Music Monday: Aloy’s Theme, and Horizon Zero Dawn first impressions

My body clock is utterly horked. I stayed up all night playing Horizon Zero Dawn, slept briefly, played more HZD, slept through the afternoon, now I’m about to eat some kind of combined breakfast/dinner dealie and play all night again. You’re gonna laugh: I’m only 10% of the way through the game. But my carrying capacity is maxxed out, and small animals throughout the land have learned to fear me. No rat is safe.

Fuck the main quest. Tonight I’ll be combing ruins again to find remnants of the Before times. Wanna know when I fell in love? When I found a text detailing Schott V. Frost, in which the Supreme Court “granted corporations the right to run for and hold political office through proxy candidates.” Hahaha, we all would have said thirty years ago. Now, I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t happen.

One text is about New Zealand, and I HAD ALL THE SQUEES! (Devs, please note, you meant to say “Hokinga Mai” – welcome back/welcome return – not “Haere Mai” – welcome.)

When I saw the first trailer I said it looked like Far Cry Primal: Mecha Edition. And it is Far Cry Primal Mecha Edition. But it’s so much fun.

Things I like about the game:

The tendrils of melody as I wander and hunt.

When you kill an animal because you need to craft stylish accessories from its corpse, you no longer have to search the long grass for three hours to find it (helloooo Far Cry 3), because a marker pops up at its location.

Colored markers indicate uncommon/rare items. If you’re hanging out for a boar bone you can litter the woodland with boar corpses and not waste time searching them, because their  marker is white. You’re looking for a green or blue marker. Go ahead, shoot that goose across the river. White marker? Nah, nothing you need there. Don’t bother swimming over to get it.

Large-scale machine slaughter. It’s so satisfying to lurk in the long grass, lure Watchers to me, and impale them in a single thrust of my mighty spear. There’s erotic subtext going on there, don’t tell me there isn’t.

Tallnecks. Climbing a Tallneck is 10,000 times better than climbing a radio tower. The ground shakes as they walk by. They’re impossibly beautiful. They feel real.

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The ruins. Oh, the ruins *happy sigh*. God, they’re gorgeous. Burn it all, bring down the world, let me wander through unspoiled wilderness, beside trout-filled streams, to poke through the husks of churches and office blocks.

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The whole soundtrack, which is here on YT, and also on Spotify.

Things I don’t like about the game:

Variable-ratio positive reinforcement. When you kill machines, or animals, sometimes you get rare and uncommon items. But not all the time. This is classical operant conditioning, and is why I decide to play for 10 minutes – just to upgrade my backpack to level four – and five hours later I’m a drooling, dehydrated mess. The devs added this feature because variable rewards are cracky. And when you get a rare item, there’s this sound. Oh, that sound. It’s brief, quiet, and satisfying, a kind of electronic sliiiide-thunk, like part of your soul is slipping into place. I have killed foxes just to hear the sliiiide-thunk. I hate myself.

Aloy. I keep wanting to type Ayla, from the Clan of the Cave Bear series. Also I think her name is supposed to remind us of Alloy, and how two together are stronger than one. Anyway, she holds her arms out too far from her body and it looks dumb. Also she keeps repeating stock phrases as I force her to wander the wilderness collecting tat so I can craft more tat. “A useful little plant . . . and bitter!” “This was easier when I was a kid.” “So much for being careful.” The first time is cute, but it’s constant. Now it’s nails down a blackboard. And you play as her. There’s no getting away from it.

The tribe’s called The Nora. Every time someone says the name I hear “bloody Nora.

Aloy literally says the line, “Who says I’m like other Nora?”

The aim assist with arrows. I’m playing on medium difficulty. I hope this goes away on hard, but currently it’s almost impossible to miss my target. I’ve seen an arrow get pulled off flight by 25 degrees in the last foot to embed itself in the carcass of a bunny. Dude, I know I missed. My ego is not so fragile that you have to cheat on my behalf.

Combat against humans. This is introduced poorly. You train against machines and then suddenly you’re in the middle of a battle with multiple waves of *redacted because spoilers*. It’s trial by fire, man!

The devs fridged  a character to give Aloy motivation for the rest of the game. She got to say a few lines, befriend Aloy, and then die horribly.

Killing Striders.

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They’re horses. You can override their code and ride them. Sure, they’re metal, but they’re horses. When you whistle they clop-clop right over to you with their big inquisitive heads, and then you lunge out of hiding, spear them in the heart, and their huge bodies sag to the ground with a last, sad snort. In the initial stages you have to kill Striders to get enough metal shards to make progress.I hate killing them.

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I have no problem killing Watchers: they look like velociraptors, wheee.

Static side quest characters. Right at the beginning I helped some dude who’d hurt his leg, and saved his daughter for him. Days later he, his daughter, and his bum leg are still in exactly the same place by the river.

A big problem:

The guy hearing voices bashed someone’s skull in with a rock someone because the voices told him to. Of course he did. Devs, it’s not the 1950s. This kind of characterization of mental health issues is not OK. It’s not like he even has more personality than this. He’s the guy who hears voices and who bashed a man’s head in. That’s literally all we can ever know about him.

Even worse problem:

In a grievously horrible developer decision the Nora warriors are called ‘braves’. This is cultural appropriation, and their response to having this pointed out to them show they gave it zero consideration. Just call them warriors.

Overall recommendation:

The long list of things I don’t like make it seem I don’t like the game as a whole. Incorrect. I love it. It’s gooood, buy eeeeet.

My inclination is to do nothing but play this for a week until I beat it and can rest. It’s the only way I know to stop myself obsessing.

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