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Some character and story spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

We’re back!

So did the Gaia bit and got the armor. Then did a corrupted zone to try out the armor. Dear God, the only thing I love more than the Oseram gun is the armor. Even worth hiding the midriff.

But all that story!

Gotta love it when a game hits you with twists like that so late. I love games, as you may have noticed, but, at times, lots of times, they can be a bit predictable. Finding out Sobeck died out there in the wild was a shock. And a very, very well done moment.

So if they didn’t keep project lightbringer around, how’d they make Aloy?

And that final scene….watching the holograms land where the bodies were was something some art director was really proud of, and with good reason.

So there never was an Apollo to find, then? He erased it all. Right? Here I was thinking “All that knowledge in that nursery just past the stuck door…” but there wasn’t. The kids wanted to get past the stuck door THINKING there was knowledge but there was nothing at all, just a teacher promising them the world but knowing nothing. Either way, they were going out that door knowing not much past “The sky is blue, the sun is yellow…”

That’s some fucking metaphor, that is.

But….I have questions: If there was no Apollo, then what was little Aloy studying in the kid sequences earlier? We saw her staying up “reading” stuff in her focus. We saw “bow” pop up when she looked at her bow with a focus. What’s all that, then, if there’s no Apollo?

So if Aloy is some sort of second coming…what’s the metaphor then? Sobeck, from what I currently know, failed. Sure, she made all this neat stuff, she died locking it up so it would succeed, but it didn’t, did it? Apollo was erased. Gaia made it, Hades made it, Minerva, I assume, made it, but Sobeck died to make OUR world again, and she didn’t. So Aloy is….hmm.

Lot to unpack.

This game is very, very good.

I still don’t trust Sylens.

Indeed, my distrust for Sylens was so deep that when he appeared there at the end, my thought was “Yup. Knew it. He’s the boss fight. Here’s where he’s all ‘Thank you Aloy….now I will kill you and take it.”

I was rather surprised it didn’t come to that.

Feminina:

Nice work in Gaia Prime! I, too, was deeply suspicious of Sylens and half expected him to attack me at the end of that bit.

I mean, it wouldn’t have made much SENSE for him to try to kill me–he presumably doesn’t want life on earth wiped out any more than the next person that lives on earth, and he’s explained in some detail that Hades knows him AND already tried to kill him, so Hades would presumably be highly suspicious of him trying to sidle up with a universal override all casual-like at this point. It makes perfect sense that he wants Aloy alive to do the job she was created to do.

Still, I couldn’t help wondering if he was going to attack for some reason. I was glad he didn’t, though. I don’t want to fight you, Lt. Daniels!

Isn’t that armor the best thing ever? You can see why it’s going to come in super handy during the endgame. Or fighting Redmaw or whatever. I should have saved more stuff to do after I had it: I really didn’t get to appreciate it just running around.

I thought maybe Gaia had managed to take over enough of Lightbringer to manage the cloning?

And yeah…apparently, no Apollo. All the knowledge of the ages, gone! I didn’t feel that necessarily contradicted the fact that Aloy had learned from her focus as a kid…I mean, the focus could have had all kinds of basic educational programs and/or the ability to estimate the age range of the user and tailor its display, etc. We’ve found out all kinds of things about the ancient world just wandering around, so there’s INFORMATION out there, just not an organized educational system designed to preserve and pass on ALL the information the ancient world had.

Which does seem like a tragedy, although it’s pretty much been the fate of humanity forever, not being able to know all the things people have ever known.

It’s interesting that they made that choice for the narrative, although in a way it makes sense. If they make all the wisdom and technology of the ancients available to these societies, then they’ve got to work out how they inevitably begin to use that information to build cars and skyscrapers and video games again. Those would be interesting stories, but maybe not the ones they wanted to tell. It might have felt simpler to stick with telling stories in the world they already designed.

Or maybe there’s a backup copy of Apollo that Aloy will go find and activate in the next game! Time will tell.

Butch:

More than half expected, for me. It just makes sense. You get the powerful thingy, and dude tries to take powerful thingy, right? That’s how games work. Another trope thwarted!

And well, yes, it wouldn’t have made sense, but he explained all of that AFTER it became clear that he wasn’t gonna kill us. I expected that cutscene to go differently, like, him saying “Mwhahahaha I’ve been with HADES all along! Now I shall destroy this once and for all!” Once he explained himself, I decided that this was not going to be an annoying boss fight.

And see, those journals we got right after were still sort of ambiguous as to whether he is a good guy. Sure, HADES wants to kill him, but that doesn’t make him GOOD, per se. For all we know, he still wants life on earth to end (he’s not really a fan of people, you know) but he’s run afoul of HADES for some other reason.

Or his badness has nothing to do with HADES or life on earth. Maybe he’s just a power hungry baddie who wants to be the sun king or some shit.

The armor. It. Is. Amazing.

Though slightly distracting when you’re toodling around.

Not at all sure how Aloy was cloned. Sequel, perhaps? It was certainly a plot point that Sobeck decided to “go home,” and I KNOW it was important cuz Aloy helpfully repeated that, just to make sure we heard it. Where’s Sobeck’s home? What’s there? Or was she speaking metaphorically? Hmmmmmmm?

You know, don’t you?

As for Apollo, so wonderful that it turned our own expectations around. Usually, when a game shows you something, like, say, a big ol’ classroom and a character, say, Sylens saying “All that knowledge…” that’s what it IS. Here, it wasn’t. It was just…nothing.

But see, something else though: HADES taught Sylens all sorts of stuff. He mentions HADES teaching him physics and calculus. It’s why he was so eager to help HADES in the first place. So when Faro hit reset, it didn’t wipe out everything from everyone. HADES still knew a bunch of stuff from the olden times, so that data isn’t gone, right? And that’s more than just basic stuff you’d get from wandering around.

I’m thinking it’s that sort of thing, where we’ll look for an Apollo backup. Or will wrestle with WHETHER to activate it. Which would be neat. We go about saving worlds all the damn time in games, but a COOL twist would be to go about saving the world, even multiple times, and then have to decide whether to keep the world we saved, or unleash all this knowledge and give it video games and cars and sky scrapers and weapons and stuff that fucked it all up the first time. Faro, after all, might be right.

Feminina:

The sparkles on the armor are a little distracting. But worth it. So worth it.

Yeah, true–he could have attacked you as soon as you saw him. The whole explanation came later, and was kind of a “here’s why I didn’t attack you just now” thing.

I agree that I’m not sure Sylens is a good guy, but don’t get the sense that he’s about wiping out life on earth. I mean, a guy would have to be pretty damn down on EVERYTHING to go that far, and he doesn’t even seem suicidal. On the contrary, his driving wish to KNOW stuff would suggest that he wants very much to live so he can learn more things. I don’t see him as in league with Hades as regards the soothing lilac hordes.

Obviously he was in league with it in a way earlier on, trading knowledge for knowledge, but I thought he pretty much bailed as soon as he realized he was marked for death (as one would), and I never got any sense that he approved of the wiping-out-life plan. Of course, he IS a good actor. Maybe he’s lying.

Setting himself up as a Sun King or the like…maybe…but even that, I don’t have the feeling he really cares about. It really does just seem like he’s motivated by the desire to accumulate information. He’ll want to activate a copy of Apollo, for sure. If that comes up in another game, I bet Sylens will be there.

Maybe he’d be willing to trade all (other) life on earth for a working copy of Apollo in one of the bunkers where the scientists ended up. I could see that. “Sure, take it all, just let me learn ALL THE THINGS here by myself.”

Butch:

No, I don’t think he’s in league with HADES either. But he a) doesn’t like people and b) thinks he’s better than everyone. He isn’t a benevolent dude. He might want to save the world so he can run it.

He really wants to know stuff. Which is probably why we don’t trust him. Really smart dudes always mess up.

Feminina:

Assuming Lt. Daniels isn’t busy, I’m pretty sure we’ll hear from Sylens again in the next game. And if it were possible to order a copy of a sequel by pushing X on an “order now?” screen at the end of the credits, I for one would have done so. GIVE ME MY HORIZON ZERO MIDDAY SLUMP!

We make fun of the title, but we really want the game.

Really smart dudes do mess up. I mean, so do really stupid dudes, but really smart dudes sometimes have more opportunities to make trouble with it.

Also, you touched on this and I also had that thought, what if Faro WAS right to erase Apollo? As people who like knowing things (a bit like Sylens ourselves, perhaps), in a culture that promotes freedom of information in a lot of ways, I think we tend to have a sort of automatic “screw you” response to the idea that someone else can decide what we’re better off not knowing.

But…ARE these people better off (happier, healthier, less likely to precipitate another robot apocalypse) without all that knowledge? I mean, they’re not perfect. By no means are any of these tribes presented as living in some idyllic condition of perfect harmony with the land and each other. I like that about the game: you don’t have an idealized Utopian society.

And so, again, it’s easy to say “well, these people still have theft and murder and wars and genocidal religious crusades, so clearly keeping knowledge from them didn’t help,” but…maybe it did. Maybe they’d be worse off if they’d sprung from the Vault with all of civilization’s knowledge at their command. We don’t really know.

But Faro basically deciding to stand in for god (yet another instance of someone playing god, in yet another context: this game loves its pretender-gods!), decreeing that the future innocents in his imagination must remain forever in their blissfully Edenic ignorance because he decided it, really comes off as him being an arrogant jerk who gets a bug in his ear and decides to ruin things for everyone else, which is not a good look. I think they tried to give us a little of his thought processes and vaguely explain why he feels this way, but it wasn’t enough to make him remotely sympathetic to me.

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