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Spoilers for the ‘musical instrument’ quest and the shaman’s story in Horizon Zero Dawn DLC Frozen Wilds

Butch:

Hey, guess what? No, not “I got nothing!” I actually played!

Specifically, I did the bit at the dam, which I really should’ve guessed would be at the dam, as I noticed there was a dam on the map right away. Sigh.

Buuuuuuut I don’t have ALL that much because the game MEAed me.

I was cruising. Got through the whole thing, got into the room, saw the guy not find the looking glass, thought “I’m done! Bloggage!” But no. No, no, no. The REAL end of the quest wasn’t there. It was way back at the Din, and I went back, and there were snapmaws, and I was tired so I stopped.

The real end of the quest wasn’t there. I thought we were done with real ends of quests not being there.

But I do have some thoughts!

1) MAN the way they do acting and dialog scenes is good. Like, really, really good. It’s like participating in an actual, acted scene. When we play our next game and have to go back to talking about “facial” animations instead of just “acting” animations I’m gonna be sad. The bit where he’s talking about the mirror and he turns, the CAMERA ANGLE CHANGES so he’s in the foreground and Aloy is in the background, blurry, and it pulls focus so he’s blurry and she’s clear? During DIALOG? Not a cutscene? DAMN, game. That’s some next level shit.

2) Gildun was/is a fascinating character and I really, really want to see how he plays in the end of the quest. I kept expecting him to betray me (he still might). I kept expecting the real reason he wanted into that room to be some evil weapon or something. But no, it really was a looking glass (I think). He really did want to connect with his mother, or her memory, and the fact it wasn’t there truly hurt him, but he didn’t show it. DAMN, game. That’s some next level shit.

3) I really hope there’s one more audio entry from the rock band there, because I’m still not sure what they were doing with that. I know I didn’t miss one, because I have 1/24 through 5/24 without missing any numbers. I hope they put a cherry on that before the quest ends.

4) Holy shit I love this game. I LOVE this game. I want Horizon 2 NOW.

Feminina:

Yeah, that was a bit of a drawn out ending, but don’t worry, it wraps up quickly once you’re past the snapmaws. Which, remembering the wisdom we’ve both gained, I did not even try to kill. Just sneak by, man.

But also, yeah, that was a good quest. Gildun was a great character. I felt genuinely bad for him when it turned out that he really did just want that mirror, and it wasn’t there. He hid it, but you could tell he was really sad. Which was such amazing acting/animation for a game! And I was so sorry for him, I wanted to be all “I’ll find your mirror for you!” but that wasn’t an option, which is also an interesting small twist. I mean, usually in games if someone has a problem, we fix it, right? No matter how small and seemingly insigificant! Your great-grandfather’s missing handaxe? I’m on it!

But not here. Which in a quiet way is saying we CAN’T fix every problem in the world, especially if the problem is really that the guy misses his mom, which our finding a cool mirror for him wouldn’t actually cure. We can’t solve every person’s unhappiness. This game in general has been good at that subtlety…so many of the side quests in the main game (that is, the non-DLC) ended up with us finding a person too late to save them, or clearing some space for someone to mourn someone else who’s already dead and can’t be saved. We do what we can, but we don’t leave people all happy and full of glee.

“Yay, my familial handaxe is back and all’s right with the world!” No.

And there was just a lot of fun stuff to do there, with the climbing, that puzzle in the floor getting water to flow the right way, all the found text about the last Girls on Earth, a bit of combat but not the main focus. Good, good stuff. I love this game.

Butch:

Sneaking past snapmaws is the plan. But it’s hard to be sneaky when you’re tired. Hard to do anything, really. The fact I got this far in one night is a miracle.

Absolutely a great ending. Indeed, there were no dialog options in that cutscene. You just watched as he tried to hide his sadness. There wasn’t a biowaresque “It’s ok/get over it” choice. It just was. Nothing you could do to solve anything, even his grief.

And his desperation! You get the sense he’s been looking for a mirror a long time, and he’s going to keep looking, even if it’s futile. He’s not going to give up, and we can’t make him. Even if the next time, or the time after that, he gets killed. You almost expect him to someday die looking, and, well, that’s something you can’t change.

It was also a lesson other games should learn when it comes to narrative: Sometimes less is more. When he’s explaining why he wants the mirror, he just tells this story of long ago, seeing himself, his mother behind him, smiling, AND THAT’S IT. This wonderful image, that you KNOW is long ago, and had so much more meaning to him for…some reason. You get the sense that his mother is gone, but to where? Dead? Did she leave him? There’s a story there, but they DON’T TELL IT. Practically every other game would have given us five minutes of him talking, and explaining, and blabbering until our eyes glazed over because whatever. But the way they did it here, this one image and this unknown story that obviously affected him made me care MORE. And DAMN other games, learn that lesson. Please.

I still want to know what was with that rock band.

I really, really love this game.

Feminina:

The rock band just IS, man. Like rock itself! It needs no explanation. You can’t demand to know what’s with THE MUSE.

Though consider the excellent thematic resonance of the fact that we’re on a quest to save someone’s musical instrument, and here’s this long-ago story of music in these same spaces. That’s the power of rock ‘n roll: it echoes on past the very end of the world.

Butch:

Excellent thematic resonance in that the rock music is, well, bad and the music she’s making in the Din (I got close enough to hear it) is prettier. Here’s the old ones with their electric technology making a, well, din, and here’s the Banuk using this industrial, rusted garbage for something beautiful. More failed intentions of the old ones.

Speaking of loving this game, I reiterate that Mr O would LOVE this game, and yet, he hasn’t played it. You lying to him about it to keep the console?

Feminina:

…maybe a little? Just a few tiny lies about it being boring and awful with terrible combat mechanics, flat characters, and tired narrative tropes?

But no, not really. Plus, he sees it over my shoulder, so even if I did lie, he can observe its beauty at will. And he laughed at one bit of dialogue last night, so he’s seen that! Speaking of which: I know we don’t care about hunting grounds and don’t want to go to hunting grounds and hunting grounds are the main annoying thing in this game, but…go to the hunting ground anyway. You don’t have to actually do any of the trials, but just talk to the Keeper. It’s worth it for the dialogue.

Incidentally, I spent my time running around: went back to Song’s Edge and listened to the storyteller, talked to the painter, got the maps, and ran all over collecting things and enjoying the atmosphere and following up on the main story. So I got stuff done–discuss at will.

Butch:

I shall go for the dialogue. I do remember some amusing stuff about that in the main game. The fish guy? Another nice detail: explaining why these dudes are sent into nowhere.

If he thinks it’s good looking now, imagine when you treat yourself to a Pro and a big assed 4K TV this Xmas cuz new house! Just sayin’…..

It does look pretty fucking amazing.

I’ll catch you on the main story, as the only thing I have to do right now IS the main story (find the path of the whatever) and collecting pigments. I don’t even have the other two maps, cuz I need to kill another badger to get them. Or a goat. I forget. Though I did stumble on a figurine of a cat or something! Who needs maps?

Ok…the story…

So the Banuk creation myth is a woman who came out of a mountain, held the blue light that came out of the ground and used it to control the machines. Right? I’m summing, but right? And she, thusly, protected the first Banuk, and they are their ancestors.

We’ve met a woman who came out of a mountain, a mountain, you know, RIGHT FUCKING THERE at the Grave Hoard. She was kind of key to the story. Sobeck locked the vaulty thing from the outside and wandered somewhere. Right? So it fits. Kinda. But not.

Because the world ended. No one is descended from the Old Ones, not directly, cuz everyone died, and all life died, and all that.

Right? RIGHT?

Time for some WILD INTERNET SPECULATION!!!!!

That didn’t really happen. Sylens says, when learning about the whole rise of the machines at Faro Tower there, when being told of the imminent destruction of all life “But WE KNOW that didn’t happen, because here WE are” (emphasis added). This coming from a dude who has the blue shit woven into him and who KNOWS SHIT. Maybe “WE” is the Banuk. Or whoever is privy to the blue shit.

Now, you might be thinking “C’mon, man, we saw Sobeck all dead there by her house,” to which I say “You know any creation myth that’s that accurate?” And, by the way, we didn’t see all of Sobeck’s body because she was in that suit. She could have had all sorts of blue shit in her skin.

After all, remember, when we finished the game, we wondered how she was that well preserved? Maybe blue stuff does that. Ever seen a dead Banuk? Me, neither. Maybe they don’t “die” in the same sense of other humans.

So maybe some humans did survive, Sobeck found a way to make them survive, and the Banuk really are the descendants of whoever Sobeck saved. Somehow.

End of WILD INTERNET SPECULATION!!!!!!

Feminina:

The Banuk origin myth is certainly suggestive.

The woman leading a group, pursued by the ‘ravenous tribe’ that sucks the marrow from their bones–the Faro machines that were eating everything on earth? The woman holds/controls the blue light of the machines and the machines fight back the ravenous tribe–the blue light is the ‘good’ AI/machines, holding off the devouring ones?

Hm.

Certainly it’s not literally true, but to what extent does it reference the truth? We know that the Banuk shamans are able to achieve some kind of weird communion with the machines: we saw it with that guy who wanted to drink all that machine blood. He was able to tell us things about the machines that were filtered through his understanding and mythology, but basically true. So, yeah, maybe threading the blue stuff through their skin DOES give them a certain weird, fragmentary understanding of the shadowy outlines of this ancient history.

And really, do any of us have a clearer grasp on the distant past? Poking around in Neanderthal graves, speculating about why they did whatever we think they might have done?

Butch:

Yeah, but what do you make of the idea that this suggests someone, or some people or some living thing, actually survived?

If you know, don’t spoil.

Feminina:

Well, it’s true that we didn’t examine Sobeck’s body that closely, so who knows?

In the theory that she survived, it’s a bit odd that her body was where Aloy thought it would be based on the assumption that she died outside that bunker, rather than somewhere in the frozen north where she (according to the myth) would have led the proto-Banuk…but maybe she wanted her body returned there after she did die. For some reason. It seems a bit of a stretch, but who knows. Maybe it wasn’t even her body, it was some random other body, although that also seems a bit of a stretch.

But as you say, how many origin myths are literally true? Maybe it’s not that she physically led the people to safety, but that she led them by being the designer of Gaia and organizing Operation Zero Dawn. Maybe she didn’t physically hold the blue light, but she was responsible for bringing it back to the world because Gaia created the machines. Maybe the woman in the myth is a mix of Sobeck and Gaia.

Or maybe Aloy isn’t Gaia’s first attempt at this: maybe there was a real woman who led the Banuk, but it wasn’t Sobeck, it was an earlier clone, leading people away from earlier machines (an earlier attempt by Hades to wipe everything out?), and helping to build/unleash the current, blue-light machines.

So much we don’t know! But can speculate wildly about.

Butch:

Well, that’s why it’s WILD INTERNET SPECULATION!!!!

But, again, the Banuk are right there, right by where she’d come out of the mountain. You have to go right by the Grave Hoard to get to this place. And that “out of the mountain” was so specific, not “from the mountains” or even “Out of the mountainS,” or something. Out of the mountain, singular. So she could have done all that right away, then gone to wherever. Or been taken by machines. We don’t even know where her house was. It didn’t look like anywhere the game took place, so maybe the friendly machines took her there.

WILD INTERNET SPECULATION!!!!

But I dunno, man. Knowing about Zero Dawn was some advanced shit.

Ooo! I never thought of an earlier Sobeck clone. Do we know if that happened? I forget.

Or maybe just you know. You’re ahead of me.

Feminina:

No, I don’t know anything more than you do about this. The shaman’s story is all I’ve heard about it so far.

I kind of doubt they’re going to answer those kinds of questions in DLC, though. From a planning standpoint, it seems like the kind of thing you’d keep for a major title release.

So I’m just speculating wildly, the same as you! It’s what the internet is for! Well, that and porn. And cats. And probably cat porn, although I’d rather not know for sure. Would cats even care about porn? Probably not, unless it involved pheromones instead of visuals.

…Moving on.

I don’t think we ever saw any indication in the main game that this cycle of life developing and being wiped out by Hades had happened before, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t. We could be Aloy number 53 for all we know!

Butch:

Thank you for moving on there. (Please don’t tag this post “porn.”)

No, it doesn’t mean it didn’t. Which would be a cool twist. In a game full of cool twists. And, if the theory of the Banuk somehow surviving HADES’ wipeouts, then they’d know that, right? So the best way that Sylens/Banuk would deal with the bad machines, and the Carja, and everyone else would be to trigger HADES again. And given the after credits scene….

I love WILD INTERNET SPECULATION!

Feminina:

“Oh yeah, whenever things get a bit rough for us, we just trigger an event that wipes out all life on earth, and then we come out of our bunker to try again.”

Hm. Seems a bit extreme when we put it that way, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Butch:

It doesn’t. And it would be ANOTHER interesting twist. Usually, in fantasy games, the mystical weirdos are either harmless purveyors of information (which we assumed Brin was), or helpful! Shit, in D&D, most mystical weirdos can’t carry blades and they heal you! They’re not bad guys! Even if they were, they’re so weird that they’ll never bring about whatever it is they want to bring about because it’s so outlandish you don’t have to worry about them!

Here, we have the Carja, who are badass dudes, we have the Oseram who make badass cannons. These are dudes who can fuck shit up. But the Banuk? I haven’t killed a single one. None of them have tried to kill me. Sure, they have warriors, but they seem to be on my team. Seem to be.

But what if they aren’t? What if, for all the bloodthirstyness of the Carja and all the weapons of the Oseram, the most dangerous guys out there are the Banuk? THEY’RE the guys who can end the world, and are willing to? The guys who are all mystical and make us roll our eyes and say “Yeah, yeah, nice weird story?” When does THAT ever happen in a story?

Feminina:

I was thinking about that too! After I sent that message I thought “what a twist that is, if these fairly inoffensive seeming, mystic, snowy barbarian types keep wiping out everyone on earth whenever other people start pushing them.”

That would really make me rethink the general sense of sympathy I have at the moment. I mean, I kind of like the Banuk. They seem like harmless weirdos, and, as you say, are much less likely than anyone else to try to kill me (although…I don’t know, we can’t really say any of the tribes per se try to kill us, it’s BANDITS who always try to kill us, and they could be from anywhere, originally).

What if they turned out to actually be dead serious and very harmful weirdos? Interesting twist.

Though play on (I know you will) and there’s an interesting bit that reminds us how little respect Aloy has for anyone’s Ancient Sacred Mystical Traditions. We can discuss cultural relativism!

Butch:

Oh, cool!

I want to point out that a) we’re getting a lot of content and b) a lot of bloggage from a DLC. An add on. This game is so good the damn add ons are this good.

But also, no way, dude. LOTS of Carja tried to kill us, including a damn boss. They threw us in an arena, for heaven’s sake! And the waves of dudes we killed with that awesome cannon when we first got it were other, rebel Oseram! Lots of other tribe dudes tried to kill us! Banuk? Not yet.

Feminina:

Well, OK, the SHADOW Carja did try to kill us. And the other Oseram did attack that settlement, although they were arguably trying to kill each other more than us. But fair point: the hostile factions that have required our violent opposition at various points have represented multiple tribes, but none have so far been Banuk.

This game is damn good.

Butch:

If there isn’t a sequel, I will plunge into a deep depression.

Feminina:

Agreed. I can barely stand to think about it.

Butch:

I figure they’re gonna make a sequel. My fear is that they’re going to wait until the PS5 comes out, and make it a big debut title for that system. And I figure that system is a ways away.

Feminina:

While the internet is the place for wild speculation, let’s just agree not to think about that horrifying possibility.

In my lovely, joyous dream world, it’s going to come out as soon as we’re done with everything else we’ve been meaning to play.

So…possibly around the time the PS5 is released. Works out great.

 

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