell away from the corrupter that I didn’t kill the last time, because I ran the fuck away from it.

Now, I do believe, one must magpie.

Though speaking on that….did you miss the power cell up there? Cuz I found a power cell up there. For the armor. Remember the armor? I’m going back for the armor.

Feminina:

“AAAAAAAAA!” “OOOOOOOOOO!”

Man, we’re missing out. Ha.

So, yeah. Nice. Finished the Maker’s End bit! Yeah. Operation Zero Dawn, which is going to do…something to save…something.

Actually, if I’m following correctly, it’s meant to save the very existence of life on earth, right? Because the machines are basically consuming everything in order to fuel themselves (effectively vivid mental picture there with the ‘pod of dolphins in a blender’ image, and seriously, how do you not notice a potential problem with “can fuel itself on biomatter!” at some point during the planning stage?), and their off switches are all disabled so they’re just going to keep going until they eat everything, right?

I thought it was interesting that the traditional “we have to save the entire world from this terrible awful horrendous fate!” story in this game–the Wild Hunt/Skyhole equivalent–happened a long time ago, and our current goal is as much to find out about it, as it is to actually prevent bad things happening now.

I think that there’s going to turn out to be a threat to the current world that we do have to prevent, in more traditional fashion (we do have the cultists trying to wake up all the ancient death machines: those soothing lilac hordes probably aren’t going to thwart themselves), but the fact that this threat is still so indeterminate this far into the game is interesting storytelling, and really puts the focus on generally going about your business, investigating your personal history, helping people, etc. This is 90% of what we do in any big game, but here it feels foregrounded in a way that’s kind of nice…I don’t have that sense of constantly having to ignore the fact that I’m wandering around collecting shards and mugs when there’s a freaking demon-filled hole in the sky, or whatever. Yeah, I’m wandering around collecting mugs, but why not? I have other stuff to do, but it’s not as if the world is about to end if I don’t get right on it.

Butch:

Yeah life on earth. We hear her and Sylens say “well, must’ve worked cuz here we are.”

You don’t think the biomass thing is metaphor? Granted, she didn’t bludgeon this one so maybe not, but in reality, we ARE refueling with biomass all the time, if you drive. We could use it all up, and that DOES pose a very real threat to earth. We did say that maybe that cauldron pumping blaze was oil. The game started with an opening movie that glorified nature, and sobeck win a nobel prize for green robots.

Are self driving, oil fueled cars so removed here?

You don’t think that cultist thing is sorta pressing?

And did you find that cell?

Feminina:

Well, given the dolphins-in-a-blender thing, I think it was at least metaphor as well a vivid real threat, but true, ‘biomatter’ is a lot of things. (Including how some of the machines we see today seem to ‘graze,’ perhaps on grass. It’s all well and good if it’s grass and not dolphins, I guess is where the line is.)

And yeah, the ‘green robots’ info was useful background–considering how we’ve repeatedly remarked on the cleanliness of the machines we see everywhere, we can infer that Dr. Sobeck’s designs were involved.

I don’t remember if I found that fuel cell or not! I’ve only got one, and I know I got it somewhere along the main storyline, but I don’t remember if it was there, or later. Maybe later? Maybe I should go back and look around some more. I’m never going to get that armor at this rate.

I think the cultists are pressing, yes, but in a “we need to investigate and figure out what they’re doing” kind of way, rather than an “OMG they’re about to destroy the world and we must act now to stop it!” way.

Small difference, perhaps.

Butch:

They were actually digging things out of the damn ground…while we watched.

You have an interesting view of pressing.

I have to thank Mrs. McP for the power cell. Because I started right when I got to the office, wasn’t rushing to objectives, so I looked around. I looked around and saw a climby place that wasn’t all that obvious. So I climbed, as one does. And there it was. WAY up high. So high I fell coming back down and died and had to do it again. Had I charged towards the objective, I would’ve missed it, as once you go down the elevator the moment is lost.

(Let’s not ponder how a power cell was exposed to the elements for 1000 years and still works, ok?)

Feminina:

The elements that included an invading robot horde consuming everything useful it could find! Yeah, let’s not worry about that. Power cells aren’t technically biomass.

OK, OK, fine, it’s pressing NOW. (It actually gets even more pressing shortly, but never mind that.) But can we agree that for the first half of the game or so, it wasn’t as pressing as the main Big Threat to the World usually is?

And that this explains why I’m still stuck in “it’s totally fine to spend a week gathering metal flowers” mode?

I definitely didn’t climb way up anywhere to find a power cell. I must have missed it. I’ll go back…maybe…someday. The good news for you is, there’s another one coming up in…the next big place you get to! (The Grave Hoard. You already know it’s the Grave Hoard because you finished the Maker’s End bit. All right, self, you can relax with the secrecy.)

Butch:

You want me to agree to assuage your guilt that you picked flowers while the world ended.

Yeah. Grave Hoard. But I’m by a lot of vantages and flowers, so, you know, fuck the world for a while here.

Plus Erand’s thing is around here, and I did sorta tell him I’d help him out.

And Olin’s family. Them, too.

Priorities.

I also kinda loved Aloy, once again, articulating what we all think in games: “Kind of a depressing name….” Like, who comes up with this shit? Preach, Aloy.

Speaking of that conversation, do you think that Sylens really is Lance Reddick mo-capped? Looked a lot like him. But that could just be “Wise, bald black dude” which Lance Reddick does do well.

Reference here:
[https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMTQwNjI2NDE1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzc3NTUyOA@@._V1_.jpg]

and:

[http://www.gamepur.com/files/images/2014/horizon-zero-dawn-sylen.jpg]

(Note: we are not actually including these images because they may be copyrighted and we respect the law and stuff, but go look, you will be stunned and amazed at the resemblance)

What do you think? Awful close.

Feminina:

Oh, that’s totally Lance Reddick. No way it’s not. They wouldn’t dare try to fake it.

Yes! Yes, assuage my guilt at caring so little for the world in comparison to collecting mugs! Is that so much to ask? Among friends?

In depressing metathemes, every video game ever could be a sort of commentary on how humans do, in fact, prioritize collecting junk and making money on pointless missions over saving the planet from, you know, climate change and what not. But hey, we like mugs! Also cars and meat and air conditioning! That skyhole will probably be fine for a while.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Butch:

I assuage your guilt. It’s how I do. Mostly.

But dude, do not go all deep on a gray Monday!

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