The Virtual Life – What Makes Horizon Zero Dawn's Heroine Remarkable

Javy Gwaltney

Horizon Zero Dawn launches next week, and we've been exploring Guerrilla Games’ surprisingly photogenic take on the post-apocalypse. You can read our review here. At first glance, Horizon Zero Dawn doesn’t seem that different than most open-world games. It might even be fair to call it a bit of a hard sell given just how many fantastic, content-packed games in a similar vein have been released in the past few years. However, one of the many ways that Horizon stands out is with its protagonist, Alloy. Fellow Associate Editor Elise Favis and I sat down to talk about Aloy, and what makes her so remarkable. Javy: Alright, so let’s get to it, Elise.

What makes Aloy so cool? Elise: I think, at first glance, Aloy comes across like most video game leads. She’s strong in a heroic way, and wields a power that few in the game’s world seem to understand. But she doesn’t start off this way. In the opening sequence of Horizon, Aloy is cast out from her matriarchal tribe at birth for being motherless. She’s brought up by another outcast, and suddenly I started to see what set her apart. Without a tribe, Aloy had to learn how to be resourceful.

She’s smart. She’s inquisitive. She’s one of the best female leads I’ve come across in a while, actually, because she holds her own and doesn’t let anyone take advantage of her. It’s cool. Plus, while there already is a strong basis for Aloy’s character as it is, the player has a chance to mold her personality in subtle ways. What did you think of Aloy, Javy? And what did you think about those moments where we get to shape who she is?

Javy: Yeah, so I think the first moment in the game I went from being curious about Horizon to falling in love with it was actually when we got to make a choice about how Aloy responds to having being wronged by someone simply because she’s an outsider. We can choose to respond to violence with matched violence, with violence that keeps further violence from happening, or with an empathetic statement of pity. And these situations, where we have leeway when it comes to how Aloy responds, show up constantly. While there doesn’t appear to be any major branching choices that stem from these moments, they do a great job of letting us choose who Aloy will be. Like you said, the foundation for her is strong. She’s a lost woman who’s been willfully mistreated simply because she’s different and she constantly has to overcome obstacles put in front of her by others because of their bigotry. Horizon seems to unabashedly embrace a feminist perspective.


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