We review the profile of Aloy, the protagonist of Horizon Forbidden West who conquered us in 2017 with the latest great hit to date by Guerrilla Games.
Note: like all “lore hunters”, this report may contain spoilers about Horizon and its protagonist.
“I think it’s really difficult to design an iconic character. You can hope that it is, but it’s not like saying ‘ok, that’s it. Put a stamp on it. It is iconic now. ” Jan Bart Van Beek, Art Director for Guerrilla Games, knows this very well. Creating good video games and transcendent protagonists is not easy, and Horizon Zero Dawn is the best example of this. It is an exclusive PS4 title that took no more than seven years to develop, of which a considerable part of time was dedicated to the conception and construction of Aloy. But every effort has its reward: a resounding success when it comes to both the video game and the character. Lacking the information that Horizon Forbidden West, the sequel to the original game for PS5, can provide us in 2021, today we are trying to pay tribute to this heroine who surprised and captivated us with her story and her way of being.
From Killzone to Horizon Zero Dawn
Released in 2017 for PS4, Horizon Zero Dawn was a point and apart on the Guerrilla Games resume. For more than a decade, the study focused on the development of the Killzone saga, a remarkable series of linear games in the shooter genre that gave its creators great joy. However, as usually happens in these cases, creative exhaustion appeared in the studio in mid-2010, causing Hermen Hulst, former director of Guerrilla Games, and his team to come up with the idea of embarking on a new project, something totally different from Killzone. Thus Horizon Zero Dawn was born.
«The organization of our company is flat. For this reason, we see everyone as equal. Equality is a very important value in Dutch society, ”explains Angie Smets, executive producer of the game, in a documentary created by Noclip. Furthermore, it was important that everyone was passionate about the new project, because, in the words of Guerrilla Games, it would be what they would work on for the next five or ten years. For all these reasons, the company asked each and every one of its workers to make their own proposals on the following that they would like to develop. After going through a rather laborious process of selecting ideas, in which they had to review more than forty during a large number of weeks, the study opted for the idea of Jan Bart Van Beek, who already included both Aloy and his universe.
That Horizon Zero Dawn was an open world RPG action game was also in the mind of the developer from the Netherlands and is something that, as we well know, did not change. However, many other ideas of the game were discarded during its development: cooperative mode with another player, the existence of a trunk city, predominance of industrial military machines … Of course, Aloy also went through a similar creation process in which, as We will see below, some of the decisions made about the game influenced. But first, let’s start at the beginning.
The Nora tribe: a determining factor
If we want to understand Aloy, it is necessary to first know his tribe: the Nora. As the Horizon Zero Dawn art book explains, the Nora are lone hunters and gatherers living in Sacred Land, an area that covers portions of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. They constitute a matriarchal society that follows a religion in which the most important thing is motherhood and parenting. The tribe is made up of hunters and warriors who protect their villages, including the most important: Heart of Mother.
Led by a council of matriarchs, both men and women fulfill the role of the brave, which is to protect tribal lands and hunt animals or machines. Although it is the tribe that best handles the bow, it can use brute force to drive out intruders if necessary. The most important thing is that one of its legends maintains that the ruins of the Metallic World are contaminated and corrupted by the greed of those who lived there thousands of years ago, so exploring them is breaking the most sacred of taboos. Therefore, those who do so can become exiles forever.
The story of our protagonist is linked to this tribe. Born in a cave, Aloy is raised as an outcast by an outcast person named Rost. Being a matriarchal tribe, Aloy is despised by the rest of the Nora, since she has no mother. One of the many despises that he suffers during his childhood causes him to discover metal ruins in which he finds a Focus, a device that reveals information about the world of the Ancients. Rost explains that if he wants to know who his mother was, he can take a test when he comes of age. Being trained to win it, Aloy passes the test, but, finally and as we already know, there are other circumstances that make her embark on the adventure of her life to discover the truth about her past.
Aloy and Horizon Zero Dawn: one
As we said before, many of the decisions that were made about the game changed different aspects of Aloy, but the truth is that it also happened in reverse. “At first, Aloy was riding a horse until John González arrived. He took a look at the world we were creating and made it clear that Aloy had to be even more special. The robots were becoming dangerous, they were no longer domesticated, so what he proposed is the Focus, and with it, the horses disappeared. I would be the only person in the world capable of hacking a robot and riding it, and that is what would make it unique, ”explained Angie Smets on Gamelab.
During the development of the Killzone saga, Guerrilla Games did not need to have narrative and mission departments, since for said saga it was not really necessary. For this reason, and due to the importance that these sections acquire in RPG games, the study saw the need to have two dedicated departments. At the time, John González, known for his work on the narrative of games like Fallout: New Vegas, was hired to take care of writing the Horizon Zero Dawn story.
“In a Fallout game, everything is impersonal to you as a player. It’s all about the game universe in question, not necessarily your story. On the other hand, in Horizon Zero Dawn, everything you find out about the ancient world, especially in the main mission, is directly relevant to Aloy’s story, ”said John González to the Noclip team in the same documentary. Halfway through the game’s development, González changed some aspects of the game related, above all, to the missions, but which directly affected the creation of Aloy as a character. However, it should be noted that, although he was a key figure during the development of both the game and our protagonist, other people also influenced his creation.
“There were several problems with Aloy as a character. Initially, he was much younger than he ended up being. It had a bit of a Disney princess, an almost perfection. That is one of the reasons why it is great to do these tests with more people, to get new points of view. We worked for two years in Aloy, in everything: hair, clothing … I remember a video from one of these debates, and someone said ‘I think she’s fantastic, she seems like a very strong character, but how credible is it that a So young girl is so perfect and capable of knocking down these robotic dinosaurs? ‘ It was a good point, so we made her older, harder, and with the deepest voice, thanks to Ashley Burch, a great voice actress, ”Angie Smets also explained on Gamelab.
As the art book explains, Aloy is skilled, smart, strategic and agile, in keeping with the concept of the game, influenced by the story of David and Goliath: the player cleverly hunts machines, rather than using brute force. But it is the context in which he lives and our decisions as players at critical points in the game that determine his actions and his way of reacting. Lacking a mother in a tribe in which the maternal figure is so important, Aloy grows marginalized. Far from what may seem at first, that does not cause him to be a closed, shy or selfish person, but rather the opposite. From the moment you carry out The Test, you prove to be a considerate person, who does not hesitate a single second to help anyone who needs it. Although that does not mean that you can not be sarcastic with those people who do not like you. Of course.
Despite growing up as an outcast, Rost, who is faithful to the traditions and laws of the Nora, teaches her the tribe’s crafts and hunting techniques. As an outsider, Aloy learns these techniques, but uses them in her own way. Thus, Guerrilla Games highlights how our protagonist is unique, also in her appearance: from the tribal outfits she has, which are designed to be practical and offer agility and protection, to her hair, an element that helps to differentiate her from the rest of the characters. . “We carefully considered how the shape and movement of the hair, combined with the gestures and the face, could be used to accentuate Aloy’s expressiveness. We wanted to make sure that she was immediately identifiable, regardless of what she was wearing, so her hair became a key motif that remained consistent throughout her outfits, ”explains Ilya Golitsyn, the game’s senior concept artist.
Also, as we’ve seen numerous times, with Joel from The Last of Us recently, the characters end up being what they are thanks to the actors’ performances. Although Aloy’s case is undoubtedly one of the most interesting, since it was three different women who gave life to our protagonist and not just one as usually happens: Hannah Hoekstra, Dutch actress known for her role in The Fury, he lent his face; Ashley Burch, actress and singer known for playing Tina Chiquitina from Borderlands and Chloe Price from Life is Strange, who inspired with her voice acting John González to write; and a parkour specialist whose name we do not know, but we do know that she is responsible for the movements.
An unexpected icon
Aloy is a character that in the first art sketches already seemed to come out of paper, as Hermen Hulst explains in a PlayStation video. It seems to have a life of its own. That he is a real person and that for that reason he transcends as a video game character until he becomes an icon, which, as the study has explained, was not something intentional. “I couldn’t say that we set it as a goal for this project. We get a lot of questions like: ‘Didn’t you consider having a male character? Is it smart to do that commercially speaking? ’The honest answer is that we never considered not having her as a female character. Also, frankly, we didn’t really set out to be a strong female lead because female leads often have to be strong, and Aloy suffers sometimes. We wanted it to be fundamentally human. As human beings we can be really strong, but sometimes also weak. ”
Intentional or not, Aloy is already an icon of video games in general and PlayStation in particular. Its history, its way of being and its exploits have won the hearts of the players and will probably do it again when our protagonist returns with Horizon Forbidden West in, predictably, 2021. Which is already one of the most anticipated games of the new Generation promises to offer us a much more detailed and incredible world than that of its predecessor and most importantly: a mission that will make Aloy discover mysteries and secrets that will change his life forever. His story, our story, will continue very soon.