Why Horizon Zero Dawn might have 2017’s most compelling hero

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The more we find out about Aloy, the more we like her

Guerrilla Games is keeping its cards incredibly close to its chest with regards to the world and lore of Horizon Zero Dawn. That’s good news for anyone looking forward to discovering all of the game’s mysteries and stories first hand, but perhaps less helpful if you feel like you need to have a better sense of the depth of this universe before you commit. Thankfully, we’ve been immersing ourselves in Horizon for some time and we’re beginning to build a picture of this universe that excites us a great deal, not least its lead, Aloy.

It’s interesting to note that, according to the development team, Aloy emerged from the earliest concepts of the game, a figure standing in the foreground of concept art, looking out over the vast vistas of this post post-apocalyptic vision of earth. The more the team looked at her, the more it became clear they had a figure they could build a game around, and the process of filling out her backstory (or, perhaps, lack of one) began in earnest.

As it stands, Aloy is an outcast, unaware of her own history or true heritage having been shunned by her clan, the Nora tribe, when she was just an infant. While she still has some dealings with the Nora, she does not know who her mother was or what caused her to be banished so harshly. This acts as the opening mystery for Aloy and a driving force behind her inquisitive nature.

It is also the reason why she has a more pragmatic and logical mind in the face of the superstition of her peers. While they are consumed by dogmatic beliefs about the world and their relationship with the machines, Aloy feels no such burden. It should act as a subtle link between player and character as we are introduced to these curious new myths and legends in a similarly sceptical way. What Aloy understands is that there may perhaps be some kernel of truth to some of the tales in this world.

Aloy’s upbringing and the lack of information about her past is made all the more potent by the heritage of the tribe she belonged to. The Nora are a matriarchal people, meaning that it reveres motherhood above all other things and places its elder women in the highest leadership roles. To be motherless in such a culture leaves Aloy all the more stricken and perhaps more alien to the other Nora. It gives Aloy an inner pain or hunger that humanises her as a hero, but doesn’t necessarily make her more vulnerable, which is a tricky line to walk with a new character.

And so through Aloy we get to see this incredible new world with its robotic dinosaurs and buried world history. The 1,000 years that have passed from our time to Aloy’s have seen many changes and stories unfold, not least the origin of the machines themselves (which Guerrilla promises the game will reveal), why there doesn’t appear to be any predator and prey relationship between the machines (but they do fight, so that’s curious), and the burying of structures in the earth that may or may not be human in origin. These are the overarching mysteries of Horizon that Guerrilla is reticent to reveal anything about, and for that we are rather grateful. The promise of what this game can deliver is far too good to spoil now.

We speak exclusively to Guerrilla Games about Horizon Zero Dawn in games™ 183, on sale now!