Horizon Forbidden West

Let me just say upfront that this article will contain some vague spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn. It probably won’t spoil too much if you’ve already watched the intro to Forbidden West, but either way, I’m just going to warn you upfront and then just get this train rolling.

When I played Horizon Zero Dawn, I sort of sleep-walked my way through most of the missions, whether that was the main quest line or side content. Something about the tribes, and their general lack of knowledge concerning the world around them, just made me not give much of a dang about any of the story beats. It wasn’t until very late in the game, after getting a much clearer picture of who Sylens is and the role he’d played in guiding Aloy’s journey, when I finally started getting interested. I was glued to the screen whenever the game was delving into his motivations for anything, and then when I witnessed his final act of betrayal.

Sylens is a game-changer. Finally, I had found a character who, despite his unflinching self-interest, was actually kind of relatable. At least, I felt I could understand his convictions — and ultimately his end goal. It probably didn’t hurt that he is voiced by (and modeled after) one of my favorite actors of the last twenty-plus years: Phillip Broyles, Cedric Daniels, and Charon himself, the always-great Lance Reddick. I kept thinking to myself, “Now this guy, this is a character I want to know more about; this guy gets it.”

Horizon Zero Dawn - Sylens

But getting to that point took a couple dozen hours of powering through a story that could be lukewarm at times. And, for the life of me, I simply couldn’t get behind Aloy. She was so cloyingly saccharine — and really, a bit of a drip, if I do say so myself. Ashly Burch’s performance is fine, although after listening to MinnMax’s Ben Hanson point out just how breathy her line readings were, that’s really what I notice now. And I kind of hate him for mentioning it.

After about 30 or so hours in Zero Dawn, I bounced off it. But when it came time for Horizon Forbidden West to release, I decided it was probably best to finish out the first game before moving headlong into the sequel.

The thing is, I had spent so much time away from it, and since I didn’t really get all that invested while originally playing it, I had all but forgotten most of the story beats and all of the revelations that would factor into Aloy’s ongoing narrative. So I decided to watch a recap, and from there I ended up reading a detailed timeline of events that occurred in the Horizon lore, starting from Ted Faro’s birth in 2013 and then moving forward in time from there.

I was struck by the thought that, as I delved deeper into specific incidents, the history of Horizon is far more interesting than the present narrative and Aloy’s attempts to stave off the end of the world.

Horizon Forbidden West

Now I imagine, part of this is because in real life I am a bit of a history buff, so even though this is a fabricated alternate history of basically our world lost, the historical nature of it perhaps speaks to me more. But also, with events that have titles like the ‘Great Die-Off’ or a large scale viral terror attack caused by a “Doom Plague,” now that sounds like some good times. Or some bad times that are good to read about…

Either way, that sounds far more interesting than running around with a bunch of idiots in loincloths with robot parts strapped to their heads talking about sun gods or some such nonsense.

Maybe this is just me, but I would love to see this lore fleshed out and also depicted in some form of storytelling, whether that be via a live-action or animated TV series or movie, or even a graphic novel if not a full-fledged spin-off video game. (I guess there is a graphic novel that comes with the Deluxe edition of Forbidden West, but I didn’t go with the Deluxe edition of that game, so I can’t speak to the quality of said graphic novel.)

Horizon Zero Dawn

I guess the point I’m getting at here is that I had no idea that the world of Horizon had such a deep, incredibly long history to it, literally one thousand years before the first game even started. And most of that history is pretty interesting.

And if we could find some excuse to have Sylens narrate that history, well, we’d really have a stew going…

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