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Spoilers for side quests late in the Horizon Zero Dawn Frozen Wilds DLC

Butch:

Ok, so I played. I played for a long time! I did! But I don’t have that much to talk about. Well, I will put one sentence out there:

Daemonic rockbreakers really, really, really suck.

So you can guess what I did last night.

Feminina:

Yes. Yes I can, and yes they do.

We didn’t get around to talking about the old man’s quest yesterday because we got so into the Banuk assassins, but yeah. That was a thing. And I liked that guy, he had a good story and you could really empathize with him having lost his friend to this monster and being disappointed about being too old to go after himself. I mean, it’s a standard “bad thing over there go kill it” quest, but a good version of that quest, you know?

And then it turns out to be a rockbreaker, so yay. Wouldn’t have wanted to go through a whole game area without meeting one of those, would we? The armor was so key. I just ran around and shot at it or hurled bombs at it when it surfaced and depended on the armor to keep it from killing me with one blow. It was a long, wearing-the-thing-down combat.

Speaking of which, after you’re done with the final battle, you’ll get a quest that “five of this big nasty machine type are wandering around, you should hunt them down!”

Initially I thought “nah, I’ll pass” because it’s clearly just something to do after the main game is over, but now that I went back anyway to do the murder mystery, I figured I might as well hunt them all down.

So that’s a lot more long, wearing-things-down combat. Just FYI in case you want something to look forward to after you’re done with the actual story.

Butch:

Is it story? Is it interesting? Or is it just killin’ for killin’s sake? Cuz fuck that. I have a date with Chloe.

The old man’s quest was a good version of a standard. “Looking back you see so far, but looking forward at just a wall.” Poor guy. But yes, it was a pretty standard “go kill” quest.

But, to digress a bit, one thing that sold the guy was something I’ve meant to talk about and now seems the time: They do such a good job with faces. So many games (ME, say) seem to design their characters by letting devs just kinda play with the character creation tool. Or taking standard templates and changing maybe one thing (think Drack. Krogan are all very similar. Or the fact that all Asari are the same save face paint). This game, every face is SO unique. I’m sure that’s because they use real motion capture/face recognition when they shoot it (remember when we found the real pictures of the actors and they’re all close?), but adding the details, like making this guy have one eye, are just so effective.

And it did feel like that: “Hey guys, we forgot a rockbreaker! Better write one.” It was even up in a corner, like someone sketched “add rockbreaker here” in the corner.

Which makes me nervous, because I haven’t met a daemonic thunderjaw yet, and I don’t want to. I’m hoping the obligatory thunderjaw bit was the “upgrade the thingy” hunt that I decided not to do.

But man I hate those fuckers. Get close, they come up. Stay far, they shoot stuff, place traps, they avoid them, hit ’em with ropes, they dive. Fuckers.

I finally got it with the storm stick thingy. I guess if a shaman says “That will be useful against the new monsters you will meet,” listen.

Feminina:

It seems to be killin’ for killin’s sake, although I’ll let you know if maybe some story happens after I finish it. It really does seem like something they tossed in just in case people wanted a bit more to do. Which is fine. At the moment, I’m kind of enjoying having a bit more to do, because ROBOT DINOSAURS and wandering around this game world and so forth.

No comment on the daemonic thunderjaw.

OK, one comment: it’s gonna be great.

I agree–they do amazing work with the faces here, and that, along with the motions and voice acting, certainly helps sell the characters as people you’re interested in.

We could probably get a bit of interesting discussion out of the game’s treatment of age, as well…there was this guy, and then also the Keeper at the hunting grounds, who had some comparable reflections on life and doing stuff while you’re young and then winding up old, still here but not as respected/physically capable as before, and what that means. It’s interesting to see characters talk about this.

Butch:

Oh joy. I see…in my future…a change in the difficulty settings….

Always keep a click or two below where you are, cuz fuck it.

I do, after all, have a date with Chloe.

It is interesting to see this, especially as age usually, in games such as these, makes characters quite wise, in a merlinesque way, or, in some cases, MORE powerful (Flemeth, say).

Though we’re seeing more and more of that. Drack talked a lot about age and being close to the end (which is why I thought for sure he’d die, more on that in a minute), and even Geralt knew he was losing a step (remember when he fought “himself” and his comments was a long sigh and a “Damn, I look old?”).

But what IS different here is that, usually, the old dudes who know they’ve lose a step die before they REALLY lose a step. They go out in a blaze of glory. Shit, the dudes in Skellege were EXPECTED to do that! It’s why I was convinced Drack would die, a go out against the really bad things as a finale, dying a warrior. THAT happens a lot, so when it didn’t, and we assume that Drack ends his days sipping booze and doting on Kesh instead of blowing up after killing two hundred kett, it was a cool twist.

In a usual game, this warrior would have accompanied you, gotten hurt, then patiently waited to die while you looted so he could say “Thank you…he is….GASP…avenged….GURGLE….***die***.” He wouldn’t have just waited at the camp. And I think I like this better. He’s more believable. Especially as they put some degree of regret that he DIDN’T go out in the game way in his voice and lines.

Maybe we’re seeing that because the average age of gamers keeps going up. We’ve seen them aim games at parents more and more (TLOU, TW3, etc.), so why not put more interesting old dudes in?

Feminina:

Yes! I totally agree, in the sort of expected narrative you’d have the old guy who clearly wasn’t tough enough for the fight anymore but was determined to go anyway, and he’d tag along with you and get in a few sturdy blows before being fatally wounded.

I kind of like that instead he recognizes that this is no longer something he should be doing, but still values his own life enough to prefer NOT dying nobly but, ultimately, pointlessly.

“Hey, I want this thing dead, but also, I’d rather go ahead and keep living myself if that’s all the same to you. I may be old, but that doesn’t mean life is completely without joy.”

Which as you say, and as with Drack, is kind of a nice message to toss those of us who are ourselves getting on in years. Playing this game as hearty young folk like Aloy, it’s all very well to have the old dude die giving us a little help we didn’t REALLY need (I mean, that fight was long and hard, but we handled it…plus there’s always the option to turn down the difficulty). He’s old! His fighting days are over! Might as well go out in a blaze of glory fighting his old nemesis, because it’s not like he has anything else to look forward to!

Whereas now, I’m more like “wait a minute, I may not be as young and spry as I used to be, but I can still play games. Plus, you know, watch my children grow up, share moments of camaraderie and booze with friends, eat pie, etc. Life is definitely still worth living over here!”

It’s also kind of a nice recognition of what a badass Aloy is at this point: the dude (and the game) doesn’t even pretend she actually needs his help. “Look, you’re clearly superhuman. You got this. I’m going to stay by the fire and whittle, or whatever we do around here without video games.”

Butch:

All true. And an interesting point about that whole “Yeah, you’re superhuman,” especially as Aloy has started accepting that herself.

We talked (long ago) about this game having some real coming of age aspects. We used it to explain the naivety, the awkward flirting etc. And here, at the end (or “near” the end), we see Aloy come all the way from “I can’t do this without Rost! How will I cope?” to “Yeah, probably a daemonic rockbreaker. Whatever. Point the way, cuz yeah, I am the best huntress you’ve ever seen.” There is no trace of “I don’t know…I’m just one Nora…”

Feminina:

Yeah! As when she coolly accepted the chieftanship that Aratak ceded to her, without any “oh, I don’t really deserve this victory, you totally helped a lot and I couldn’t have done it without you” false modesty (though it WAS nice to have him distracting those machines), she’s comfortable with the fact that yeah, she’s really freaking good at fighting machines.

And it’s not as if Aloy has ever been a character who’s exactly mired in self-doubt. She does whatever the heck she wants most of the time and isn’t especially concerned with what other people think about it (with the exception, as you say, of Rost, but he’s long gone). Back to her childhood poking around in forbidden ruins and casually adopting the magical technology she found there: she’s confident in her skills when it comes to the things she’s good at.

She’s a little more uncertain socially, which is realistic.

Butch:

Very awkward socially.

Speaking of which, I, once again, reiterate that the dude in the murder mystery might end up a love interest in the next game (providing, of course, that our WILD INTERNET SPECULATION that they’re setting up love interests in future games, like Petra, and Erand, and Petra, and Avad, and Petra). Whatchu think?

Feminina:

Hm. I could see it as a sort of opposites-attract thing, since he’s barely started thinking and challenging things, and Aloy is ALL ABOUT thinking and challenging. Or maybe she starts out just encouraging that, and then romance develops as he becomes more formed as his own person.

We’re going to be very sad if there never are any romance options.

Butch:

Hey, our two knocks on this game were 1) bad UI, 2) no sex. Or romance. We’ll go with romance.

Feminina:

Yeah, better say romance. It is T for Teen.

Butch:

Well, we can hope the sequel will be M, right?

Kidding aside, I kinda do hope it’ll be M. This game touched on a lot of deep stuff (slavery, war, torture, etc.) that it sort of had to back off of in order to stay T. If they’re really going to go for it in a narrative sense, M would work better.

Heh. I was just going to type “But I fear they won’t, because Sony exclusives are always T for teen, look at Uncharted,” and then I realized TLOU is a Sony exclusive, so….

Feminina:

Heh. Yeah, Sony, really sticking with the safe treatment of tough subjects. Staying away from the soul-crushing depression and bone-crushing violence.

Nice to know we can always depend on Sony.

Butch:

Yeah, they have our backs, all right.

But, in all seriousness, being afraid of M does restrict your narrative license somewhat. Now, I’m not hoping Horizon goes TLOU route in terms of seriousness. That’s the last thing I want. Nor do I ask for gratuitous violence or sex (well….maybe….no, stay focused). But the ability to really tackle things without beating around the bush would be kinda cool. If Aloy continues to come of age, then the story should get to Mature and out of Teen, just like her.

Feminina:

It would be interesting to see them try to do that. You don’t see a lot of franchises changing target audience that way, but it would be interesting.

Butch:

Thing is, do you really think that teens are the target audience for this game? Rating and audience aren’t necessarily the same thing. Look at all the stuff in UC4 (which was T) that focused on maturing relationships, the difficulties of marriage (remember the long jeep ride with nothing but music after the tough conversation with Elena?), issues with adult siblings, etc. That’s not stuff teenagers are gonna get. Sure, there weren’t graphic kills and boobs and stuff, but still. The subject matter was mature, despite its rating. Horizon is tiptoeing that line.

Feminina:

Are you saying teens don’t enjoy ROBOT DINOSAURS? Because I refuse to believe that.

But I get what you’re saying, and sure, actual chronological teenagers may not necessarily be the entirety of the target market. I was more thinking that presumably some broader group of ‘people who play T for Teen games’ is the target market, and whatever it is they have in mind that initially led to the decision to design it so it would be rated T, may still be relevant in the future.

Or not. I dunno. There are certainly examples of movie series where later installments get darker/more serious/more ‘adult’ and go from PG to PG13 or whatever, so it could definitely happen.

And I’ll play it regardless, obviously.

GIVE ME MORE ROBOTS.

Butch:

Oh, I’d play it if it was rated E for everyone. But I’d prefer M. Cuz romance. Nudge nudge.

Feminina:

Totally!

Wink wink.

I can’t actually wink. It’s a terrible personal flaw. I just squint unconvincingly with one side of my face.

But on the internet, anyone can wink!

Butch:

T SHIRT!!!!!

And one that can be either T or M, so right up this discussion’s alley!

Feminina:

Should we include the “;)” emoticon, or no?

Probably no…too obvious.

Butch:

We are nothing if not subtle.

And prone to absolutely deadpan sarcasm.

Feminina:

So much.