Feature

All About Horizon Zero Dawn’s Aloy

by Kimberley Wallace on Sep 14, 2016 at 09:00 AM

In many ways, Horizon Zero Dawn's protagonist, Aloy, has been just as mysterious as her world and its beginnings. Besides seeing her in trailers with a bow, obliterating larger-than-life machines, Guerrila Games hasn't revealed much about her except a few facts, and yet she's already become popular with cosplayers and gamers. It's almost as if Aloy's presence on the screen says everything about her; she's determined, skilled, and has a kindness to her that makes her feel inherently good. While Aloy is all of those things, there's also a reason she's become the strong, independent woman she is at the start of the game. From her hunting tribe to her childhood hardships, her whole life has prepared her for the journey that awaits her in Horizon Zero Dawn.

Troubled Beginnings

To understand Aloy and why she's adamant about fighting mechanical beasts and nonplussed to leave the only place she's ever known, you must know about her past. Aloy grew up in the Nora tribe, but since birth, she has been shunned by her tribe and not one member will dare tell her why. Aloy didn't grow up with the luxury of having a normal family; she never knew her mother or father. Instead, she was raised by another outcast named Rost, who's pretty much her foster parent. Raising Aloy was a task given to Rost by the tribe, but he cares very much about her even though it wasn't something he just did out of the kindness of his heart. The two live in the wild, not being able to step into certain areas within the tribe. Tribe members won't give either of them the time of day; talking to outcasts is going against the tribe, and most people don't want to risk retribution. 

When Horizon Zero Dawn begins, Aloy is just coming of age, and because she's maturing she can no longer ignore all the unanswered questions about her life, particularly the identity of her parents and what happened to grant her this horrible place within the tribe. A rite of passage called The Proving is her chance to finally get the answers she so desperately seeks. If she succeeds at The Proving, it will not only erase her outcast status, but she also net her a valuable prize. She can get a "kind of boon" from the matriarchs, the leaders of her tribe, allowing her to find out more about her parents. For Aloy, this sacred event means everything.

As for her feelings on her own tribe, they're very complicated. Aloy isn't even sure if it's the right place for her, but it's all she's ever known. Still, that doesn't mean she's quick to go along with or agree with everything the tribe requests and does. She's more pragmatic because of her upbringing; after all, she's seen firsthand the unfairness of the tribe's rules. "I also think there's an advantage to her being an outcast herself because she has an outsider's perspective, which is what we have when we begin playing the game," says lead writer John Gonzalez.

Aloy also has a love for technology that doesn't exactly go over well with her tribe, who has strong taboos against technology. However, this hasn't put Aloy off from studying and learning more about how to use ancient artifacts, and this curiosity is what sparks her to go on her journey to step outside of her tribe's doors and figure out the world's deeper mysteries. "She's obviously very clever, very quick-minded, she picks up on things with surprising ease and rapidity," Gonzalez says. "There are technologies from the ancient past that she's somehow able to figure out how to use that would just flummox the people around her. They're kind of aghast at what she's able to figure out." So it's no surprise that she's the first to develop this override ability which allows her to tame machines and mount them; however, we can't imagine her tribe is going to be cheering her on because of this.

Who is Aloy?

Aloy has a pretty good sense of herself, but she's also missing a big piece of family history. On her journey, she'll be searching for where she belongs, even if she doesn't exactly need anyone else to get by. After all, with only Rost at her side, she's had to fend mostly for herself. Rost cares about Aloy and has taught her all he knows about being a skilled hunter, but he also knows Aloy has always had this independence that cannot be contained. "She has this grit about her, a kind of disinterest in comforts or ease," Gonzalez explains. "She's somebody who doesn't have any problem facing adversity of difficulty head on. She tends to be very forthright and blunt, sometimes even confrontational in the way she addresses issues."

However, Aloy also has a softer side to her. Because of her past, she's grown to have compassion, which is often why she's the first to help those in need. "In addition to being someone who is extraordinarily strong and self-reliant, she also does have a certain type of woundedness from [being cast out of her tribe]," Gonzalez explains. "And as is often the case for us as human beings, that kind of woundedness becomes the place from which compassion grows. So a lot of the time when she meets people who have issues, as NPCs often do in these types of games, what we found is that it was really quite natural that she would end up helping out, sometimes even despite herself. She can't help but be moved by the suffering of others, having suffered so much herself."

From the beginning, Guerrilla wanted to have a character that could provide a good amount of tactical options, so it was a no-brainer that Aloy would grow up in the wild and be a part of a hunting tribe. "Her background has really prepared her to pursue this quest that she has, to take it all the way to the end of the line," Gonzales says. At times, Aloy may appear to show compassion or bond with the machines, but don't read too much into this, as the girl is just a hunter at heart. "She has a hunter's respect for her prey and for the creatures around her, whether they're organic or steel," Gonzalez says. Aloy thinks that the machines becoming more dangerous is an abomination of some sort – a disruption to the natural order of the world.

Making Aloy Matter

When Guerrilla envisioned its game, it always starred a female character. It was in the very first pitch from art director Jan-Bart van Beek back in 2010. Since then the team has been set on creating a strong character and making Aloy's journey exciting. "In terms of how we're approaching the writing of [Aloy], I think when you try to write a great female character, you just try to write a great human character," Gonzalez says. "You try to make sure the character has conflicts, has a desire, has something that they're trying to accomplish throughout the narrative and take that seriously."

Time will tell exactly who Aloy turns out to be, but there's no doubt that she has a pretty big destiny in the scheme of things. After all, she is the only one that's been able to figure out ancient technology. We're guessing she's going to have a big and important journey ahead of her.

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