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Serious spoilers for almost the end of Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

So the “all allies” thing pops when you sleep, so I can rest easy. Got ’em all. Too bad I missed talking to Nil.

Ok, so you know how sometimes I’m tired as hell and I suck at games?

Killed Helis. This took the better part of forever. But I liked the end, there. “Face. The. Sun.” Were you nice? I was nice. I’m such a softy.

But here’s how much I sucked: I killed Helis. Thank EVERY GOD IN THE PANTHEON OF EVER that there was a save point. Why? Because I forced the door open, jumped and MISSED THE ZIP LINE and fell to my death. For real. The zip line. I missed the zip line.

If I had started over before the Helis fight, I’d have run off and joined the circus.

But I didn’t. I SHOULD have figured that missing the zip line was proof I should have stopped. But no. No I did not.

Thank EVERY GOD IN THE PANTHEON OF EVER for that cannon. I refuse to accept that fight was possible without the cannon. There is no way that fight could be done without the cannon.

But, see, you still need a little skill, cuz I was playing so badly that I kept accidentally falling off the platforms WITH the cannons, to where the machines were, and having to scramble back up. You drop the cannon if this happens.

Thank EVERY GOD IN THE PANTHEON OF EVER for that armor.

I did have the sense to know I did NOT have a death bringer in me. Not without that cannon.

So I stopped at “follow the trail of destruction.” So much for momentum.

It makes me nervous that Teb said everyone was wounded but alive…”Mostly.” What do you mean MOSTLY? Mostly dead? Not all dead?

One thing I really liked: Hades is just being dragged along. Usually the baddie is, like, 400 feet tall and spews fire and spells and all sorts of shit. Here, HADES is basically a big rock that has to be dragged along. The big baddie can’t even move without help.

Another convention they flipped.

Feminina:

Oh, that’s a relief. So you know Nil is out there, being weird for the cause, even if you didn’t see him.

OH MY GOD I also missed the zip line and fell to my death there. Apparently that was just a really badly placed zip line. It’s not our fault, man! It’s the design! Also Aloy was exhausted from that fight, which was pretty long even with me not really tired. I picked off all Helis’ guys easily enough, but he was tough, so it was just a lot of running around shooting at him from behind things and then hurrying off so my armor could recharge.

Love. The. Armor.

And yeah, I really don’t know how one would have done that second fight without the cannon. I mean, it MUST be possible, because the cannon is an optional mission, but man, it would be BRUTAL. I have no interest in knowing more about it. The cannons were great. Sweet armor and giant guns, that’s what it’s all about when facing an army of demented killer robots.

I was also a little concerned about Teb’s remark. Almost everyone is OK, but some aren’t? Everyone is mostly OK but a little bit maimed and/or traumatized for life?

And yeah, the menacing, sparking, yet also rather vulnerable Hades being dragged along like a lump was an interesting visual. And also an interesting symbol of Hades’ priorities. They could perfectly reasonably have said “oh, Hades demanded that the machines install it as the brain in a super-thunderjaw!” or something, so that, as you say, we’d have the usual image of the main villain stomping over the horizon being the baddest ass of all the badasses. But that’s not what Hades cares about–it doesn’t care about making a dramatic entrance or looking like a badass or impressing anyone. Which is pretty great in terms of being true to the character. Hades literally thinks life on earth is a mistake and wants to wipe it out completely: why would it have the slightest interest in whether anyone is impressed by its appearance during one particular battle while it does that?

“I don’t NEED limbs to do what I have to do, so screw that. These things can drag me, what do I care?”

As we’ve discussed before, the Voice of Doom thing it’s got going on is not quite so true to this interpretation of the character, but I’m going to assume Travis programmed that just because he thought it was appropriate. (He wouldn’t have needed to program in a desire for a scary-looking body, because it was never intended to need to move around.) If you asked, Hades would be all “what? this is just the way I talk. Does it sound some particular way to you?”

Alternatively, it found that voice useful in intimidating its human minions, and kept using it for that reason. It would be interesting if in some future game some future iteration of Hades (a backup copy or something: we’ve already speculated there’s a backup of Apollo, so why not Hades?) intentionally adopted a calmer tone to win over some other group of human minions; working towards the same goal, but adapting the methods.

The soothing lilac hordes could totally be a real thing!

Butch:

And, more importantly, as far as allies, I know I didn’t miss any cool sidequests.

But, on that, I like that a bunch of those dudes weren’t necessarily folks you thought “I am making friends out of this obviously loyal person.” Sure, I would have expected Petra and the Sassy Lady and Varl anyway, but I was kind of surprised to see the warden and the Banuk hunter. I didn’t think in those quests “Ah ha! A permanent ally!”

But, since all this started with a trophy popping, interesting that, in order to platinum the game, you HAD to spare Nil. I mentioned that you don’t get XP if you spare him, and do if you kill him, which might imply the “right” thing to do is kill him, but, if you do that, no platinum for you.

Which makes one wonder what the devs WANTED you to do, really.

Oh, Helis’ guys didn’t last thirty seconds. Indeed, they were so wimpy that I feared they were only the first wave. Phew. Then, when she was all “That’s going to take out the bridge!” I was worried there was a time limit, and our snipe run hide thing wasn’t gonna work as it was taking forever. Phew.

It was very, very nice of him to walk very, very slowly.

Were you nice to him, too?

The armor is wonderous. Hope I keep it in the DLC.

Without the cannon, that fight would have been eight different reaper moments. It was long, it was hard, it was impossible. But yeah, no way they make a game breaking thing there, like, there’s just plain no way you can progress now, tough shit. No game ends that way. Or, if it did, the internet would have burned long ago.

But even the things I thought would make it easier without the cannon wouldn’t have worked. I thought, when I saw the battlefield before the fight “Ah. Ok. The cannon’s gonna be sweet, but they put a bridge there, so you could just choke off the bridge with a million traps, which would help.” No. They just charged through the river.

And FOUR deathbringers? Dude.

It would have been infuriating.

Thank you for sending me to Free Heap.

Teb’s remark was cryptic. But then, it would make sense if SOMEONE didn’t make it. Hell, when he said “Everyone is ok,” my first reaction was “Really? Damn, that’s convenient for the narrative.”

And as for HADES and badassness…could it have demanded that? We know that it doesn’t really talk except to Sylens, or to give kill orders. When it started saying “System threat detected,” people were stunned it was speaking. So it doesn’t fit the OTHER trope of game baddies: The baddie that does not shut up, ever. I don’t see HADES as a thing that talks a whole hell of a lot about what it wants, period. I get the sense it DID sit around rather blob like, saying just what it needed to say in order to get the job done. Sylens seems to have been the mastermind on how to con the Carja into thinking HADES was god like. HADES was just chilling being all “Define: Carja.” Sylens was the one that defined it.

And the voice, well, we gotta have some tropes, right?

I would follow the lilac hordes, though.

Don’t spoil! I still don’t know if I’m gonna kill HADES or just banish him to a place where he will sit and stew, planning what to do in the sequel.

Feminina:

It’s really true, you’re not intentionally ‘recruiting’ in those side quests, you’re just doing side quests, as one does, so it was cool that all those people showed up. It was sort of a nice blending of me with the character, because Aloy of course wasn’t expecting them all to show up, but neither was I, so I shared her pleased surprise that all these people she helped just to be helpful remembered that and thought well enough of her to come out now. The Blameless Marad even stressed that: “most of them aren’t here for Meridian, they’re here for you.” (Also, we’ve never really talked about him, but how great is the Blameless Marad? I kind of love his obscurity and refusal to be straightforward, and I DEFINITELY want to be known as Blameless Feminina when I advise kings.)

Pretty much all these kinds of games have you help people, and a lot of them have you specifically befriend people, but it’s not that usual to help people and then have that seem to mean much to them later. A lot of times it’s kind of “oh, you saved my husband from goblins, that was awesome, thanks, bye,” and if you run into them again later maybe it’s “we still can’t thank you enough for saving Bertrand” or whatever, but there’s still the sense that those people are Sidequest People and they have their own Sidequest Lives, and never again shall their path intersect with yours in any significant way.

Which is fine, that’s true to life (ish) in that if you spend a lot of time adventuring around you’re certainly going to run into a lot of people who you help one time and then they are quite happy never to have to cross your path again (“damn it, that adventure lady is back…every single time she comes to town, someone gets taken by goblins”).

But it was also pretty cool here that so many of these people came out of their Sidequest Lives on purpose to help Aloy, after she helped them. It made the people in the world feel more organic, as if things outside their own life can matter to them the way things outside Aloy’s life matter to her.

That’s true, Hades hasn’t been talking much to many people, and it wouldn’t necessarily have made perfect sense in the narrative if it had somehow convinced people to build it a thunderjaw body or something…but they could have fit it into the story somehow if they’d wanted, and I liked the fact that instead they went with Hades as a “don’t waste time being badass, just destroy the world” kind of entity.

Priorities.

It was super nice of Helis to walk so slowly, wasn’t it? Because man, his gun was nasty, and if he’d been hopping all over the place chasing me down before my armor could recharge, it would have been ugly. Fingers crossed we have that armor in the DLC.

And was I nice to him? Um…I kind of forget the conversation options there, but I don’t think so. If there was a “go to hell” one, I think I picked that. I was kind of mad about him chasing me all over, even though was considerate enough to do it very slowly.

Butch:

He was SO DAMN SLOW. Except when he got close, then he was a damn grasshopper.

The options were, basically, “Fuck you, (aggressive),” “I don’t have time for this, (medium),” and the heart one “This was because of you….” in which she basically says (paraphrasing) “You were duped, tricked. You fell for it, you moron,” which isn’t exactly NICE, per se, but nicer than just killing him. He looks up says “You….pity me?” And she tells him to face the sun and kills him.

I was going to say “I don’t have time for this,” as that’s how I’m really playing Aloy, but I figured a) she’s learning that there’s things bigger than her quest and b) she remembered the whole wife thing, and had some empathy.

Or I’m just a softy.

This way of making friends was a much better mechanic than being explicitly told “So and so is now loyal.” That was always a bit intrusive.

Having them all show up is a wonderful touch in a game full of wonderful touches. And it’s true: you don’t really expect the poor farmer who was starving who asked you to find his rake to come out for the final battle.

“Honey, I have to go now. Yes, I could die, leaving you and the eight children fatherless, alone and starving. But, you understand, I MUST risk it all, as that person found my rake.”

I forgive that guy for staying home.

Though there was one conspicuous absence, and the reason I thought I didn’t get the trophy: Olin. We REALLY helped Olin. A) we didn’t kill him and b) we saved his family. He even EXPLICITLY SAID that he would help us whenever we needed him and….not there. He was the one person I spent the whole game expecting to see again, and he was the one dude who wasn’t there. Unless he heroically shows up last, but I’m not holding my breath. With the exception of Petra, he was the one dude who really swore allegiance to us (Erand doesn’t count. Yes, he would have been there anyway, but it was his duty. Soma doesn’t count either: she didn’t want to be there at all), and yet he was the one dude who didn’t show.

Priorities, indeed. And it speaks to Sylens’ motivations. Sylens, we are led to believe, was the main actor in teaching HADES about the world. Once the Eclipse got a hold of HADES, they all just worshiped and stuff. Sylens COULD have said “Hey…there are these things we have now called thunderjaws, and MAN would you like to drive around in one of those,” but he, we can assume, didn’t say that.

The Blameless Marad was pretty damn awesome. Especially as you just KNOW that he’s done all sorts of shit that he ought to be blamed for. He’s just the kind of dude who, when he was a kid, would be found standing in a room full of broken stuff and still would have the balls to go “Who, me?”

Feminina:

Oh yeah…actually, I think I DID pick the ‘nice’ one, but mostly because I wanted him to feel bad and realize he’d been stupid, rather than being able to feel righteous about himself if I cursed him.

So I meant it in a passive aggressive way, not a forgiving one, which is why I didn’t remember being ‘nice.’

His “you pity me?” was met with me in my head saying “I guess so, because you’re such a moron, now die.”

The Blameless Marad has definitely done many blameworthy things. Presumably ‘Blameless’ is sort of like ‘007’–a license to do terrible things without penalty. Maybe some game will see us as Blameless Aloy, secret agent for the Sun King!

Man, there’s so much potential for this series.

I also forgive that poor farmer for not showing up waving his rake as he rages against the machines. And I pretty much forgive Olin for not showing up either even though, you’re absolutely right, we really expect him to. (Spoiler: he doesn’t show up later. Maybe he shows up in another game.)

I was wondering if maybe there was a way we could have played it where he WOULD have shown up, because weren’t there a few conversation options when he was reunited with his family? He swore his service to Aloy, but I THINK I remember telling him “just go and be with your family,” kind of telling him he didn’t need to serve me. You probably said the same thing, because we always say the same thing (even if it turns out we sometimes have different motivations for it). Maybe there was something we could have said, like “OK, great, be waiting for my call,” and he would have been there in the end after all (although the fact that we don’t need him to get the ‘all allies’ trophies casts some doubt on this theory).

OK, I checked the internet, and no, there’s no option where he shows up at the final fight. So maybe “just go be with your family” wasn’t a conversation CHOICE, it was just one of those things Aloy says, because she’s so nice, and he still takes it seriously and goes away?

Anyway, I agree, it’s odd that he wasn’t there, but like many of the things this game does that you wouldn’t expect, I kind of liked it because it means Olin DID go off with his family. He got out of the ‘obeying creepy cultists’ business and went to live a quiet life as a poor farmer looking for rakes, or something. And good on him, because this is also not necessarily something we see all the time.

Butch:

Yeah, it was the “heart” one, I should say.

It’s funny, we talk a lot on religion in games, and I can’t remember one where the hero basically told every religious person they were a complete idiot. She’s told everyone from Nora to Eclipse to basically shut the hell up. The ones that don’t are, at times, portrayed as nit wits. Did you keep talking to the Elder that wouldn’t give up on the fact that Aloy was chosen? If you keep doing it, Aloy eventually says “I want you to shut your mouth!” and if you click on her again, she just goes “Mmm! Mmm mm mmm!” She takes it literally, and is portrayed as a dunce for it.

There so is potential for this. I don’t remember not wanting a game to end like this. TW3 came close, but that was mostly because I loved Geralt so much. The world in TW is not the compelling part. I miss Bioware games because of the people, too. But this? Man, it’s just ALL so great. I love Aloy, I love the characters, I love the world.

But another reason I will play the sequel is that, so very often, franchises are defined, and judged, by their sequels. A great first game builds up all sorts of potential, a great FRANCHISE delivers on it. I think it’s why Mass Effect (in which 2 was better than 1) gets more love than DA (in which 2 wasn’t). I think a similar thing happened with TW (two was better than one, three was better than two, trust me). So did this game set itself up for a long line of awesome games? Boy, did it ever. But it will be Horizon: mid morning that will tell the world that this is either a franchise for the ages by delivering, or a huge disappointment if it doesn’t.

I sure hope it doesn’t get DA syndrome. H2 could be very, very, VERY good and still not be as good as this. And there’s a risk: So much of the sheer joy of this game was the novelty. ROBOT DINOSAURS! H2? We’ve seen thunderjaws and stormbirds and glinthawks. Can they keep up the novelty? MORE robot dinosaurs? Other stuff?

We’ll see when we play it.

I really was expecting Olin, though. More than some others.

And yup. That’s what I said to him. Because we are very similar, if not identical, in how we play.

We even miss the same fucking zip lines.

We especially don’t expect Olin to be the one who stays away, as he was the one who was all “I WILL DIE FOR YOU!” whereas the warden, say, was just “Hey, thanks, whatever, here’s a remarkable box,” and she showed up.

This game is good, it is.

Feminina:

It’s so true. Aloy has absolutely zero patience with any religious arguments. And it’s clear why she’s not a believer herself–she has plainly seen peoples’ gods turn out to be machines that basically say “made by humans” on them–but she’s also got no truck for this “well, I don’t believe, but if it gives you comfort that’s great” kind of making-nice philosophy. She thinks (knows, really) that everyone is wrong, and she doesn’t hesitate to say so. Even when she uses religious language because it’s the only way to get the Nora to understand (“yes, she spoke to me…she said there’s a…metal devil, trying to destroy the world”), she’s reluctant and not really happy about it: she’d RATHER tell the truth, but knows no one will get it.

And I like her reluctance, because obviously it would have been easy for her to just become a smooth-talking huckster about it for her own benefit: “Oh yeah, I’m definitely the Chosen One, and All-Mother told me to tell you to make me your prophet-queen and build me a fancy palace and provide me with servants…” But she’s not that, she’s a decent person, and so her discomfort with having to tell what in her mind are at least half-lies, even though it’s also basically the truth, is clear.

You get the sense that she’s way more comfortable talking to Sylens because he shares her understanding, so even though his ultimate intentions are murky and neither of us completely trusted him, it makes sense that she’d go along with him, because it’s so nice for her to have someone to talk to about these things, and someone who shares her desire to know more about the technological underpinnings of the world that most people are happy to write off as divinity.

Maybe her scorn for religious talk is another way to show that’s she’s fundamentally decent–that she’s NOT ever going to co-opt that language to try to control people, and that she respects the idea of the human intellect enough to NOT play along with what she sees as fantasies.

Butch:

It’s more than just reluctance, though, and not being a huckster. Compare DAI. In that game, you were reluctant. Remember the scene in the snow where everyone was singing? And you just looked uncomfortable? You didn’t have the choice to either bask in it or to run about saying “No! No! I’m not anointed!” And even if you didn’t believe any of it, you still sat on the throne and banged Sera in the big comfy bed because letting them believe you were something more than just some average person who got the mark for reasons unknown was key to closing the skyhole.

Aloy COULD have done that. She could have said “Sure, Bullshit, and I don’t really want a throne, but it sure would help getting people to help me find mom and save the world.” But she didn’t. Evelyn did, despite, I think, the fact that Evelyn was fundamentally decent.

So I don’t think it’s a question of stoking beliefs you don’t share being “bad,” per se. Depends on the situation.

Feminina:

It’s true, playing along is not necessarily a sign of bad moral character, but I think this also speaks to a fundamental difference in the design of these two worlds.

In Thedas, MAGIC IS REAL. People have mystical powers, and demons (or something like demons) come out of a hole in the sky for reasons we can’t explain, and even if we don’t THINK there’s a god, at least not the way the other religious people in the game do, we can’t be sure, because A LOT OF WEIRD STUFF IS TRUE. And maybe there’s a scientific explanation and the magic is all super high tech gadgets unknowingly operated by people who think they’re mages but who actually just have a weird nanobot-brain-infection that allows them to direct bot-energy or something, but we don’t know that. As far as we know, magic works. SOMETHING gave us that mark, and that mark works, somehow. I don’t think I’m a sacred anointed one, and I played it that way, but I don’t know that for sure. Maybe I was!

In Aloy’s earth, on the other hand, we KNOW what’s behind the apparent magic. Aloy has no reason to think there are actual demons out there, or that any form of magic actually works.

Our Inquisitor could kind of play along with an “I don’t think this is exactly true but whatever, some inexplicable magic something is definitely going on” attitude that Aloy can’t honestly share, because to Aloy, there’s no inexplicable magic something. There’s certainly stuff she doesn’t know, and stuff she doesn’t fully understand even when she knows about it, but she never seems to doubt that there IS a fully science-based, material explanation.

So I feel like playing along is a little different for her than it was for the Inquisitor, even though both of them are decent people. As you say, it’s situational, but I think that situation includes not only the people around you, but also the fundamental nature of the entire game world.

Butch:

Well, what is the quote, any suitably advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic? I mean, shit, Sobeck made a machine that could MAKE LIFE. It could remember EVERYTHING HUMANS DID and create it. And, if need be, it could send its child to stave off the evil that would infect creation.

I would say that in Aloy’s world, the existence of a god is absolutely tangible. Look at the description above. That’s God, man. Just because it makes sense in a language that tech savvy 21st century humans can understand, and is told in a way that doesn’t rely on nonsense like the nano-particles Luke Skywalker has or the Fade or some bullshit….

So true…true….there is a material explanation…

But then, to go back to Christian imagery, Jesus didn’t entirely GET the whole God thing, but he tried to explain it, and most people just didn’t get it at all. He went around to pretty much everyone saying “Look, man, it’s like this. It’s confusing, sure, but stick with me,” and still, only got, what, 12 dudes.

Jesus even DID try to say a few times that he was nothing special, and his followers would have none of it.

And, of course, there’s the narrative. Had Evelyn told the inquisition that it was on its own, that would be a very different story. And if you had the CHOICE, well, that’s not really doable.

There was a mythbusters where they got James Cameron on, and proved that, in the last scene of Titanic, they both could have survived (if you haven’t seen it, spoiler, Leo DiCaprio dies a heroic death to save Kate Winslet, which was, you know, the whole point of the whole movie. That and the sinking ship). They told James Cameron he was all wrong, and he said “I don’t care, I needed it for the story, he was gonna die.”

Sometimes that’s just how narrative gotta be.

Feminina:

It’s true. Gaia is a more present, verifiable god than any god we’ve ever invented, and people believe in the other ones! Why not Gaia? (Maybe BECAUSE there’s solid evidence for her, in the form of notes, etc. Maybe we believe more the less we understand. Jesus certainly got a lot more popular the more garbled by time and faulty repetition his story became.)

Aloy could have gotten religion, for sure. I suppose maybe it’s being Sobeck’s clone…? Sobeck was, obviously, a brilliant and skeptical scientist, and maybe that brain just doesn’t mesh with religious faith even when raised in a completely different context.

Situation, personality, the underlying explanations for the world. A lot goes into religious faith.

Plus, as you say, in DAI your character had the choice to go all in and totally buy the whole Chosen bit, whereas Aloy gives the player no such option. She is who she is.

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